Empowering the reseller community

Tony Martino, CEO, Tollring, talks to Comms Business about how its solutions can help channel companies to add value to the Microsoft ecosystem.

Tollring provides companies across the Channel with data visualisation and business intelligence tools that help manage business and customer communications. Tony Martino, the company’s CEO, sat down with Comms Business to share how the company is evolving its solutions for the Channel.

In September, the company launched iCall Suite call analytics for Microsoft Teams Phone to help businesses understand and improve customer experience. The new offering provides users with intuitive dashboards that help visualise and measure business-critical call performance KPIs. Metrics like unreturned missed calls, grade of service, percentage calls answered, and caller tolerance in queues, aim to help organisations to manage service levels, maximise revenues and gain business clarity.

Martino explained that the company has been working with Microsoft as an ISV partner for more than two years, and has learned a lot during that time. The company’s first Microsoft-focused offering was Analytics 365, which is a native app for Microsoft Teams that delivers high-level insights and analytics on the workplace.

Martino added, “We’ve been delighted to launch into the Microsoft community in the way that we have. But it’s brilliant that we’ve now also been able to bring in our iCall Suite capability alongside that to round off our Microsoft stack.”

Reseller differentiation

The company has zoned in on the Microsoft ecosystem because businesses are rapidly adopting solutions from within it. That means many channel companies are meeting their customers where they are and are looking at how they can enhance Microsoft products, rather than offering alternatives.

Martino said, “Teams has gone from strength to strength, we all know about the numbers in terms of users. We don’t see any of that slowing down and there has certainly been a lot of consolidation in our market as well.

“Resellers are looking at how they can best differentiate themselves and how they can offer best of breed solutions to their particular customer demographic. That’s an important consideration. Teams Phone might not be right for everybody, but we certainly see that it needs to play a part in any business communication strategy. Our channel partners are looking to understand how they can add value and differentiate, and I think there’s got to be a Teams strategy involved there somewhere.”

As such, Martino explained, the question moves from whether to include Teams within your portfolio to how can the Channel “improve it collectively”.

He pointed to Operator Connect and Direct Routing, which were important ways for the Channel to extend the capabilities or functionality of Teams in the past couple of years.

He added, “Now, we’ve kind of come through that transition and the Channel is starting to see there’s value to be had. That can be extended further by bringing in data and analytics services.”

Tollring sees Teams usage growth as having come in two distinct waves. The first was collaboration-oriented, with Covid driving a lot of that adoption as employees embraced new ways to collaborate with colleagues when working remotely. The second wave is a shift towards Teams telephony.

Only a small proportion of Teams users are currently making use of Teams-based telephony so service providers could get ahead of a potential big shift towards Teams-based telephony by developing offerings now.

Adding AI capabilities

As for the future, artificial intelligence, or AI, will likely become more deeply embedded within Tollring products. Martino said that AI is a “hugely exciting” part of the company’s roadmap.

He explained, “There’s no doubt that wrapping AI or machine learning into your analytics can bring out some fantastic results. We recently launched an AI capability within our call recording stack to deliver insights out of the box. We’ve done similar for Analytics 365, where we leverage the ability to understand sentiment and customer behaviour.

“This is just the beginning of a pretty massive wave and we’re starting to see some fantastic applications of AI already. That’s only going to extend, and we’re already starting to see it in the way Microsoft has made massive investments in AI and the way that they’re leveraging their Copilot capability and so forth.

“We just see AI as empowering services like ours to be able to deliver fantastic value downstream to the customer.”

Tollring will also continue to evolve its offerings in line with updates to Microsoft solutions. Martino explained, “We have a large focus on Microsoft because it’s where our channel is taking us. There is a big attraction in Microsoft capabilities, so we’ve put a lot of focus in terms of our research and development effort on Microsoft.”

The next step will be to continue to simplify partner implementation. Martino added, “We have these elements that allow us to provide our channel partners with a holistic, very capable, Microsoft service across all things Teams-related. Our focus over the next 12 months is making that as seamless a journey as possible.

“We’re working very heavily on ensuring that provisioning, onboarding and consuming our services is as easy as possible. That focus is very important, so customers are able to onboard and turn on our services very easily. This is about really empowering our reseller community to do that.”

This interview appeared in our December 2023 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.