The value of Call Management

The value of Call Management

Phil Reynolds of Oak Telecom

It has been with no small degree of pleasure that Oak has watched as sales of its aiOffice call management products grow year on year – an impressive 40% last year alone, with no indication that it is going to slow down. Call management remains a hugely sellable application for the channel. But is it just a commodity product or a real value-added sale?

Phil Reynolds, Joint CEO at Oak Telecom argues that the time for relying on margins on volume sales alone has passed “The way to win profitable business now is to take full advantage of the features that are being added to call management software to build a better end-user proposition. “Good as the applications might be, I have a suspicion that a lot of call management systems in the SME sector are not being used to their full potential – and that means that resellers are losing out on the opportunity to maximise the value they are perceived to add to a customer’s business.”

For a reseller, the core foundation of ‘Value-Add’ is the relationship with their customer. This is where the whole proposition starts, says Tri-Line’s Commercial

Director Kay Tobin.

“It is an established B2B truth that, as a supplier, if you want to do business successfully you must do your customers’ business for them – and it starts with dialogue. Know your customer’s business; their operations and processes; identify the obstacles to their ambitions, for it is in these areas that opportunities for the reseller exist.

“Call management – be it call logging, call recording, CRM or CTI applications – is a tool that enables your customer to operate their business more efficiently, productively and profitably through better oversight, analysis and management. As a reseller, you can only identify the opportunity and offer solutions if you know about your customers’ business.

“Think of it as a journey: telecoms equipment is the vehicle – and the driver, the route and the travel experience is the ‘valueadd’. True customer delight – the destination – is taking your passenger via a scenic route and arriving ahead of schedule and within budget. A clear example of ‘value-add’ is a petrol station that offers juice for your motor plus maps, food, music and a range of useful gadgets. In addition to petrol, how much do YOU spend in service stations each year? This is the ‘value-add’. You may not have wanted it, but you have to have it once you see it!

“Offering Value-Add solutions to business customers is much more focused – and margin rich – than the business model operated by a petrol station so it will naturally take more time to identify the potential for sales. But your patience and effort will be profitably worthwhile. “It took us two years to develop our TIM Enterprise product. This time was spent defining what was required by an Enterprise customer; analyzing what was missing in the products currently servicing this market; considering future requirements based on the newer IP-based solutions and finally designing a product to suit. As a result resellers are picking up call logging sales at up to 10 times the value of a traditional call logging sale. Of course the Enterprise call logger allows them to define and justify the upgrade path on the replacement switch sale as well.

“If you restrict yourself to selling ‘boxes’, maintenance and minutes the customer will, naturally, only see you in this light and, when they need additional services or solutions may not immediately turn to you.

“If, however, you engage – in dialogue and in practice – with your customer as a business-enabling provider you will be centrally placed to offer solutions to their problems and needs – and be best placed to win new sales.”


Opportunity Questions

Bonnie Church, Sales & Marketing Director at Commsoft says that after salaries, overall communication costs are the largest single office expense. “These costs are usually unmanaged, increasing and out of control so CommSoft has devised some questions that they suggest their resellers ask all customers & uncover opportunities”

• How many non-business related calls are being made from your company every day?

• Is your PABX fed with the optimum number of lines?

• Are these lines linked to the most efficient network carrier for your needs?

• How many customers does your company aggravate, or worse lose, through abandoned calls and   unacceptable ring times?

• Does your staff use premium services more than necessary?

• Which department or individual incurs the majority of these costs?

• What time of day are your phones most/least busy?

• How much direct feedback is generated by specific marketing campaigns?

Church says Commsoft is launching a further version, later this year which will be called CommsOffice Enterprise. “This will have CTI screen pop, to ‘pop’ customer’s record cards when they call plus some new developments in the area of integrated call recording. I cannot reveal too much at this stage for fear of being ‘copied’ by others but this will be a truly innovative product for the channel and will win may customers with its MS Office style suite of features within one product. Watch this space!”


What value gets added?

Phil Reynolds says end-users are growing wiser to the uses to which these systems can be put throughout their organisations – and it goes much further than reducing call costs.

“Call logging and cost control is only part of the story and as call management reaches further into the end-users’ organisations, it is adding value to every department and function within the business. So it is the ‘extra’ features like ease of use, intuitive interfaces, reporting features, scaleability and support that make the difference. All of these also, of course, open the doors to larger and multiple-site organisations

“There are new features being added to call management systems all the time – all of which can be turned into customer benefits. The latest release of Oak’s UK-developed aiOffice call management offers, among other things, more selection and sort criteria enabling endusers to generate customer reports – it really is an easy tool to use, which is why we are only too happy to set up customised live demos to help you sell. There is the option to run reports automatically and email them, and offering a choice of text and graphical formats for bespoke reports ensures they are always relevant and immediately useful to the recipient.

