Computer Instruments Releases New Product with SkySwitch: Virtual Concierge

Learn how conversational IVR could be beneficial to your business

In this interview from Vectors 2019, TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Chris Herring, President of Computer Instruments, about their new product Virtual Concierge. They talk about how it works and how businesses should incorporate it into their ecosystem.

 Virtual Concierge is a software package that resides on a conversational IVR that has integration to Google Voice services and Google AI. So essentially, it’s a personal digital device for a company, much like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. 

Chris Herring talks Virtual Concierge working with Google integrations with Erik Linask at Vectors 2019.

 

Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #ComputerInstruments  

 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask  0:07  

We’re here in Orlando, Florida at Vectors 2019. We’re here on the second day of the show. And joining me is Chris Herring from Computer Instruments. Chris, thanks for joining me. 

Chris Herring  0:16  

Thank you very much Erik, appreciate it. 

Erik Linask  0:18  

So second day, what have you seen? You know, what are your thoughts on the first almost two days?

Chris Herring  0:23  

Oh, well, this was a very impressive event. I’ve met a lot of people and certainly, the product that we’re talking about today, Virtual Concierge, is really something that’s going to fit in here. So we’re very excited, we’re going to be on the stage here shortly, and we’ll be anxious to talk about it.

Erik Linask  0:41  

So this is something that you actually just announced yesterday morning, along with SkySwitch. Tell me about that.

Chris Herring  0:49  

Well, that came to us about 60 days ago, we announced our product Virtual Concierge. They came to us said, “Hey, we’d like to take a look at your product.” We gave them a demonstration. We did essentially a proof of concept with them. They said this is something that their team and their channel would be interested in. So we signed an agreement. Actually, we just signed the agreement last week and so here we are.

Erik Linask  1:12  

And when you say Virtual Concierge, what do you mean by that? What does your Virtual Concierge do?

Chris Herring  1:17  

Okay, well, first off, it’s a software package that resides on a conversational IVR that has integration to Google Voice services and Google AI. So essentially, it’s what we call Virtual Concierge. It’s a personal digital device for a company.

Erik Linask  1:34  

So you’re taking a Siri or something like that and throwing it into the business world.

Chris Herring  1:38  

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Erik Linask  1:40  

Is that something that customers or that businesses, I should say, are demanding or where’s the need or the demand coming from?

Chris Herring  1:49  

Well, that’s a great question. But you know, today, most of the people, let me say that not most, but 41% of the population or homes in the United States have a Siri or Alexa or Google Home. So there are acquainted with this technology. Furthermore, there’s even more people that use a smartphone or use “Hey, Google” to do searches, things like that. So it only makes sense that as that technology takes hold, and people obviously are using it and like it. They’re going to ask companies that they do business with if they have the same kind of technology and essentially, that’s what Virtual Concierge does. It provides the bridge between a caller through their communication platform PBX to Google AI, and back.

Erik Linask  2:29  

So how does an AI-based system like this differ from the IVR systems that people have really come to dislike over the years?

Chris Herring  2:40  

Well, you’re right. IVRs in the past have been primarily a presser say, type environment, you know, and it’s also, particularly with speech recognition, been difficult, particularly if you’re in a noisy area and so forth. But when you bring AI into the picture, and you bring a good communication platform, then you have the proper mix really to be able to have a very intelligent conversation interrogated by an artificial system to understand what you say, and provide a better and enhanced environment and enhanced experience for sure. 

Erik Linask  3:16  

Do people trust artificial intelligence?

Chris Herring 3:20  

Well, interesting, too. There’s been a study here recently that people are more truthful with an IVR and with a spoken conventional, conversational IVR than they are speaking to a human and so the answer is more so.

Erik Linask  3:34  

Interesting. And is there a difference in terms of usage, or enjoyment, or value, or however you want to characterize it, using a male voice versus a female voice?

Chris Herring  3:48  

That’s a good question. You know, we find depending on the industry, for instance, banking, people like to speak to females. More involved with like transportation, leisure and so forth, male voices have been really the most popular. I’m not really sure that I’m an expert on which voice works best but in our experience, that seems to be the trend.

Erik Linask  4:13  

How much has conversational AI evolved over the past year or two? And where do you see it headed going forward?

Chris Herring  4:22  

Oh, well, that’s a good question to, the best way I can really probably explain it is the cost of doing it. You know, just 12-14 months ago, for instance, we did a natural, what we call a natural language standard way of doing it, and using the technology that was present and it’s in the 300 to $500,000. Well, now when we look at the same opportunity, if we were going to use Virtual Concierge today, we’d be under $50,000 to get it accomplished. So from a perspective, it’s cost-effective. Also too conversations are everywhere. People again are going to are taking hold of this technology, they’re taking hold of using their personal devices, and we’re just going to see that from conversation that’s going to evolve the business and working with tools that provide the ability to understand conversations and use it further. 

I would say too, conversation is eventually going to be really the currency for business strategies. People want to know what people are saying when they come to your company, they’re going to want more than just what press one or press two says, they want to know why somebody called your company. They’re going to want to know what the emotions are of that caller, and they’re going to look at that, and be able to route and do business logic to understand what’s the best way to enhance the experience of that caller.

Erik Linask  5:40  

So I’ve had similar experiences, but I’ve heard from others as well, you know, we tried to use this natural language understanding and it just, you know, these automated assistance just aren’t understanding what I’m saying. Sounds to me like that technology has evolved to the point where it really is starting to understand very easily and very accurately what people are speaking.

Chris Herring  6:02  

Well, when you’re talking about, for instance, integrating to Google, you’re already working with a technology that already does well with handheld cell phones. Ok, and so as you can expect the quality of this being I guess, as good as if you being on a cell phone and driving in your car with a window down. With the addition of Google AI using that technology that’s filtering out and looking at the conversation. So it’s a measurable improvement over the standard speech recognition that people have used in the past.

Erik Linask  6:37  

Are there particular industries, particular use cases that you’re targeting or that you expect to be earlier adopters?

Chris Herring  6:45  

Well, certainly healthcare, insurance. We’ve had a number, in our client base, of trucking firms that are interested in working with us. So really, it’s people or companies who have issues with conversations that they need more information than just what an IVR or necessarily what they can get from an email or something like that. So this technology is going to make it more workable. It’s going to be able to be more applied to pretty much any place where you need a conversation to understand what you need.

Erik Linask  7:20  

Do you think this technology now can flip the sentiments around IVR back towards positive?

Chris Herring  7:28  

Oh, absolutely. Well, look at it this way. If you were upset, and you called into a company, you would want somebody who had the skill set to work with you. Now you wouldn’t want to necessarily go through an Auto Attendant presser say and then get routed to who knows what. Really what you want is you want the company to understand that you are calling and what you’re calling about and that you’re not necessarily emotionally happy about the whole experience. Well, companies normally would want to take that call and route it to somebody with a better skill set, or somebody who can better handle that kind of a situation, and particularly if you are a good client, so we’d know who you called in, who you are, prioritize your situation, prioritize your emotion, that all can be done with AI.

Erik Linask  8:17  

So if I’m not getting the resolution that I’m looking for, I’m not getting the answers that I need. How easy is it for me as the caller to get out of that IVR system and in touch with a live person?

Chris Herring  8:29  

It’s as easy as saying, “Hey, I want to talk to somebody.”

Erik Linask  8:34  

It’s a whole lot easier than trying to figure out what number or number of combinations to push. 

Chris Herring  8:37  

I agree. 

Erik Linask  8:39  

Excellent. Well, Chris, thank you so much for joining us today.

Chris Herring 8:40 

Appreciate it.

 

 

TransNexus Offers Robocall Prevention With SHAKEN/STIR

Learn how we can restore the trust in phone calls

Alec Fenichel, Senior Software Architect at Transnexus, talks with TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, about robocalls and how the FCC is pushing for all carriers to implement a framework called Stir Shaken. With STIR/SHAKEN, received calls will either come in with a green check, reassuring they are good, or they will be quickly blocked by your carrier if they are bad.

