Customer Focussed

Customer Focussed

Chris Harris

Tucson was a big affair I remember; more than 600 delegates packed in to a desert hotel just out of town to see the new 5000 Series PBX. The UK resellers attending that I spoke to were very enthusiastic about the prospects for the product – has it lived up to their expectations?

Chris Harris, “5000 Series is going well; the full UK availability for the product followed the US launch but I can report that the product has enabled us to get new business and recruit new resellers as well. Our concerns that sales of Axxess systems would be affected by the introduction of the product were unfounded and many new resellers have found migrating to 5000 a simple process that opens up new opportunities for them.

The introduction of 5000 Series took Inter-Tel further down the convergence road, how do you think the market is developing? Harris, “We believe in the truism regarding the benefits and desirability of IP telephony not being for everyone. However, the fact of the matter is that convergence products, if implemented correctly and thoughtfully, can help organisations enhance their business processes. To me the most obvious and visible business process enhancement product available is Swan Solutions Callview. (Inter-Tel Inc. purchased Swan Solutions in 2002 – Ed.)

“In my opinion running a business without Callview is a bit like driving your car without a dashboard. Today, more than ever, business needs to understand what is happening in their organisation and Callview can show these trends so that the company knows what is going on and can do something about it. Amazingly we came across a company recently that had 48 PSTN lines that turned out to be all busy all day long. The reseller put in two ISDN30 trunks which made no difference. Only when they installed a third ISDN30 did they have a spare line. That is no way to run a business.”

2006 seems to be a year when vendors are going to put more emphasis on vertical marketing of their products. Do you see this as a desirable strategy?

Harris, “We believe that is essential to address vertical markets with targeted solutions rather than use a scatter gun approach. It shows customers that you have actually taken the time to understand the needs of their business and the environment in which they operate on a day to day basis. The channel should be able demonstrate a knowledge of their customers own challenges and provide business solutions that addresses those challenges.

Inter-Tel has produced sector based case studies and marketing collateral for the retail, legal, distribution and travel sectors. We have also undertaken a repeat of our survey in to the needs of teleworkers.

It is interesting to note the changes we found from last year; it seems that flexible working is on the increase with 28% more SMEs claiming to practice flexible working than last year. Yet only 2% have made it an integral part of their HR policy. And when we look closely it seems that flexible working is a ‘me to’ claim where small concessions have been made rather than a well thought out policy.

There are still some misconceptions about the ease and cost of managing a flexible working strategy. Disconcertingly we found that more than half of SMEs still find it hard to trust home working staff. Many are unaware of the monitoring tools in place to monitor and evaluate the performance of home workers.”

What does your survey say about technology?

Harris, “Many SMEs don’t need to be persuaded on the benefits flexible working policies, they just need to be assured that the technology they need will not become a black hole in their budget or disrupt their business model. With the right partner to support the adoption, implementation and use of technology, SMEs can reap the rewards very quickly.”

In recent years many observers have commented on the need to inform and educate channel partners. How has Inter-Tel met this need?

Harris, “If a reseller wants to be successful in the convergence market then it comes down to the reseller investing in their sales teams’ education and skill sets as well as keeping them informed. As an example, if you just take four or five key points from our teleworker survey, email them to prospects and tell them you want to come and se them about it you will get results.”

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