“Of course, reports are generated after the event, for ‘real-time’ management, but exceptional call events can be highlighted by screen pop ups, email and SMS enabling managers to take immediate corrective action when appropriate.”

Differentiation Where does the value really get added?
Is there really much difference between one vendor’s call logger and another’s call management software? Well, fundamentally not a lot – all of the systems on the market are basically databases that gather information and output it in one form or another.

Phil Reynolds, “However, remember that the difference between chimp and human genome is less than 2% – it doesn’t take much to make a massive

Mark Armstrong of CTI Group

difference. Truly flexible reporting tools, for instance, are much more than the icing on the cake and while many call management systems will generate customer reports, I would argue that none do so as well as aiOffice!

“If a call management system is really going to add value to a business then the information it can generate is likely to be used by people throughout the end-user organisation, not just the IT or facilities staff. So it has to be genuinely easy to learn to use it has to allow people easily to extract information that is relevant to their job function. This might sound obvious, but so many of the standard reports that are built in to call management systems seem to be geared to the telecoms manager. The sales manager, for instance, doesn’t give two hoots about cost uplift, he or she just wants to see call traffic for individual operators or teams.

“So please SHOW the end users what a call-management system can deliver. If you are not familiar with every feature of the products you sell, how are you going to communicate the benefits to the end-user? Take time out to learn about them – join us at one of our reseller training sessions at our school in Peterborough. And be sure your customers are fully trained to make sure they get the best use of the systems you have sold them.”


Applications Focus

Mark Armstrong, Sales Manager at CTI Group believes there are various considerations that a reseller should evaluate when selling the benefits of call management.

“End-user requirements are moving away from a purely cost management perspective because the costs of these calls are coming down. With a downturn in spending, the focus is moving towards efficiency for both personnel and the network. Resellers should be focusing on applications that offer customers a real business benefit that is management being the ideal solution for this. From a commercial perspective, resellers can use call management as a good inroad into new opportunities and an ideal way to generate further revenue from existing accounts as it is relatively low value

Peter Southgate of Pink Telecom

with a genuine and tangible ROI – typically within 3 months. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

“Call management enables you to ascertain and evaluate the efficiency of employees – how long they spend on the phone, how quickly calls are being answered and so on – imperative in any competitive business environment. Historically, this has been a lengthy process to evaluate. This is no longer the case with the advent of solutions, such as those provided by CTI Group, which deliver a comprehensive understanding of phone usage through graphs and charts as well as summaries, trends and exceptions data – all of which can be viewed instantaneously at the click of a button.

“Another area of focus for many, is that of network efficiency and quality control. When an organisation introduces a VoIP system, quality is always an area of concern. A VoIP management system, such as Proteus VoIP QMS, allows users to evaluate – through reports – the QoS (Quality of Service) in a VoIP network, this includes jitter, latency and MOS scoring. Alerts are also given when certain quality thresholds are reached so issues can be addressed immediately improving overall network efficiency levels.

“The ROI of a call management solution is proven. For example, CTI Group’s Proteus software has been proven to deliver average cost savings of up to 15% on telephone bills, reduces the incidence of lost business through identification of missed calls and guards against telephone misuse/abuse which accounts for £750m worth of fraud in the UK each year. One financial institution has Proteus reports to thank for a £150K cost saving in 3 months through the cancellation of redundant private wire circuits.”


Reseller Comment:

Peter Southgate, Managing Director of Pink Telecom had a requirement for a centralised call logger that would log all call traffic and allow secure remote integration by an unlimited number of users worldwide.

“We worked with Tri-Line and their philosophy has always been to talk less about what the product can do, but instead to install trial software and show the customer what it actually does.

“We all know that this market is changing rapidly towards software-based solutions. A cross-continent installation like this would have been undreamt of only a few years ago. As a reseller, the advantages of this type of sale are clear for all to see. We certainly predict a huge increase in Enterprise call logging sales in 2008. We are confident that increased switch sales will naturally follow.”


Ed Says:

I’m a fan of call management. I think it provides the opportunity for resellers to open doors to other products and applications – call recording, additional lines, new PBX systems. At the same time the products are moving with the times. Many of these vendors have specifically built in new features such as those required for VoIP systems.

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