The FCC has not formally mandated an official timeframe that carriers need to address the issue by, but they have set their expectations for the end of 2019. California, on the other hand, has mandated it for the end of 2020. You can expect STIR/SHAKEN to be widely deployed in another six to 12 months. Besides focusing on robocall prevention, TransNexus is also working with Least Cost Routing and Total Fraud Prevention. 

Learn about the FCC’s timeline of the widespread implementation of STIR/SHAKEN with Alec Fenichel from TransNexus.

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TransNexus #Robocalls

 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask  0:07  

We’re here at day two of Vectors 2019 in Orlando. Joining me this morning, Alec Fenichel from TransNexus. Alec, great to have you here with us. 

Alec Fenichel  0:16  

It’s great to be here. 

Erik Linask  0:17  

So, we’re starting day two of this year’s event. What were your thoughts on day one? 

Alec Fenichel  0:23  

Well, you know, this is my first time coming to a Vectors and let’s put it this way, I’ll be coming back next year.

Erik Linask  0:28  

Excellent. We love hearing that. So, let’s talk about a topic that probably everybody knows, robocalls. How big of a problem is it these days?

Alec Fenichel  0:38  

It’s hard to say or put an exact number on it, but I get at least two calls a day. I hear the same thing from just about everybody. So it’s getting more and more attention. And I think the FCC is really starting to get a lot of complaints and that is their number one complaint by far. And so it’s been a lot of pressure on people to solve this problem. 

Erik Linask  0:57  

And how is the FCC reacting?

Alec Fenichel  1:00  

Well, you know, they’ve been slow. But really what they’re pushing is for all the carriers to implement a framework called STIR/SHAKEN. And this is a framework for signing telephone calls similar to the way HTTPS works on the web, to prevent spoofing, and that really is going to clamp down on some of these bad actors.

Erik Linask  1:15  

And so what is the end result for people that have been receiving all these calls?

Alec Fenichel  1:21  

A lot less robocalls, when you do get those calls, they’re going to come in with a green check saying they’re good, and those bad calls will be easily and quickly blocked by your carriers. So for consumers, you really won’t have to do anything.

Erik Linask  1:33  

That’s always good news for the consumer. What is it going to take for carriers to implement STIR/SHAKEN?

Alec Fenichel  1:40  

Well, I kind of equate it to a fax machine, having a fax machine when no one else has one is pretty useless. So it takes widespread adoption to be useful. But the FCC has been pretty clear, they expect all the tier one carriers to implement it by the end of this year. And we expect tier two and tier three to follow shortly thereafter. So by the end of 2020, we should see very widespread adoption and that will really cut back on the robocalls.

Erik Linask  2:04  

Is there any kind of a formal mandate as far as a timeframe or when carriers have to have addressed the situation by?

Alec Fenichel  2:12  

So the FCC has not formally mandated anything, they’ve set their expectations for the end of 2019 however, California has mandated it for the end of 2020. So any carriers with any presence in California will be required to implement STIR/SHAKEN by the end of 2020.

Erik Linask  2:26  

And do you anticipate similar situations happening nationwide?

Alec Fenichel  2:32  

California is definitely on the progressive side. So I’m not sure if other states will follow suit. And I don’t know that they need to, all the big carriers have some presence in California. So really, once one does it, you pretty much have to comply. It’s kind of like emissions. California does it, now you’re stuck there.

Erik Linask  2:49  

Fair enough. So aside from that, what else is going on at TransNexus?

Alec Fenichel  2:53  

Well, we’re still doing a lot of Least Cost Routing and Total Fraud Prevention and that hasn’t gone away, robocalling is just taking the driving seat from that.

Erik Linask  3:03  

And so what brought you here to Vectors 2019?

Alec Fenichel  3:07  

Yeah, I’m actually speaking about STIR/SHAKEN as well as other robocall prevention techniques. You know, STIR/SHAKEN is not going to be widely deployed for another six to 12 months. But there’s a lot that you can do today to stop robocalls as a carrier, or as a voice over IP provider. And so I’m going to talk about that as well as STIR/SHAKEN today.

Erik Linask  3:24  

So those kinds of topics are not only relevant to the big carriers, but to the voice over IP and UC providers as well.

Alec Fenichel 3:32  

Absolutely. If anything, it can be even more important to them because it really provides a mechanism where they can differentiate themselves from the other carriers.

Erik Linask  3:41  

And as far as implementation, it’s a similar situation with them, as with the carriers?

Alec Fenichel  3:46  

Yes, we have customers who get up and running in a week, under a week. It can be very quick, especially when you have a simpler network, single switch, it can be pretty simple.

Erik Linask  3:56  

Is this is something that VoIP providers are actively looking to do, or are you having to approach them? Or how is that, you know, relationship building?

Alec Fenichel  4:06  

Yeah, I think right now we’re doing a lot of education. A lot of people don’t know the tools that are out there. But once they learn about them, we get approached pretty regularly. In fact, we get approached on a daily basis from enterprises that are saying, “Please help me I need to stop these robocalls.” So there’s clearly a market out there for the Enterprise’s and we’re seeing some carriers are being proactive, and some are coming to us and saying I have a big enterprise that needs this feature, and I need to solve this for them or they’re going to find another carrier.

Erik Linask  4:33  

That certainly makes sense. I think we can all agree that we’d love to have a lot fewer if not absolutely zero robocalls. 

Alec Fenichel 4:41  

Absolutely. I can barely answer my phone anymore, it’s just non- stop.

Erik Linask  4:46  

We’re all on the same page. Alec, thank you so much for joining us enjoy the rest of your time here at Vectors.

Alec Fenichel  4:51  

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

3CX Makes SkySwitch A Certified Solutions Provider

Greg Steinig talks why 3CX and how they plan on “cross-pollinating” 

TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Greg Steinig, VP of Sales at 3CX during an interview at this year’s Vectors 2019 conference. They talked about his session introducing 3CX to the Vectors attendees, how 3CX is getting their name out to other resellers and their new partnership with SkySwitch. By working with SkySwitch, 3CX is able to offer its partners a one-stop-shop for buying their hosting, SIP trunks, DIDs, phones, etc. 

SkySwitch’s white-label SIP trunking portal lets you assign access to customers and agents under the resellers’ own brand. The fully-automated reseller portal provides control over essential services, such as Inbound CNAM, E911 and even SMS. Plus the SIP origination and termination services are built on a scalable geo-diverse network, all developed to provide resellers with the services and support needed to sell 3CX successfully.

3CX Vice President of Sales, Greg Steinig talks with Erik Linask about how their partnership with SkySwitch makes it easier for you. 

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC #3CX 

 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask 0:07
Hi, we’re here in Orlando, Florida, at Vectors 2019. That is SkySwitch’s user conference. Joining me this morning is Greg Steinig from 3CX. Greg, good morning.

Greg Steinig 0:17
Good morning, thanks for having me.

Erik Linask 0:19
So, we’re here on the third day and final day of this year’s show, you know, what are your thoughts? What have you seen?

Greg Steinig 0:25
It’s been a fantastic show and the thing that I’ve liked is that people are actually excited to see 3CX here. First it was, what are you doing here? And then when they realize what it is we’re doing here, it’s, you know, you saw that, you walk by grabbed my hand, man, that’s great. We’re going to be a partner of yours and that’s been really exciting for us.

Erik Linask 0:44
Absolutely, that’s fantastic. With that said, talk a little bit about your relationship with SkySwitch and why you are here at Vectors.

Greg Steinig 0:51
Excellent. So we’re a an IP PBX solution. We’re a software company right, and in the past you put together your own server, you hosted it yourself, you got your own SIP trunk, you kind of built it all yourself, you made your margins on all those edges, you were very profitable and you didn’t have to discount your services. But there are some partners out there, it’s easier for them to go to one place and buy one in place and just do it all at once and so SkySwitch is our partner for that.

You can be a SkySwitch partner, you can go into their shop, you can go ahead and buy 3CX, you can buy your hosting, you can buy your SIP trunk, you can get your DIDs, you can buy your phone, and it’ll be delivered. The phones will arrive to the customer and everything’s cool. It’s one stop shopping and the supports there. The price for us is the same if you bought it direct or buy it through them and we’re really, really pushing this relationship with him because it’s really advantageous to many, many, many of our partners.

