CBM: How do you steer customers away from consumer-grade products to something that is paid for?
JHM: In the short-term, there is a strong message around the real cost of using consumer-grade tools. Rather than a business buy a bunch of disparate tools for staff, the channel can provide added-value, such as integrations, support, and extra features and functionality. Also, a bunch of consumer-grade tools that do not integrate and may not have the scalability or enterprise-grade security of other solutions can bring risk and reduced productivity. Why not hand everything over to the channel, and let them do all the work?
Across 2020, there is a huge opportunity here to push the total-cost-of-ownership message. Business customers who have already moved from legacy on-premise and ISDN solutions to cloud-based IP telephony are already enjoying the lower on-going cost base. For organisations making that switch right now, there may be some initial up-front investment — for instance, headsets, equipping staff with better WiFi routers — but they will soon start to reap the financial savings. Other cost savings may come through reduced office usage, though equally, firms may require larger offices to support physical-distancing between employees.
CBM: How else can customers be pushed beyond a ‘price-first’ mentality and focus on the bigger picture?
JHM: When we think about IP telephony and UC, it is natural to focus on communications and collaboration, but they also have the ability to transform productivity and accountability (particularly important when staff are working remotely) and to contribute to digital transformation. Integrating video, voice, diaries and collaboration features into CRM and ERP is a game-changer. For example, here at Centile we have our own UCaaS platform integrated with Salesforce, and it gives the potential for deep, real-time insight into sales and customer interactions.
Also, without getting too ‘Big Brother’ about this, platforms like ours allow businesses to see activity across devices (including whether the network is being used to support personal devices and apps), so companies have better visibility over usage and staff activity.
With many people working from home, it can be easy to forget about mobile. We’ve seen a massive upswing in the use of our own mobile app, so that indicates people are using their mobiles even more: perhaps because sometimes it is easier to move to another spot at home where it’s quieter to attend a virtual meeting, or because we have all become so used to our mobiles being the centre of our lives, with the ability to initiate calls, video and chat from a variety of apps. As people start to work outside the home again, the ability to have seamless access to — and transition across business apps — will be an even bigger selling point for mobile users. Customers will look for a native green button dialling with true FMC capability (vs app dialling) and this is where we will see FMC come into its own.
CBM: Centile talks a lot about integrations: why do you think that’s important to the channel?
JHMtated by vendors, or locked-in to rigid solutions that can look the same as each other. Some channel companies just want to resell a simple solution, but we see more wanting to create their own service packages and to brand white-label solutions as their own. From there, they can target verticals, which I believe has been often overlooked but maintains big potential. Of course, all this depends on having a platform that makes integration of multiple apps possible and simple through powerful, open APIs.
Also, people talk about Microsoft Teams being a possible killer, but if you can integrate it into your own UC solution, then it becomes an opportunity.
CBM: What are you focusing on right now? How are you helping the channel?
JHM: We have always been a partner-focused vendor, and that’s why we continue to focus on our UX evolution: we want to stay in the background to provide support to partners, and we firmly believe that most customer relationships needs to stay with the channel as a rule. We’re working hard with our channel partners to help them during these changing times, including free access to some of our tools — and from our parent company, Enreach — for a period of time. 2020 is an unprecedented challenge for everyone, but for this industry, there is the potential to help businesses pivot to new ways of working, and for the industry to not just survive, but thrive.