SMB Market is Flooded with Product say Layer 3

Mike Tipper, Managing Director of reseller Layer 3, says the SMB marketplace is rife with small office based telephony solutions that claim to offer integration to back office systems and enhanced call handling options.

“The small office user expects his users and customers to have the same quality of service, feature-rich voice applications and usability of the more advanced enterprise-based telephony systems. The SMB wants better customer satisfaction and retention, and this must come from the integration of IP telephony with the suit of applications that are found in the SMB environment.

The small office user probably doesn’t want to spend extra on an additional server to support multiple voice applications, and with limited resource the solutions have to be easy to manage.

IP telephony has a major role to play. We are definitely seeing a desire in the SMB market to benefit from presence management systems, integration with outlook, enhanced call routing and voicemail that the enterprise has been benefiting from for some time. Most SMB users are proud to be dynamic, offer flexibility in their business approach and often have very personal relationships with customers. However, they don’t necessarily have the staff contingent available to meet their demands specifically if they are out of the office or on the road. Remember, in this situation people call people, not places.

So, we see demand for solutions like out-of-the-box “follow me, find me” services into applications such as outlook. Presence management as standard, voicemail, conferencing, IVR or ACD technology / soft-phone etc in the same unit, ease of management and most importantly of all, where price point is key and value for money.

They are available, but as we all know, extending the secure environment and ensuring quality-of-service on the LAN is also a crucial factor when considering any IP telephony installation. So, the telephone system is only part of the SMB challenge, and they are asking us for the entire integrated approach, but given the price point the SMB is looking to achieve, we must see the vendors delivering this as an out-of-the-box feature set. SMB customers are not looking to give large cheques to resellers to create this feature-rich environment.

SMB’s don’t need to think small, they need to think big, act big and perform better than the competition. Therefore, they need the IP telephony solutions that deliver these capabilities, and in 2007 we see a real drive for adoption of IP telephony in the SME market. What I would ask however, is to combat a fear of technology and complexity that the SMB customer may feel in adopting ‘IP Telephony’. We should stop calling it IP – if it looks like a telephone, rings like a telephone and you can use it like a telephone, then it’s a telephone.”

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