Erik Linask 1:50
So why work with SkySwitch? You know, there are a lot of other potential folks that you could be working with out there.

Greg Steinig 1:57
Well, you know, that’s that’s a good question and SkySwitch isn’t our only solution partner or solution provider, but they’re a really good SIP trunk solution, and they have a white label solution and their pricing is very, very good. Our existing partners that do business with them are very, very happy with that. They like the fact that when the customer gets the bill, it says, you know, our partner ACC Telecom, right? He likes that. And so we explore this and say, well, let’s bring them into the fold at least as a supportive SIP trunk. Then as we were talking to Eric, we realized, hey there’s other business here, other partners that aren’t aware of 3CX, so we can make this bigger than it is. And we did that. So we’re going to cross pollinate, some of our partners are going to choose them as SIP trunks and hopefully all their partners will choose us as at least one of their choices for a PBX.

Erik Linask 2:47
So you had a chance to get on stage and talk a little bit here this week. What’d you tell the attendees?

Greg Steinig 2:54
I really told them about 3CX and then I told them like, this is our partnership, we’re going to make it easier for you. They didn’t know who we were, they wondered what in the world is 3CX and what are they doing here because they see us as a competitor of Netsapiens. And quite frankly, most of these users or partners, what SkySwitch calls them, they have their hosted solution with Netsapiens, but they’ve got tons of on-prem customers, too, and they can’t move them to the cloud. But guess what 3CX is Windows and Linux, it’s in the cloud or on-prem, we give you freedom. It’s just one more arrow in their quiver. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.

Erik Linask 3:34
I feel like we’re starting to see more and more of that’s a sort of co-op-petition in the market where, you know, you may have some some competition or competitive environment, but the collaboration the partnership element outweighs that.

Greg Steinig 3:49
That’s true. Now, overall, the market is moving towards, you know, standards and collaboration and partnership and everybody kind of chooses their lane and you know, we have an API, we create a receptacle and someone creates a plug and they use it for telemedicine or they use it for their CRM or something like that. It just made sense. One of the things that a SIP trunk operator wants is to have sticky end users. And when it’s so easy to port a number, they’re not sticky so you add other services.

3CX is a huge partner environment when we look at 3CX and the money that the 3CX makes, and then the money that our partners charge for their phones, and their SIP trunks and services and everything else, where the size of RingCentral. And people never see that coming, and that’s who we are, and we make profit, where everybody else loses money. And we focus on the small to medium sized business that needs more functionality than what they can get from Google Voice.

Erik Linask 4:55
So when you talk about being being that size of a business, you know, you’ve done that fairly quietly. 3CX has been around for a little while, right? How have you been able to do that? You know, without, you know some of these resellers and others in the market realizing it?

Greg Steinig 5:10
Well, Nick galley is a visionary, right? And he took a look and said, I want to be in this business, but I need to make my money where everybody else isn’t looking. Now I have experienced when I got out of the army, I went to work for Enterprise Rent-A-Car and nobody had ever heard of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Until one day Enterprise Rent-A-Car was the largest car rental company in the world, because they focused on a market that no one was aware of it was called insurance replacement. And guess what? That’s not at the airport, that’s a local offices. And that’s kind of what Nick has done. He said, I’m going to focus on these end users, these businesses that aren’t served by the big guys.

If you think about it, what was it 1995, Clayton Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma, you know, the guys that enter the market, they go to the top where the people can pay for it right, so you got Avaya, Mytel, used to be ShoreTel and Cisco, and they’re right there at the top where everybody has tons of money. But guess what they forget about the middle where people don’t need high end functionality but they do need something other than OOMA or Jive, or RingCentral, or some of these others. And that’s exactly where we fit. We’re right there saying, look, we’re going to give you enterprise great functionality for a price that is, I mean, incredibly inexpensive, because you shouldn’t have to, you know, leverage your firstborn male child to get a phone system and that’s our belief.

Erik Linask 6:32
Certainly that’s a valid argument, as far as capabilities, features, functionality, you know, all the things that businesses are looking for, 3CX is comparable to all the other providers that you mentioned.

Greg Steinig 6:46
We we do it all. Now there’s a level that we’re not going to do it. So say Tech Data, their phones go down, they lose a million dollars a minute, so that’s a million bucks. If our system goes down, it may be down for a minute right? Well, they’re willing to spend a million dollars to avoid that. But there’s a lot of businesses out there that are willing to lose a call or two, and not have to pay for that. We have enterprise rate functionality. Within the last couple of years, we’ve picked up companies like Barracuda Networks, and Subaru of America. And I mean, we’ve got a lot of logos going our way because they realize that, they can do business with a partner who’s selling 3CX and move a ton of money out of that budget and somewhere else. School districts are another huge win for us. We’ve got school districts all over the country that are switching to 3CX and having the money in their budget to hire more teachers. Because it’s ridiculous that these phone companies, these competitors of ours, charge that much money for something that’s so basic.

Erik Linask 7:48
Excellent. That’s…

Greg Steinig 7:49
That’s inflammatory, right.

Erik Linask 7:50
Greg, this all sounds wonderful. Sounds like it’s been a really productive week for you here at Vectors. We’re so glad you were here and thanks for joining us this morning.

Greg Steinig 8:00
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me, appreciate it.

POLY = Plantronics + Polycom: A Different DNA

Darren Knapp Talks About What’s New With The POLY Brand and Their Partnerships

This year at Vectors 2019, Darren Knapp, Director of Global Cloud & Service Providers Group at POLY talks with Erik Linask, TMC’s Editorial Director, about what’s new at Poly. He gives insight into the new brand that has emerged from Plantronics plus POLY, new products and their partnership with SkySwitch. He also talks about the features of POLY’s new Device Management service and how they give that as a value-added service for their endpoints. 

Darren Knapp talks about POLY’s new products, services and their partnership with SkySwitch. 

 

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC #POLY #Plantronics #Polycom

 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask: Hi, we’re coming to you live from Vectors 2019, Orlando and joining me now Darren Knapp from Poly. Darren, thanks for joining me.

Darren Knapp: Hey, thank you very much, I appreciate being here, with this group. It’s been amazing. Great crowd.

Erik Linask: Good. Well, glad to hear that. It looks like it’s been a great show so far, absolutely. So Poly, company or combination of two companies that pretty much everybody in our audience has heard of. But tell me about that combination, the rebranding and you know, sort of what’s happened?

Darren Knapp  Yeah, so listen, it’s been fun for me. I come from the Polycom side, that started in 2013 and you know, we focus on phones for the telephony space. But now with the combination of playing Plantronics plus Polycom, I mean, for me as a tech guy, it’s a lot more fun. We’ve got so much more to talk about. And you know, gadgets to play with and show off. And so it’s been really neat. But part of the story is that you’ve got two well-established companies in Plantronics and Polycom with decades of experience of doing unified communications.

And  now bringing it together and saying, look, really, it doesn’t matter what you’re using, who you’re connecting with, right? So if it’s you and me on a phone call over headsets, or if it’s me, calling the boardroom, and they’re on video, so you know, one to one, one too many, many, too many. We’ve got that solution covered from a voice and video perspective. And then we’ve got some cloud solutions in the middle that help manage it all. So things like our device management service that gets in there and lets your knock, on a live phone call, begin running a packet capture, looking at live call stats, and things like that. And really, those are game changers and the big revelation for the crew here at Vectors is we don’t even charge for that, you know, we just give that as a value-added service for our endpoints.

Erik Linask: So what’s changed? You know, you talk about some of the great things, some of the great things that happened when you combine two companies with such a rich history in this space. You know, there’s got to be some new stuff as well.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s a different DNA, it feels different. The biggest changes I’ve seen from my position, you know, I’m a director of our sales team, our global sales team for the internet, telephone service providers, ITSPs. And, for me, the biggest changes I see is this passion to create and innovate, and we’re coming up with things that are different that nobody a year ago, nobody neither envisioned or certainly didn’t bring to market.

