Exceeding expectations

Resellers and MSPs are increasingly offering wraparound services to enhance their core offerings. Comms Business finds out how this approach is improving customer satisfaction and delivering results.

The channel thrives on building wraparound services that augment the technologies it provides to businesses. Resellers, MSPs and VARs can often deliver more transformative outcomes and lasting results by building a service wrap around their offerings. There is no 3-step plan to success, but customer centricity can guide channel companies to the best services to enhance their portfolio.

For Jamie Hughes, UK sales director, Evolve IP, wraparound services are about going beyond the minimum so the chosen solution can deliver a bigger impact. Ultimately, this ensures the customer has a good experience with the solution.

Hughes said, “Everyone can make a phone ring but it’s the attachment and solutions overlaid on top that provide differentiation to stand out from the crowd. End users are now more educated and demand more sophisticated solutions that deliver a bigger impact on business performance. A phone ringing is not enough.”

So, what types of solutions suit wraparound services? Paul Decker, country leader for the UK and Ireland, Avaya Customer Experience Services, pointed out the importance of focusing on the desired outcome, and working backward from there.

He said, “Wraparound services should be focused on providing value-driven outcomes. It’s more about the outcome you want to achieve rather than what the specific technology solution is. These services should be about evaluating where you are today and providing a plan to close the gap on tomorrow by defining strategic and tactical objectives, building out and executing a bespoke journey map, and working out how to get there without disruption.

“Customers should look for vendors with services that will support their journey at their pace, and who can draw on a wealth of skills and experience based on successfully undertaking such engagements previously and by utilising an innovative blend of artificial intelligence, automation, cloud evolution, omnichannel integration and agile development.”

Wraparound services are about giving channel companies a way to add value to what they are offering to their customers, but subscription-based services can also help lower barriers to entry for sophisticated but expensive technologies.

Gordon Lyon, sales director for the UK and Ireland, Infinigate, explained, “Wraparound services enable business to access technology on a subscription basis, with the benefit of flexibility of usage as well as expert management, optimisation and maintenance provided as part of the package.

“Whether for cybersecurity or network management optimisation, as two primary examples, wraparound services can help the channel add value to their offering, in collaboration with vendors. This model enables businesses of all sizes to benefit from the latest technology solutions in an affordable and flexible manner, without having to invest in costly in-house resources.”

Robust networking

Martin Saunders, product director, Highlight, discussed why connectivity projects in particular can benefit from additional services. He said, “Infrastructure projects such as networks, servers, and data centres are ideally placed for wraparound services. Customers are looking to work with providers that can reduce the burden of managing their network and help them with their general IT management.”

He explained that many vendors are offering the tools including SD-WAN but are not going that step further and adding on “the necessary support services that customers need”.

He said, “For example, the problem with wraparound services for SD-WAN is that most systems don’t provide the depth of detail needed for running a network. Whilst an SD-WAN portal may say that it is up and running, this may be opposite to a user who says their application doesn’t work.

“This may be due to an issue on the underlying broadband on which the SD-WAN relies but if the service provider cannot access this level of information, they cannot deliver a competent service.”

For Cherie Howlett, CMO, Jola, she has seen channel companies win business through creating a wraparound service for mobile data.

She said, “Mobile data is a vital wraparound product for any reseller. Most sell mobile for handsets but only around a third of those with RID licenses sell IoT or M2M. If you can bill CDRs you can bill mobile-data and if you choose an aggregator with a comprehensive real-time portal, it’s easy to provision, manage and support, usually with minimal training and no new staff.”

Howlett emphasised the importance of resellers and MSPs taking the time to assess whether a new addition to their portfolio is the right option for their customers.

She added, “We all know it’s easier to sell to existing customers than win new, and usually at a better margin. However, adding a product to the portfolio is not trivial. How will I sell, provision, bill and support this product? What training is required and do I need more staff. Most importantly how do I find these opportunities in my customer base?”

Similarly, Matt Mimo, CEO, Tardis, discussed the benefits of joining the dots between connectivity and services such as AI, analytics, CCTV and IoT.

Mimo said, “Most vendors in the channel will stick to SIMs and routers or VoIP, but that’s not a true wholesale wraparound. Those are still fairly essential services and wraparounds like IoT, and CCTV should be included too, all available via a single platform that makes ordering simple.”

This approach, Mimo argued, provides a “true wholesale wraparound”. He added, “Vendor portals should act as a one-stop-shop for both resellers and their end-users, white-labelled to help boost the reseller’s credibility. Obviously, for resellers the primary uses will be ordering and assessing usage, but why keep all that information internal?

“By giving access to customer-facing elements, resellers can also optimise their teams’ time while providing more control to their customers with end-users self-supporting their own issues, in turn reducing support tickets and support calls to the MSP.”

Mimo underlined what can be achieved through developing a service such as this. He said, “Wraparound services must enhance the foundational connectivity services offered, making everyday tasks easier for businesses, and simultaneously making it harder for customers to leave, given how connectivity services are all integrated together and deliver wide-ranging benefits to the operation.”

