Communications is often sold as a commodity. What once cost dollars a minute is often free today but everyone knows that if you can find a way to take a commodity product and alter it – even slightly, you can charge more and become very profitable. Starbucks is a great example and so are the numerous frozen yogurt chains around the country able to charge more per customer than analysts ever thought was possible.
In a recent conversation with 8x8 CEO Vik Verma, he explained his vision for the hosted voice company and the market as a whole. He said, “We are just scratching the surface on communications 2.0.” He continued, “Integrating with CRM and other back office systems is a key part of what we are doing.” He concluded, “We are bringing telephony and back office data together so you have context for the call.”
8x8 modified their business model from supplying equipment to VoIP providers to becoming one, around the time the communications bubble burst after 2001 and there were few carriers to go after. Smart move on the company’s part... They have since made numerous strategic acquisitions, many in the contact center and analytics spaces and have integrated it all into their hosted UC solution.
The 2.0 moniker is not new... We have written about VoIP 2.0 and Communications 2.0 before. Generally, the focus was on what's next after basic communications – the applications and services. Vik has a similar definition and it is compelling enough for us to share. He thinks we are in the cloud wars, part 2. He explained that companies want to get to all workers and everyone has a phone.
Surely, your next thought is more people at companies are abandoning deskphones for mobile phones – typically, their personal ones. Before we could even ask about it, he mentioned, to prevent leakage, companies provide a softphone on the mobile device as well as potentially a desk phone... He said, it is indistinguishable from the native app – referring to his company's soft client. Continuing, he said, it has access to the corporate directory, can message anyone, has document sharing, video and is tightly integrated with CRM.
What's leakage you ask? No, it has nothing to do with the political talk of the day, its when your employees leave you and take the customer relationship with them because customers call your worker's mobile number and not your corporate line.
This is where he started to talk more about analytics – being able to know that a specific sandwich shop is called often by your workers and subsequently offering them a kiosk in your company lobby. In another example, a hotel chain could be notified if a fire alarm is pulled in any of its locations.
The point is, you can predict human interactions within your company and moreover, take action as needed... You can get information on hold time, see the most common words being mentioned on calls and see call volume between departments spiking or fading.
He said this is what companies are trying to put into their predictive analytics. He continued, "Communications data with raw context is coming together. He added emphatically, " Whoever controls this platform for communications, wins." Finally, he said, "In order to control it, you need a tightly integrated solution."
I asked for more examples of exactly how this technology has helped customers and he told me a call center was having customer satisfaction issues and they were able to see two centers in different regions took lunch at the same time and as a result, the incoming calls looped back and forth between them.
In another case, the call volumes were greater at times no one would have guessed. One other example – a company could see that the word "router" was mentioned with tremendous volume on recent phone calls – indicating a potential issue management might need to take immediate action on.
Communications and contact centers are important parts of most companies – responsible for allowing the organizations to collaborate as well as sell and service customers. In the world of communications 2.0 there is tremendous added value. Organizations are finally able to get real-time insight into the collaboration, sales and services areas of their companies and as CXOs realize this new capability is at hand, they will likely open up their pocketbooks even wider for the next-gen telecom solutions heading to a corporation near you. And adding value by differentiating is exactly how you win in business.
Come meet 8x8 and the rest of the UCaaS industry at ITEXPO, Feb 8-10, 2017 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and the collocated IoT Evolution event.
Update - I will moderate a Cloud UC panel on Thursday 2/9/17 at 9 AM with Enzo Signore of 8x8, Curtis Peterson of RingCentral and Mark Straton of Broadsoft. It should be awesome - be sure to come and learn more for yourself about the state of of the market.
P.S. 8x8 was invited to ring the NASDAQ opening bell just last week.