Like our Alara 60, I take my cell phone and connected to this device. It’s my headset, it’s my speakerphone, it’s my dial pad, it’s my charger, everything for my cell phone. It’s just built around it and it’s the perfect solution if all you want to use is your cell phone. Two devices were developing for call center, plug and play USB devices for video that are sub $1,000 that act like and feel like a $10,000 video system. So it’s a different DNA and looking at, hey, everybody’s known us for quality, that’s never been the problem. But value, I would challenge that neither Plantronics nor Polycom were considered value companies. And so what you’re seeing now is this, hey, we need to be aggressive on making sure that the customer has all the value-packed in right, so they’re paying a reasonable price point for devices going to just absolutely do everything that they need and provide that quality. That’s the biggest difference in the DNA of the company.

Erik Linask: You’re right, I think that both brands were, you know, pretty much across the board recognized as being higher end product providers. Does that kind of evolution you know, that’s been software-driven, you’re able to do so much with the product.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, and there’s so much. I mean, you think about the phone, it always blows my mind. So Polycom IP phone had 9 million lines of code in it. It just, you don’t even think about that. But there’s stuff in there that people have no concept of regarding security or something like our acoustic fence that does noise cancellation on steroids. And when we could be in a concert hall, and I can pick up a Polycom phone on a handset and start talking to somebody and they might hear a little bleed, but really not. So I mean, and we’ve done this before, had it in front of a DJ booth, and pick up our phones and start doing these demos, and people are just blown away with how good the noise reduction is. That’s all software. I mean, those are algorithms built in to leverage the high-quality microphones, one on the speakerphone one on the handset, and doing these crazy things that you can’t even, you know, envision until you actually hear it.

Erik Linask: So with that said, you know, you’re here at Vectors. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with SkySwitch.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, so we were a partner-driven company, right? We don’t really do anything direct, everything we do is through partners. And for us, SkySwitch, number one great group of people, just love the people who run the entire company. But second, their strategy of providing a platform to their partners, gives us you know, strategically it gives us a lot of leverage, right? If we are providing a good solution and a good partnership, to SkySwitch, well, that is imparted to all of their partners. Being here at Vectors, we’re seeing that you know, people are coming in and the message resonates at an event like this where we’ve had a steady stream of people at our command center, we’re signing up partners, and we’ve got a list of right now you know, 30 new partners, you know, you just don’t do that by cold calling, right? So for us, it’s just phenomenal to come and be in front of people and talk to them and get to, you know, kind of evangelize the message.

Erik Linask: So with that said, what is the opportunity for Poly? What do you see for the growth of the UC market and how that’s going to impact Poly?

Darren Knapp: Yeah. So it just keeps going up. We started seeing some changes in, 2006 to 2008. You started to see it start to elevate and people started moving off-prem and going to the cloud. And then we had some issues, right, the broadband wasn’t as good as it could have been. Remember, the iPhone was invented in 2008, right? So we’re not talking about that long ago, but yet technology’s changed crazy. So the broadband is gotten better. The cloud platforms have gotten better, the stability has gotten better. And so you’ve got this realization now that the tipping point has happened, and people are saying, okay, time to get rid of this antiquated system and move to the cloud. 

So we’re seeing on average at least 16% growth for partners who are looking to grow. Now there’s plenty of partners out there that are happy to just to kind of, you know, chug along and add a couple of partners or customers per year. But for the most part, anybody who’s interested in growth is looking at double-digit growth. That’s great business. And so if you’re looking for a business model for growth, this is a great place to start. We’re talking to managed service providers, we’re talking to rural telecoms that only offered pots lines, and all of them are coming to an event like this to say, Hey, this is a fast path for me to start, I could put in my information, do my partnership, and within a month or two, I’m up and running, selling Voice over IP and, you know, hosting unified communications.

Erik Linask: So it’s been about half a year. So a little bit more than that, since you emerged as the new brand. What is the response to the reception been, particularly from your partner community?

Darren Knapp: I mean, there’s always a couple of wisecracks right you know, “Polly want a cracker.” So we’re always going to get something funny like that. But you know, for the most part, I think everybody’s light bulb goes off and they go, wow, it’s a one-stop-shop for a company that gives me everything, that’s gives me you know, the headset, the video, the phones, and all these new things that we’re developing. And it’s the brand power, even though it’s a new brand it’s caught on quickly. Everybody gets Polycom, Poly, Plantronics, it’s all one. And so the brand power also helps you as a smaller provider, get to market and get in front of a medium-sized customer and say, my solution is built on this enterprise-grade product. And so we’re able to, you know, help them sell and help go upmarket. We also do things like we invest in our partners, we spend joint marketing funds, like here at this event with SkySwitch. But also a smaller partner, we might give them $5,000 to go to an event or do an ad campaign or something like that.

Erik Linask: Is it just me or does the new logo have a distinct resemblance to the traditional Polycom conference phone?

Darren Knapp: That’s sharp man, you’re on it. I’m not in the marketing department, I can’t take any credit for it, but they had a few ideas. The Poly logo is based off the conference phone but it’s also based off the propeller, and the Plantronics side got its roots in the aviation industry. So Plantronics, the big fame is that we were the ones that went to the moon on that first lunar trip, that was a Plantronics headset. And if you look throughout the FAA and everybody who’s using professional-grade headsets, that’s all Plantronics. So it was a homage to the propeller and to the conference phone. So that’s where that logo came from.

Erik Linask: Very interesting. You learn something every single day, but Darren thank you so much for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your week here at Vectors. 

Darren Knapp: Appreciate it man. Thank you very much.

Small is Where The Business Is, Says IDC’s Amy Lind

Big is Good but Small Customers Are Better

Amy Lind, Research Manager at International Data Corporation (IDC), was one of three featured keynote speakers at SkySwitch’s annual user group conference, Vectors 2019. During her keynote, “The 2020 UCaaS Market For Resellers: Big Is Good, Small Customers Are Better,” she provided insight into the landscape of market opportunities for resellers from a small business perspective and the pain points of SMB telecom.

Learn more about why SMALL is where the business is for resellers from
Amy Lind, Research Manager, IDC.
 

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC

I’m Amy Lind, I’m an analyst with IDC. I cover communication services and UCaaS, and I’ve been with IDC for 22 years as of next week. I can’t believe it. So today I’m going to walk you through IDC’s view of unified communications and collaboration market. We’re going to talk about big is good, but small customers are better.

So a couple of takeaways, I want you to think about it as we go through the presentation. First, is there 65 million small businesses in the United States with fewer than 100 employees. This represents a tremendous opportunity for channel partners. We’re going to go through and look at those opportunities. And I’m going to share some recent survey data we have that looks at small businesses and unified communications. 

The second one is, after years of hype, UCNC is finally mainstream. According to our survey, one out of every two businesses in the United States has unified communications and collaboration. The third thing is that it’s all about the cloud. And by that, I mean cloud-based unified communications as a service. And really, the cloud changes everything. It changes everything for small businesses, and it changes everything for channel partners like you. 

The last point is, simplicity is driving adoption. Solutions need to be easy to use, they need to be easy to deploy. But that’s the first stage. The second stage is really about usage. And driving usage is really the user experience and education, educating small businesses and their employees on the capabilities that exist and how to use them. And driving usage is really a critically important thing to do in the cloud market. And that’s because if you drive usage, you can increase customer satisfaction, you can reduce turn. And more importantly for you for channel partners, you can increase your revenue.

So I want to go through the agenda really quickly, I’m going to start with the small business opportunity, frame it out for you. And then we’ll look at the competitive landscape. From there, we’ll do a dive into the trends and buyer perspective. And then I’m going to present the future view, which is IDC’s typical forecast slide, I have to put one in, and then I’m going to end with some conclusions or recommendations.

So this is IDC’s view of how we segment the business market. So the SMB segment is businesses from five to 999 employees. But it’s really important to segment two sub-segments within the SMB market because when we start looking at some of the sub-segments, there are a lot of differences that come out. For the purposes of what we’re going to be discussing today. We’re going to be looking at small businesses, those businesses that have five to 49 employees.

It’s important to remember that for small businesses, many of them started as home-based businesses. That means that their technology acquisition is very similar to consumers, to consumer technology purchasing. Small businesses typically are not early tech adopters. And that’s largely due to resource constraints, and they just lack the skills within their organization. They typically are more likely to operate in an ad hoc manner, which means that when they are going out after technology, they’re not doing it in a conservative way, looking out three or four years and budgeting, they tend to go out and just buy it as needed. Many small businesses don’t have a dedicated IT person. And typically, when they’re buying technology or looking at technology, they’re focusing on implementing core technologies, PCs, printers, desktop phones, the basic tools that allow them to get their work done, but that you know, not really the cutting edge technology. 

