As a business owner, you must evolve to stay in tune to the demands of your customers. The office technology space is rapidly changing, and as a solution provider in that space, you get to decide how you will react.Your customers require different solutions than they once did and most consumers are comfortable with the idea of subscribing or renting things as the benefits of ownership decrease. The result? What used to be a very specialized and segmented industry selling multi-functional printers, is evolving to include multi-tech solutions like hardware, computers/laptops, servers, software, IT Security and even Voice Over IP (VoIP) or Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) offerings. Considering that communication is arguably the backbone of any organization, building a practice around it is a smart investment for your company - and you’ll want to beat your competitors to it.
Providing VoIP and/or UCaaS offerings are just one way you can supply a need your customers have, while also diversifying your offerings and being more competitive.
WATCH: VOIP: What Office Technology Providers Need to Know
But First, What’s the Difference Between VoIP and UCaaS? (4:42 in Video)
VoIP and UCaaS seem to be used interchangeably at times, but they are actually quite different. VoIP focuses on voice alone, and its main innovation is the idea that voice traffic could pass over the internet. Before that, it could only be passed through copper wires that were not only expensive but required complex installation.
UCaaS, on the other hand, is a full communication suite that encompasses not only voice, but also text, video, chat, and contact center. Communication is key, and through UCaaS, you can equip your customers with what they need to communicate and collaborate successfully at work and remotely.
Now Is the Time for UCaaS (6:07 in Video)
So why is now the right time to jump on the UCaaS wagon?
The pandemic and the increased number of remote workers has expedited the move to UC Cloud Technologies. UCaaS taps into the whole spectrum of communication needs. Businesses continue to observe a work-from-home or hybrid environment, which UCaaS is perfectly suited for.
Other Benefits of Adding a UCaaS Offering
Beyond the fact that your customers have a demand for this offering, why else should you specifically look into adding UCaaS to your list of products and services offerings?
- It’s a conversation starter. Not only is UCaaS a great reason to reach out to a prospect and discuss a new solution, along with your existing solutions, that your business can provide, it’s also an opportunity for your sales team to reach out to your existing customer base to talk about new services you’re equipped with.
- It differentiates you from the competition. If your competitors have not yet looked into UCaaS, they will soon. By jumping at the opportunity to build a practice around UCaaS, you stand out from your competition and serve your customers’ needs.
- It monetizes your installed base. Finding ways to continue investing in your customers ensures strong relationships that are crucial to your success. By selling more into these healthy relationships, you serve your customers while benefiting your business.
- Customers want optionality when choosing a provider, and it’s likely they are already using technology that can be UC enabled (think Microsoft Teams). With today’s marketing and advertising market, customers are already exposed to the vast offerings available. Having a diversified portfolio of offerings that a customer can pick and choose from that best fits their company puts you in a likely position to succeed.
- It increases your company’s valuation. UCaaS brings in monthly recurring revenue, which we know is much more valuable than resale. At the end of the day, your company will be more valuable and benefit from a stronger, more diversified portfolio.
- It aligns with buyer preferences: As we mentioned earlier, buying behavior is changing and customers are becoming much more comfortable with the idea of paying for things over time through rental or subscription – UCaaS fits that preference to a tee, and consumers appreciate the option to leverage operating budgets, allowing them to preserve capital budgets for other purchases.
What are End Users Saying about UCaaS? (8:34 and 24:10 in Video)
Those who are already using UCaaS have found that collaboration is easier through a single platform for actions such as file sharing, chat, and conferencing. When a single platform is used, time isn’t spent learning how to use three or four different technologies, which is also easier on IT support. With cloud providers, administration and maintenance costs are reduced – internal dedicated telecom support staff are no longer needed since support is included with the monthly subscription. Furthermore, end users report that UCaaS is highly reliable since most service providers have 99% or greater service level agreements. Flexibility for employee collaboration is also increased, as employees have the ability to be highly available. For example, with a call system on a mobile phone versus a desk phone that is always stationary, employees can be reached virtually anywhere.
How Can I Get Started with UCaaS? (28.38 in Video)
There are essentially three paths to choose from when building a practice around UCaaS.
Build (33.29 in Video)
This is typically the first model many UC partners consider. Traditional communications resellers are accustomed to owning the customer experience, and this model most closely matches the experiences they have provided in a premise-based environment. Another major consideration are your margins. After the initial investment, built solutions can bring in a lot more to the bottom line.
Although there are many benefits to building and branding a UCaaS solution as your own, most UC business partners have never built technology solutions, they have resold others. With that said, this path isn't easy and requires new skills, tools, and risk.
Buy (37:10 in Video)
If building and branding isn't for you, many Solution Providers choose to partner with a UCaaS provider with an established solution. Partners would simply put their own logo on the offering and resell it to their customer base, allowing them to control much of the user experience.
Channel partners we spoke to say this path allows them to get to market faster, but they lacked the same flexibility of that those who built their own. Feature sets, portal, contracts, and other elements are more restricted in this model.
Partner and Resell (29:00 in Video)
This category can be broken down into two main avenues.
Whether you decide to execute on options one or two, many partners say they still maintain a strong relationship with the premise-based manufacturer they have resold in the past. Having a strong plan to migrate their existing customers to cloud was core to their UCaaS strategy.
Often a customer can use their same endpoints, keep most of their customized programming, and limit the change in which and ensure would typically experience when changing communications platforms.
Resell as an Agent
The agent model continues to challenge the partner community due to what is perceived as reduced commissions and the loss of control of the customer experience. Whether we like it or not, born-in-the-cloud UCaaS providers are here to stay.
Many successful UCaaS players are marketing giants. They are feeding their message to the marketplace to consider these solutions and from what we can tell, their technology offering is strong. These providers channel programs and strategies are still “under construction”, yet they understand that it’s critical to partner with channel partners, since they own so many of the customer relationships.
Whether your primary UCaaS strategy includes an agent model, it is in your best interest to be able to provide these options to your end user. This model is quickly becoming the simplest, feature-rich offering the market offers.
Next Steps to Take (47:49 in Video)
Providing a UCaaS offerings is one way you can supply a need your customers have, while diversifying your offerings to be more competitive. The best place to start is to ask your current base if they would value this kind of offering. This will help you identify what kind of opportunity may lie in the relationships you already serve. Be sure to leverage our UCaaS Sample Survey to receive feedback from your customers.
Understand Where Your Customers are Within Their UCaaS Journey with this Sample UCaaS Survey
Build your own questionnaire using this sample set of questions. Distribute to your customers and better understand the UCaaS opportunity that may exist within your current customer base. Download the sample survey below.
Ian Pugh is the Director of Strategic Programs for the Unified Communications & IT Group at GreatAmerica Financial Services. Ian is responsible for the GreatAmerica UC and IT manufacturer programs strategy and serving as a liaison between GreatAmerica and the telecommunications industry, including manufacturers and service providers. Prior to GreatAmerica, Ian spent 15 years of experience in the leadership, sales and marketing roles at Gsolutionz Inc., a UC and collaboration provider in California.