Making Skype Mean Business for You

Making Skype Mean Business for You

Tim Freeth & Paul Taylor

It isn’t just animals that hibernate: customers do, too. Every reseller has some: typically, they’re SMB customers, probably with a fairly new key system, with voice mail and a couple of other add-on applications. They were very pleased with their new system two or three years ago. But the big question is – what do you do with them now?

They won’t need to upgrade to a bigger system or to an IP PBX for a few years. They’re quite happy with what they’ve got, and so they settle down to hibernate.

And while we all love happy customers wouldn’t it be great to be able to revisit

them with a compelling new solution that also delivers real benefits, a fast ROI and a healthy margin for you?

Well, just such a solution exists. Surprisingly, it uses Skype, the free Internet-based telephony service that’s the darling of teens and techies the world over. But now the technology is moving beyond headsets and home PCs. Skype means business, and offers a real value-add to business users when harnessed in the right way – and giving you the opportunity to reawaken those dormant customers.

So how do you sell your customers on Skype for business? What are the applications that will benefit them? And are there ongoing revenue opportunities?


The skinny on Skype

First, a quick refresher on what Skype is. It supports free Internet-based voice calls between Skype users located anywhere in the world. You can also use SkypeOut to connect IP to standard PSTN phones at low cost, and lease a SkypeIn number to receive incoming calls from non-Skype users.

The upshot is, if your customers make frequent or lengthy long-distance or international calls – whether inter-office or to other parties – Skype will slash their telecoms bills. Show me a customer that doesn’t want that.

However, the problem has been that Skype sits on users’ PCs, separated from the office phone system. So there’s no control over Skype usage, and no easy, manageable way to put Skype’s features at the disposal of all employees.


Crossing the divide

The good news is the divide between Skype and the PBX has been bridged with new gateways that offer four or eight outgoing Skype lines in a stackable, rack-mountable design. These can be installed in under half a day, with zero changes to existing PBX equipment, phones, or PCs – and at a modest one-time cost, making them attractive to customers while giving a healthy margin to you.

The gateway allows users to make and receive Skype calls on their regular office phones instead of having to use a PC and headset. User training is negligible – we’re all used to dialling ‘9’ for a phone line: with the gateway, users still dial ‘9’ for PSTN and simply dial ‘8’ for Skype and then continue as normal. Apart from the installer and the IT team, users don’t even need to know they are making calls via Skype.


Apps matter

OK, so what does this mean for the customers? Businesses with multiple locations — retail outlets, for instance — can put a Skype exchange at each site, which not only saves on outgoing calls to customers and vendors, but also makes intra-office calls Skype-to-Skype, which are completely free-of-charge. The same holds for remote workers, who can use Skype to access office phone facilities at a fraction of the cost of alternative comms methods.

Skype can even be a tool for global domination, offering customers a low-cost means of setting up virtual offices internationally. With a leased SkypeIn number costing just 30 Euros per year, companies looking to expand overseas can set up a local company contact number which will automatically route non-Skype callers onto the company’s Skype network, so that all calls can be handled centrally at the customer’s headquarters or call centre.


Billing benefits

From the customer’s point of view, the other big benefit of integrating Skype into their existing phone system is ongoing savings. Skype has no signup or monthly access fees, offers free calls between Skype users, and charges pennies per minute for calls to non-Skype users – even for calls to overseas destinations. Experience in the US, where call charges are even lower than in the UK, shows that these gateway solutions pay for themselves in as little as four months.


The long run

As well as the chance to revisit dormant customers and generate extra margins on sales, there’s also the opportunity for ongoing system management revenues.

More advanced Gateways include call log statistics, management interfaces and associated reporting, and can be configured to require endusers to input a special ID number for more complex and specific reporting purposes. The Gateway management software should also support remote management, enabling a single network administrator to add or remove users, and manage settings in multiple offices. As a result, customers may wish to simplify their telecoms by opting for a system management service from you.

So why not help your customers find out how Skype means business, and how it can save them money? It’s a wake-up call for the comms industry, and one that you can capitalise on by partnering with the right vendor.

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