So diving into small businesses a little bit more and some of the metrics. So in this slide, we’re looking at the three pie charts in the middle, for the employees that are five employees up to 49 employees. And the key with this segment is that, on average, the revenue ranges from 300 to 400,000, all the way up to 1.1 million. And that’s at the high end of the segment. But when we look at average revenue per user, per employee, it’s more consistent somewhere around 25,000. The other thing that’s important to remember about this segment, as you move upmarket, that the percentage of revenue that these businesses apply to support current operations goes down, as they tend to invest more in innovation and in expansion. 

So IDC does a survey every year, we survey businesses in the US that have five or more employees, and we just filled out our survey in September and so I have really great brand new survey data to share with you. So one of the things we did do in the survey was asked about technology investment and initiatives over the next three years. And this chart here is showing the technology investment for small businesses that are five to 49 employees, and then large, small businesses which are 50 to 99 employees. And as you can see, I mean, it’s fairly similar in the sense that they both ranked cloud services as being a top initiative or priority that they’re doing. For the small business segment, they said, upgrading their network infrastructure, and then improving WAN and network security, where the top three. 

For both segments unified communications, the red bars, there were only 15%. And at first glance, it seems that they’re just not investing in unified communications. But that’s actually not true. The boxes that are in red, mobile access to corporate and business applications, real-time networking, and migrating call centers to IP platforms. I would argue those are really UC functionality as well or components of UC and so when you put it all together, UC starts to bubble up much higher. But the important thing to keep in mind here is that for both small businesses and large, small businesses, cloud services was the number one investment and initiative that they’re planning on doing. And I think that really signifies small businesses are becoming more comfortable and more interested in UCaaS and cloud, and that’s something that the provider channel needs to capitalize on.

 

So we’re going to shift now to looking at the competitive landscape. Before we do that, though, I want to put some definitions out there. So what is unified communications and collaboration? Many people have different definitions of it. For our sake, for IDC, we define it as the integration of advanced telephony, messaging, IM and presence, and conferencing services, audio, video and web conferencing with collaborative and mobile applications. Unified communications and collaboration enable real-time communications and collaboration, anytime, anywhere and on any device. Unified communications as a service is a cloud-hosted multi-tenant, public cloud, typically, UC&C service that is shared across multiple businesses and delivered, managed and maintained by a communication service provider, or by the channel partner, or even in some cases by a vendor. Their services priced on a per-seat user basis, with a standard suite of features included in the monthly subscription fee.

So with that, we’re going to take a look at the IDC market glance. This is our overview of the competitive landscape for unified communications and collaboration. So all of these different boxes, we put the top three to five players in terms of vendor market share into these boxes. And the one I’m particularly focused on is the one that’s in red, UC solutions and services. We’ve segmented that into two categories. One is over the top providers like RingCentral, 8×8, Vonage, Fuse, Nextiva, and the other one is UCaaS service providers, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, The Carriers. With the OTT providers like RingCentral and 8×8, they all got their start in the small business segment. But they’ve all made a concerted effort to move upmarket into mid-market and enterprise sector. And they’ve really abandoned that small business customer, its transactional customer and they just feel that they can generate more revenue off of going after the higher value customers.

But that leaves those small business customers somewhat stranded in terms of their options. UC service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink, they’ve traditionally gone after large enterprise and multinational corporations. While they do offer small business solutions,

AT&T for instance has a partnership with RingCentral. Verizon is offering One Talk which is a mobile UCaaS solution, and it started with very small businesses. They traditionally have not been very good at serving that segment. I will say though, that there are two exceptions that have come out this summer. One is on the OTT side, and that is 8×8, they announced 8×8 Express. The other is CenturyLink, CenturyLink Engage. Both of those platforms are targeted to the very small business sector. They are e-commerce platforms or solutions. And the interesting thing with CenturyLink is they’re bundling it in with broadband, and they provide a Customer Success Manager to every customer that helps them walkthrough, you know, the beginning of the sales process all the way through to the end post implementations, and guides the customer through the whole process. And I think something like that is possibly going to disintermediate channel partners, but it’s something I think that you can take some learnings from and adapt that to your own business models.

So here’s another slide looking at the competitive landscape. Again, this is from our survey, and we asked of small businesses that we’re looking to implement UCaaS, which kind of provider would you be, you know, considering using. And we asked them to rank it on a scale of one to five. And so here I’ve got it listed by the most; the extremely likely and likely. Microsoft came out at the top, not surprising. They have, you know, good mindshare with small business sector there on the desktop. I thought it was interesting though, that web and video conferencing providers like Zoom and PGi actually had such high mention, and I think with Zoom, in particular, it’s an interesting case because they do the freemium model for video conferencing. And so they are, you know, attracting small business customers with something that’s a freemium model. It works for their purposes and it sucks them in and they find it, you know, a very good enjoyable experience because it’s simple to use. 

Looking at the telecom service providers like Verizon, AT&T and the cable operators, like Comcast and Charter, with them, the interesting thing that they’re doing is obviously they offer broadband to the small business customer, and they bundle that broadband often with a digital voice service, and so they’re able to target that small business customer and lock them into that bundle. But our way of thinking in our definition, that’s not really UCaaS. That’s just a voice service bundled in with your broadband. 

So where I think the opportunity lies for the reseller, and channel partner community is to really focus on becoming a trusted advisor to small businesses and focusing on possibly being a managed service provider. If you look at the managed service providers, if you look at extremely likely, likely, and neutral, they actually have amongst the highest mentions. And so I think pursuing that trusted advisor role helping small businesses with their strategy around migration, around voice, and using that as a pathway to unified communications, I think that’s one way that you can create additional value. Additionally, focus on bundling and value-added services and adding that customer support piece in and I think that you know, it’s really compelling in a differentiated offering.

So, this slide here, we’re shifting gears, looking at UC trends. I’m not going to go through all of these on this slide, we’ll go through each one of these individually, but I wanted to kind of put it out there so you can see that. So the first trend is voice migration. So migrating from TDM Voice to IP is really the foundation for unified communications, voice migration is happening. It’s happening gradually. It’s not happening nearly as rapidly as we’d expected. According to our survey, 89% of small businesses use voice over IP. But if you look at the next line, 85% of small businesses still use and value TDM. And so what that says to me is that there are very few businesses that have the only TDM, or only voice over IP, many businesses have a mix and that we’re still in that transition point where eventually they will move completely off of TDM to voice over IP. 

The reason small businesses aren’t migrating to Voice over IP, they don’t see the business value in VoIP, they also feel that it’s too expensive and other projects have higher priority. And what that says to me is, it’s really more a mentality of if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. They have other priorities. They feel that voice is complicated. They’re not quite sure what they should be going with. It seems costly to them. They have a system that works for them. So there’s no need to upgrade it. But if you look above that 47% of small businesses said that they purchased their phone system four or more years ago. And so we’re getting to the point where these systems are going to start becoming the end of life are not supported. And so I think that’s another opportunity for the channel. To help those small businesses, figure out what their migration strategy should be, help them make that move, and move them to the cloud. 

So the next trend is using UC as mainstream. So this is three years of survey data, where we asked about usage of the adoption of unified communications. So what we really see is that one out of every two businesses has unified communications in their organization. I think it’s interesting to note though that 40% say that they plan to adopt UC&C within the next year. But where it gets really interesting is when you start looking at it by the size of business.

So if you look over at the five to 49 segment, only 25% of small businesses have UC. And I think that that is really pertinent because that shows that there’s an untapped market out there that is right for the channel to really help those guys come in and get UC. So that brings me to the next point. The investment drivers, why should small businesses invest in UC and why are they investing in UC?