Expert consultancy

Resellers and MSPs might consider adding a variety of wraparound services to their core offerings and, in many cases, these services are designed to further differentiate their solution from that of competitors. Lyon, from Infinigate, discussed how channel companies combine consultancy with services.

He said, “The line between resellers and MSPs is gradually blurring, at pace with the demand for IT-aaS, spurred by the need for business to conserve capital.

“If resellers can offer expert consultancy and service optimisation to suit their target customers, they add an element of differentiation, adding value to their offering.”

For resellers and MSPs who are looking at adding new wraparound services, Decker, from Avaya, advised they should start with baselining their current offerings.

Decker said, “Achieving innovation without disruption begins with knowing what you have today. Once you truly understand that, you can look at the journey to where you want to be tomorrow. Using appropriate tooling, automation and experienced consultancy, a services organisation should be able to help you understand how your solution operates today and what path will support the realisation of your objectives.

“Then it’s all about agility of engagement. This provides an agile approach to engagement across the services portfolio – AI, cloud and digital – enables faster, more cost-effective engagements, in smaller discrete increments and speeds up time to value. It also focuses on the areas that partners need support.”

Organisations across the UK are putting sustainability at the top of their agendas. This is opening up opportunities for channel companies if they can help their customers move the needle on their sustainability efforts.

Hughes, from Evolve IP, discussed the increased appetite for wraparound services that can help with sustainability – whether that’s processing with hardware at the end of its lifecycle or bringing in hardware that is not brand new. He said, “We are seeing lots of demand around features that can help with sustainability, with a dramatic increase in refurbished hardware.

“Our partners and their customers want to be creative. So when there’s no movement in offices, for example, devices can be powered down via an energy management system which ultimately saves running costs too.”

Another area that could benefit from wraparound services is networking, with providers able to add-on technologies that can monitor and remedy network issues for their customers.

Saunders, from Highlight, explained, “Service assurance platforms like Highlight can be used to help providers support the network technologies they deliver to customers.

“Highlight provides an understanding of how network services are performing, enabling productive communication between the service provider, the enterprise’s network management staff and end-users at all levels, with users on both sides of the relationship reporting more efficient problem solving, reduced need for case escalation and much improved service retention figures.”

Delivering customer benefits

As you would expect, wraparound services ultimately aim to deliver wider or deeper benefits for businesses, their customers and/or their employees.

Saunders, from Highlight, explained what results network providers can deliver to their end customers through additional services. He said, “End customers are putting greater focus on their enterprise applications and are less concerned about how the network is built. It’s not that they don’t care about the network, they just want it to meet the demands of their users and the applications they use.”

Saunders emphasised what is at stake, explaining that a “lack of wraparound service may mean enterprise customers are unable to make the most of their technology investments”. He argued that this can lead to “unnecessary expenditure looking for alternative technology solutions when more effective use of their existing solutions would be more than sufficient”.

He added, “Customers want their providers to act in a competent, reliable and honest way. If they cannot trust their provider in any of these three areas, they will simply move to another. The customer’s perception of how well their providers can meet these criteria is often dependant on the quality and transparency of the wraparound services they provide.”

Decker, from Avaya, said the priority should be on delivering value as quickly as possible. He explained, “In the same way that support organisations track mean time to repair or another service level objective, providers of wraparound services should be obsessed with time to value.

“Once a customer has made the decision to invest and take their first steps on their journey, they want to realise the benefits as quickly as possible. Customers should look for a mix of capabilities including business consultancy, agile services and deep experience in transformation.”

Vendor support

Some wraparound services offered by channel companies rely on the support of their vendor partners. Vendors and/or suppliers can support their partners to enhance their portfolio with wraparound services in a few ways. Decker, from Avaya, explained how partners can collaborate with their vendors to ensure customer value.

He said, “Vendors’ services should work side by side with partners to bring joint value to customers and build complimentary, trusted partner relationships to work to a common goal and ensure customers are receiving value. A vendor’s role is to enable and consult suppliers and partners to confidently position their services to compliment the holistic offering.”

Saunders, from Highlight, added, “Transparency is important when delivering any kind of service. However, it is not good enough to be transparent by blasting information at customers. You need to know if anyone is looking at the information and that it makes sense. This means communicating in an intelligible way and ensuring the information is valued.

“Our partners are adding Highlight to their portfolios to ensure they can deliver a full-service wrap around the networks they provide to customers. Through the shared Highlight service assurance platform, partners can be transparent in how services are performing, and enable them to show that they are competent with a reliable and trustworthy service.”

Hughes, from Evolve IP, described how his organisation works with partners to ensure they have the support they need to implement competitive offerings, including through wraparound services. He said, “Evolve IP’s ethos is based on a true partnership approach. As part of this strategy we conduct regular roadmap sessions with our partners. It’s about understanding what tools and solutions they require in order to remain relative and competitive to their customers.”

What is important, Hughes emphasised, is that all stakeholders work together to ensure businesses and organisations across the UK can access the services that will unlock the full benefits of their investments. Hughes concluded, “The key to success is joining all the dots together across the supply chain.”

This feature appeared in our October 2023 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.