So we asked small businesses that have UC and those that plan to adopt UC, What were the reasons that you are looking at UC? And the top reasons were, support a mobile and remote workforce, help employees feel more connected, increase employee productivity, and improve communications and collaboration. The interesting piece to this is that cost saving is relatively low down. And this is the first year of the first survey where we’re seeing cost savings not being the number one reason that they invested in UC. And so I think it signifies that there’s a shift in the market, businesses are starting to look at different use cases and the benefits differently. They’re not looking at, you know, the hard cost savings, they’re looking at softer reasons for migrating or for investing in UC, and again, I think that there’s a role for the channel partners to play in helping them with that, and helping them to focus on use cases and benefits of UC so that when you’re engaging with small businesses, rather than talking about the technology, start by talking about the use case, helping them figure out what problems they need to solve and figure out what that use case is. Do they want to support their mobile, you know the workforce? Do they have a mobile workforce? Do they want to support remote workers? Do they want to increase employee productivity? I think being a trusted advisor and a partner and helping them figure out some of those issues. I think that that is where the channel should be going and focusing because that’s the way to then ensure that the small business is loyal to you.

 

So we also asked of that 27% that do not have UC and are not planning on adopting it, why they don’t want to invest in UC, and the top reasons are, it’s too costly to justify the investment, other projects have higher priority and there’s a lack of in house expertise. And you think the key here for the channel, in particular, is to, again, approach these businesses and present yourself as a managed service provider, helping them to understand that when you move to the cloud, then you’re giving up management to the channel to the person that’s providing you the service. And it frees up their employees, they don’t have to worry about it and it gives you some added value because now you’re a trusted advisor. And you can help them with other things. You can sell them adjacent services, you can upsell them on other things, you know, whether that’s, you know, bundling value-added services in whether it’s doing video conferencing or collaboration, whether it’s expanding into the collaboration stack, I think there’s a lot of potentials there. And you think the problem is that these businesses that said that they don’t want to invest in UC, aren’t really understanding, you know, what it means. And again, that comes back to demonstrating use cases and benefits to them. 

So, the next trend is the shift to the cloud. So I would argue that cloud is not quite as mainstream as UC&C, but we’re getting really close. This slide here is showing that 53% of businesses that either have adopted UC or attending to adopt UC is planning to do a multi-tenant cloud solution. As you can see only 36% wanted you premise-based and 11% are looking at dedicated hosted. And I’m actually surprised that the dedicated hosted is as high as it is, my guess is that some of the small businesses either didn’t understand what that is, or they’re probably at the upper end of our segmentation.

So one of the other trends along with Cloud is Hybrid, Hybrid is gaining traction. Three out of four small businesses said that they plan to deploy or have deployed a Hybrid UC solution. And the reason that hybrid is gaining traction is that it enables businesses to leverage their existing assets to quickly scale UC, and they have the flexibility to really roll it out where and when they want, and how it makes sense for them. And again, I think that there’s a role for the channel to play on this by working with these small businesses on their Hybrid strategy and helping them with that migration and helping them to do an assessment of where they are, where they want to go and what they ultimately want to get to as their end goal.

  

So the next trend within the shift to the cloud is, we see business dynamics driving the shift to the cloud. So, for instance, things like accelerating business growth, there are a lot of businesses that are growing very rapidly. And cloud isn’t the ideal solution for those businesses, cloud is very easy to scale and click to scale, and then enables those businesses that have high growth trajectories to add, you know, new users whenever they need them. It also helps because you can also bring it down. So for seasonal businesses, it’s useful because, you know, they don’t have to pay for a sunk cost for half of the year whenever the year they’re not using those licenses, and so they can scale up when they need to and scale down when they don’t need to, or when they don’t need them. 

Distributed businesses as well, so there are a number of small businesses that have multiple locations, and they have mobile and remote workers. And cloud is ideally suited to distributed business. It allows the small business to roll out the capabilities to the employees wherever they happen to be located and it’s very easy and flexible to do that. One of the other points here is outdated equipment. Many small businesses are struggling with outdated equipment and dissatisfaction with their current system. And again, there’s a role for the partner to play in this, in terms of helping them to migrate, not just to a new solution, but to migrate to the cloud. 

So, there are some benefits to UCaaS and we’re going to talk about those benefits for both the small business and for the providers, sorry, the channel. So there are new market demands happening. So customers’ buying behavior is changing. They’re looking to buy more on value and on business outcomes and use cases. They also want solutions faster. They want off the shelf products, but they also want customization and this is true even for the smallest businesses, but at the same time, end customer budgets are tight, and service reps, not service providers, but channel partners need to keep that in mind. They need to understand that customers want solutions that are easier to use, and that deliver value faster and cheaper. And you need to tailor those solutions and how you approach those small business customers in a flexible way that meets their needs. And when you’re engaging with them, you need to be cognizant of the tight budgets and the different needs that they may have.

 So for small businesses, the benefits of UCaaS and the importance of choosing the right partner is critical. So again, in our survey, we asked small businesses, what their perception was of the benefits of UCaaS, and then we asked them what their concerns were about UCaaS. And it’s really interesting for the small business segment five to 49, scalability and flexibility was the top number one thing that they pointed out, whereas, for the large small business segment, they were looking more at cost savings. 

I think for the Small Business segment, skill-building and flexibility is key, pitching it to them as a managed service that you manage for them, they don’t have to worry about that it eliminates the need for management, for maintenance, for upgrades. It’s incredibly flexible and scalable. It can go up and down to meet their needs. So for instance, you know, seasonal businesses, landscaping, ice cream stores, retail, this is ideally suited to them, because it allows them to, you know, scale up when they need to, scale down when they don’t need to, and they’re not paying for those licenses. Again, along with that is the shift from a Capex to an op ex-model. That’s critical and I think that that’s something that the partners need to focus on with small businesses to encourage them to make that shift and explain to them that you know, the value of monthly recurring revenue model, it may seem scary at first, but in fact, I think it is better for them in the long run rather than sinking all of your costs into, you know, one time Capex on-premise system. 

So there are benefits to your cash for partners as well. You know, small businesses want integrated, affordable and easy to deploy solutions. They don’t want siloed services, they want really more integrated solutions. And they want flexibility and they want that optics, not Capex model. For the partners, making that shift to monthly recurring revenue also helps them because it helps them to invest in their future, it helps them be more competitive, and it helps them to meet small businesses where and when they really need to be. The other issue for channel partners is project revenue is not replicable and it’s hard to invest in your future and grow your business really with more of a project-based revenue model. 

So the concerns with UCaaS, we did survey small businesses about their concerns. The number one concern that came out was security and specifically for the small business segment, they said data security. It was two times more of a concern for them than it was for the large small business segment but for both segments, security was a top of mind concern. And I think it’s critical for partners to really address concerns that small businesses have about UCaaS. One of the things to be cognizant of, again, is to focus on use cases and benefits, but also to demonstrate for small businesses the value of moving to a monthly recurring model, and increases in customer satisfaction, reduction in churn some of those benefits, it’s vital to really kind of point those out and work with the small businesses in a consultative sales approach. 

So the new work experience mobile and remote workers, more workers are becoming mobile, distributed and virtual. There’s this proliferation of BYOD devices in the business as well. Many users, you know, it’s the device of choice. They want to be able to work wherever they are, wherever they are and on whatever device they want. And really, it’s this notion of this anytime anyplace worker that requires ubiquitous mobility. But the challenges that many workers are still using old tools, email, audio conferencing, faxing, paging, and to date, we have not really seen a truly mobile UC&C fixed-mobile convergence solution, it really does remain nascent. And I think that that’s where there’s again, some value that the channel can provide, in terms of really pushing that mobile piece.

  

So we also asked about the features and capabilities that small businesses are interested in. And this is really interesting to me because This is the first year we’ve seen collaboration, email, cloud-based file storage, video conferencing, file sharing and collaborative applications bubbling up to the top. In the past, it’s been voice calling voice over IP, IM chat, audio conferencing. And we’re really seeing an increase in interest and usage of the collaborative applications. And I think that demonstrates that small businesses are becoming more sophisticated. They want integrated solutions, they don’t want just with telephony-based UCaaS, they want to have Slack, Zoom video conferencing, collaborative applications, bundled in and are integrated with their solution. They see value in that. I think the other one that’s valuable is a cloud-based file storage Box, Dropbox, integrating all of that in, and then file sharing, of course. What I find most interesting and we see this every year though, is the mobile client app is relatively low. And I think that’s because most businesses when we survey them, don’t understand or just don’t think of it as a separate feature, they think of it as just being automatically incorporated in. And I think that’s probably the same with presence as well. 

To that point, what I find interesting for small businesses is they’re not that particularly interested in the integration of business apps, like CRM and ERP, at least for the five to 49 segment. But when you look at the large-small businesses, that 50 to 99 segment, they’re much more interested in presence, integration of business apps, even FMC and call recording. So you start to see this difference in the features and capabilities that they want as you go upmarket and become larger. 

So the death of the desktop phone is greatly exaggerated. I was at Enterprise Connect a number of years ago and the buzz at the show was all about how the desk phone was dead, and it was just going to go away. And yet, many of us still have desktop phones on our desks. And I think, you know, looking at the survey, small businesses would say the same thing. The desktop phone is the number one device, mobile and smartphones are growing, it’s 54%, and then web browsers are 52%. And I think that there are a number of providers and platforms out there, like SkySwitch with their Reach UC Mobility, and Reach UC Connect product, those are offerings that are softphones and web browser-based.

And I think we’re going to see an increase in those categories. I think mobile and smartphone is going to increase as well but I think it’s going to take a long time. And the key here for partners to walk away with from this slide is that you need to meet the small business where they are. There are some small businesses that are going to want desk phones for the foreseeable future. There are others that are going to be mobile-first. There are others that are just going to be interested in just a cell phone, and you need to be flexible and present them with whatever option they want. 

This is the piece that I find most fascinating. So we asked small businesses in the next year, do you think your organization is going to increase their use of desktop phones or decrease, and 57.6% said they expected to increase, that just blows me away. I don’t think it necessarily correlates to what we’re seeing on the vendor side in terms of IP phone shipments. But I do think it’s really a compelling piece that just says that the desktop phone is going to be around for quite a while longer.

So finally, adoption versus usage. So simplicity and education are critical to overcoming uses barriers. We asked of small businesses that have unified communications deployed, what percentage of your user base is using the capabilities. Only 48% came back and said that 48% of their users were actually using the capabilities. And the reasons that they weren’t using the capabilities were IT staff was not prepared to support or deploy the capabilities and users were not trained on the technologies, or where the capabilities existed was expensive, and years of users have adopted workarounds. And you think that this is critical. 

Simplicity is key to driving adoption. It has to be simple to use, it has to be simple to be deployed. But education and good user experience are critical to overcoming barriers to usage, and usage is going to be the next step in the market, in terms of development. And the problem with the cloud model is if you don’t get people using the capabilities, then they’re going to turn, and so it’s critical to really push that usage so that they don’t turn so that they increase their customer satisfaction, and they use the capabilities. I think one of the challenges is really trying to figure out how to educate and make these small businesses and these users aware of the capabilities. And one of the things I think, to focus on is adoption services, and working with the small business customer, with the customer success manager to really push education training videos, get the word out, these capabilities exist, this is how you use them, and help guide that small business through the whole process from pre-sale, post-sale, post-implementation, and get there usage up, because otherwise we’ll be at risk of losing that customer. Once they turn, it’s twice as hard to get them back.

So here’s my obligatory forecast slide. The US telephony-based UCaaS revenue snapshot. So in 2019 in the U.S., I am estimating that at the end of the year, the UCaaS market telephony base piece of it will be 5.4 billion. It will have a five-year kicker of 10% and it will grow to 7.3 billion in 2023. I’ve also segmented it for the small business market. And the forecast for small business telephony-based UCaaS expands from 2.1 billion in 2019 to 2.7 billion in 2023. It’s roughly somewhere around 30-35% of the forecast. I’m pretty bullish about the small business market because I think that there’s a lot of room for growth there. There is an untapped market. There are 65 million small businesses, and many of the providers have backed away from that segment. And so I think it’s a really great opportunity for the channel to capitalize on. And once again, just to recap, the delivery model is a fully managed multi-tenant cloud solution, the pricing model is spot rate monthly recurring and the keys in terms of the market perspective are it’s a highly fragmented ecosystem. Like I said, It ranges from network-based and over the top providers, to vendors serve as eyes, managed service providers and the channel. But I do think that specifically, the small business sector is right for the channel to take and own, but one of the key things, as I said before, is education and adapting the business model is really critical to channel success, particularly in the small business segment. 

And so with that, I’m going to turn to my recommendations. The first one is the value proposition for many small businesses remains unclear around UC&C. The channel needs to focus on solution selling, demonstrating use cases, positioning itself as a trusted advisor. You know, many on the channel you’re in your local community, you understand these businesses, you know what their needs are, you know them and that’s something that differentiates your ability to target them from Verizon, AT&T, RingCentral, and 8×8. They don’t know these customers, they don’t know what their needs are. They’re not in the local community, they’re much more of an anonymous type of provider. I think it’s key for the channel to create conversations around how UC&C can benefit small businesses, I think you’ll find greater receptivity if you do that.

For many of these small businesses, decisions are past due, in terms of migrating from TDM to voice over IP. And I think the channel can play a critical role in helping these customers to migrate, help them establish a migration roadmap, figure out what it is that they want to go to in their end state, help them to get there, work with them and define near term and long term goals. We have seen a growing level of comfort with cloud-based solutions and while cost savings are not as high in terms of investment priorities, I do think emphasizing the total cost of ownership and the return on investments for small businesses is still critical. They are still very conscious of cost. You know, budgets are tight. And so if you can demonstrate, some cost savings, especially around moving from a Capex, one-time type of model to an op-ex model, I think that that will be compelling. Partners also need to prove that UC translates to benefits for the business and that will help to stimulate their competence. And again, that comes back to use case. 

To capture new revenue opportunities and growth profitability partners do need to expand their horizons, they need to move beyond their core value proposition, what they’ve been used to delivering. They need to provide integrated bundled solutions, they need to move into value-added services and customer support. And customer success is a key area where you can focus on that as well as position yourself as a managed service provider, that’s a trusted advisor. And then finally, as I said, simplicity is key to driving adoption but the user experience and training are key to driving usage. Solutions must be easy to buy, they must be easy to install, and they must be easy to use, particularly for small businesses.

Recap of Vectors 2019 – SkySwitch’s Best Conference Yet

Welcome Reception

SkySwitch’s annual user group conference, Vectors 2019, kicked off this year at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. The conference began with a welcome reception where attendees were able to network over hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. The evening’s entertainment included sets by DJ BillyRo from San Francisco, who helped set the high-energy tone for the rest of Vectors with his upbeat atmospheric selections.

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DJ BillyRo at the Welcome Reception spinning a variety of atmospheric melodies.

Problem Over Product

Day one began bright and early at 7 a.m. with breakfast sponsored by Adaptiv Networks. Following breakfast, Eric Hernaez, President and Founder of SkySwitch, and Jayson Jones, VP of Sales at SkySwitch took to the stage to welcome attendees with the Vectors Opening Ceremony.

Shortly after, Keenan, from A Sales Guy Inc., shared his unique selling techniques and perspectives on problem-centric selling versus product-centric selling. During his keynote, Keenan taught the audience how to apply his highly-acclaimed book, Gap Selling, to their sales methods in the UCaaS industry.

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Keenan from A Sales Guy Inc.

The day continued with fast pitches from sponsors and sessions from the SkySwitch sales team, Billy Robbins of Intent Company and Jeff Dworkin of the Cloud Voice Alliance. To wrap up the day, everyone made their way over to Hard Rock Live at Universal’s CityWalk for the Vectors Annual Dinner Party, sponsored by Compliance Solutions Inc., featuring Grammy-nominated reggae artist Julian Marley. Marley rocked the house, with songs from his new album during his 90-minute set, giving attendees an unforgettable night of reggae music.

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Julian Marley rockin' the house at Hard Rock Live.

UCaaS Today

Day two kicked off with a groundbreaking panel on the main stage with Scott Brillman, Joe Barasoain and Harlan Hamlin with their session, “E911: The Changes in 2020“. In this panel, they discussed the importance of “Kari’s Law” and how to be part of a positive change using technology sales and strategy as a way of enforcing code.

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E911 Panel discussing the importance of Kari's Law. (Left to right: Joe Barasoain, Harlan Hamlin, Scott Brillman)

Right before the Lunch & Learn, sponsored by Adaptiv Networks, our featured keynote speaker Jeff Pulver, Executive Vice Chairman at Skrumble and co-founder of Vonage, discussed economic, financial and technological trends in the telecom industry during his session, “Now Is The Best Time To Be Selling UCaaS.” 

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Jeff Pulver, Executive Vice Chairman at Skrumble and co-founder of Vonage

Attendees also heard from Spencer Scott of Loup, Micah Singer of TeamMate Technology, Darren Knapp of Poly and many other speakers that introduced new innovative strategies and tactics within the telecom industry. 

Small Customers in a Big Market

The final day was full of informative sessions from Greg Steinig of 3CX, Bill Stucklen of Stack Advisors and Paul Johan of Ballast Point Ventures. To end Vectors with a bang Amy Lind, Research Manager at International Data Corporation (IDC) wrapped up the event on the main stage with her session, “The 2020 UCaaS Market for Resellers: Big is Good, Small Customers Are Better.”

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Amy Lind, Research Manager at International Data Corporation (IDC)

TMC, Telecom Reseller, ChannelVision News and UCToday 

Many of the Vectors 2019 speakers were interviewed by ChannelVision News, TMC, Telecom Reseller, and UCToday for in-depth discussions on what’s new in telecom, and where they believe the industry is headed. Speakers, sponsors, and resellers participate in podcasts and video interviews with Martin Vilaboy, Doug Green, Erik Linask, and Patrick Watson as they led with a variety of introspective and informational talking points.  

Wrapping up Vectors 2019

To wrap up our best event yet, attendees awaited the results of the Vectors 2019 QR code Scavenger Hunt and raffle.  The first place winner won a brand new iPad, while other winners won prizes like a Poly Studio, Poly Trio 8300, Netgear Orbi Smart Speaker, a full year of Adaptiv 50 MB Internet service and all sorts of other new and exciting technologies. Vectors 2019 was an informational, action-packed conference — and SkySwitch’s biggest one yet! We can’t wait to show you what’s in store for Vectors 2020. 

SkySwitch Executives responsible for Vectors 2019! (Left to right: Frank Babusik - COO, Jayson Jones - VP of Sales, Eric Hernaez - President and Founder, Andy Abramson - CMO, Corey Stoker - VP of Support, William Brister - VP of Customer Success, Blake McKeeby - CTO)

Want to view more photos from Vectors 2019?

Check out the full Vectors 2019 photo gallery below! 

Jeff Pulver, UCaaS Pioneer, Vonage Co-Founder and Entrepreneur, Featured as Keynote Speaker at SkySwitch’s Vectors 2019, in Orlando, FL

Speaking on: Now Is The Best Time To Be Selling UCaaS


TAMPA, Fla.Aug. 27, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — SkySwitch, the leading channel-exclusive white label Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) provider, announced today that Jeff Pulver, currently the Executive Vice Chairman at Skrumble, will be featured as a keynote speaker at Vectors 2019, the annual user group conference for SkySwitch Resellers.

Vectors 2019, scheduled for October 27-30 at the Loews Sapphire Falls ResortUniversal Orlando, will provide resellers with hands-on-training, educational content and an introduction of new services being offered by SkySwitch.

Pulver’s session, “Now Is The Best Time To Be Selling UCaaS,” is scheduled for Tuesday, October 29, 2019, from 11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. During his session, Pulver will draw upon his experience in telecom as he discusses economic, financial and technological trends. These trends are converging to create new opportunities for businesses to enhance productivity with technology.

“The Clash was right, ‘The Future is Unwritten.’ We are now living in a time where communication services, which were impossible to deliver even a decade ago, can now be both envisioned and sold,” said Pulver. “Today, only our imagination binds us to how and when we communicate. I am looking forward to sharing my voice with the Vectors 2019 community.”

Pulver, a visionary in telecom, is best known for his entrepreneurial work with the VON Conference series, as the co-founder of Vonage and as Founder and chief executive of The Pulver Edge. His vision led to the creation of Free World Dialup, the VON CoalitionBlockchain Token Association and the Zula app.

Jeff Pulver has been talking about layering value-added services on top of basic voice for as long as I can remember,” said Eric Hernaez, Founder and President of SkySwitch. “Back then he referred to them as ‘purple minutes’. Today, those services are known as UCaaS; an industry forecasted to be worth $79.3 billion by 2024. I can’t think of anyone better to educate SkySwitch resellers about the immense opportunities that lie ahead of us.”

SkySwitch selected Pulver to participate at Vectors 2019 based upon his forward-thinking view surrounding voice communications, regulation and technology. As a result of his past efforts communicating with global regulatory agencies, including The VON Coalition, Pulver became a telecom industry luminary who helped change how the world communicates.

To learn more about Pulver’s session or Vectors 2019, visit the official conference website, and follow Vectors 2019 on social media to stay updated on the latest news, blog posts and video teasers from SkySwitch.

About SkySwitch

SkySwitch is the US-based, next-generation communications platform provider offering white labeled Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) solutions to telecommunication and business technology resellers across North America. Customers include MSPs, agents, interconnects, ISPs, WISPs and VARs.

SkySwitch provides resellers with the competitive advantages required to succeed in today’s overcrowded marketplace by combining best-in-class customer support, with an advanced cloud-based UCaaS platform, delivering feature-rich voice, video, text and fax communications.

About Vectors 2019

Vectors 2019 is SkySwitch’s annual user group conference developed to provide SkySwitch’s customers with valuable training and content. Attendees can take advantage of networking opportunities with SkySwitch partners, resellers and industry experts while sharpening their skills and learning about the latest tech advancements in the UCaaS industry.

 

Jeff Pulver, VoIP Pioneer, Joins SkySwitch at Vectors 2019

The entire team at SkySwitch is really excited that Jeff Pulver, Executive Vice Chairman at Skrumble, VoIP Pioneer, Entrepreneur and Co-founder of Vonage, will be joining us at Vectors 2019 as one of our featured keynote speakers. 

Vectors was developed to provide resellers with valuable content and hands-on-training sessions, led by industry experts, to help transform their UCaaS business. This years’ Vectors 2019 will feature three different tracks for resellers to learn best practices from:

  1. Business
  2. Sales & Marketing 
  3. Technical

Setting the tone for the technical track is UCaaS visionary, Jeff Pulver. Along with bringing his extensive telecom industry knowledge to Vectors 2019, Pulver will be giving resellers exclusive tips on how to skyrocket your business. Vo

Now Is The Best Time To Be Selling UCaaS

Technology is constantly evolving, and the UCaaS industry is no exception. More than ever, we are seeing an influx of companies adopting UCaaS and deploying it in their business structure. The increasing state of flexibility and constant advancement of features makes it a primetime for resellers to sell a variety of UCaaS products and services.

Pulver’s session, Now Is The Best Time To Be Selling UCaaS,” will focus on his experience in bringing new ideas to the world of telecom as he discusses economic, financial and technological trends. These trends are again converging to enhance productivity with technology, creating new opportunities for businesses.

Jeff Pulver, Executive Vice Chairman, Skrumble​

“The Clash was right, ‘The Future is Unwritten.’ We are now living in a time where communication services, which were impossible to deliver even a decade ago, can now be both envisioned and sold,” said Pulver. “Today, only our imagination binds us to how and when we communicate. I am looking forward to sharing my voice with the Vectors 2019 community.”​

About Jeff Pulver

Due to Pulver’s forward-thinking view surrounding voice communications, regulation and technology, and the result of his past efforts communicating with global regulatory agencies (including The VON Coalition), Pulver has become a telecom industry luminary who helped change how the world communicates. SkySwitch is confident that you will leave Pulver’s high-level technical session inspired and equipped with insider knowledge to take your business to the next level. 

Vectors 2019 is a one-of-a-kind conference created by SkySwitch, a white label channel-only platform, for resellers. So don’t miss out! Jeff Pulver and SkySwitch can’t wait to Transform Cloud Communications with you this October in Orlando, FL! 

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