I moderated a session at ITEXPO West on profitability for VoIP Providers. Mind you, one panelist was Voxvalley who is a mobile app provider for ITSPs, but it seems that everyone thinks the only way to make money in VoIP is tied to the mobile phone. I disagree. If you think that the saving grace for your UC service is mobile, you are screwed. It means that you have to rely on the cellcos!
PowerNet agreed with me that the key to success in UC has a couple of factors. One, know your target market. And that if that target is 10-500 or 100-5000 employees, you are already in trouble. You better have a product manager for the various services that will target each segment of that target market.
Deployment, support, customer care and training are the factors that will win.
If you think competing on price is the answer, then you have to cut costs - in deployment, support, etc. You have already lost. You can't beat the WalMarts at price. In our business that would be the cablecos and the OTT ITSPs who will win a deal at any cost.
If you think drop shipping the phones is going to be the way to go, here's the 3 places that your thinking is wrong. (1) Are you better at this than the 3 folks doing this well today? (2) You are still thinking about desk phones! (see below) (3) Do you have an answer for solving churn, returns and acquisition costs?
The drop ship "solution" is great for the under 15 employees - and there are 25+ million of these businesses. This is voice replacement mostly; it rides over the top; it requires QoS; high churn business. And there is still the marketing part of the equation: How do you acquire customers profitably?
If you wanted to go this route, why did you spend the bucks on a softswitch? You could do this with a class 4 or an SBC or a Freeswitch!
In voice replacement (or even in key system emulation), if the customer isn't using the product features for the benefit of their business, they are going to churn (for lower price or better support or better quality). That means you have to sell on benefits, outcomes, case studies (not price). You have to deploy to the design of the outcome. You have to train and re-train the employees to use the system.
You are selling change.
YOU ARE SELLING CHANGE.
Or you are taking orders for dial-tone. Which is it?
"Ninety-three percent of employees that use unified communications (UC) tools increase productivity, according to a recent study commissioned by XO," the press release reads. "The research reveals that the two UC tools having the most direct positive impact on employee productivity are presence detection and multi-channel contact centers."
There is a lot of chatter about desk phones going away. If that were true then VoIP Providers would stop being Polycom distributors and sell the comms platform first and foremost. That isn't going to happen soon. Despite the clamor that it is all mobility, the ITSPs still talk and sell desk phones. If mobility was the answer and end-all, the sale would center around click-to-call, softphones and portals.
There are a number of disruptors in the space (see above). Many apps have video calling, texting and voice calling abilities (WhatsApp, Snapchat, Skype). The VoIP provider has to recognize that integration is a vital step in being sticky. It is also the next evolution for AAS providers. Get out of the silo and connect with other apps. Even RC agrees according to this article on UC. Fonality is getting into the integration game as well. Integration drives productivity - which is the outcome you are selling. (Vonage didn't buy gUnify by mistake.
"According to IHS research, 85% of organizations are using smartphones as part of their UC strategy and 79% view voice integration with their business apps as critical." [source]
If you think mobility is the only saving grace, re-think your service offering. It needs to contain integration, sound design for outcome driven deployments, training and re-training and customer care (not support, care!*). None of this has to be sold on price. Only 40% of the buyers use price as the sole factor; that means 60% know price is not everything. Those 60% have to be sold on the value of your offering; sold on the outcomes in productivity and efficiency that your platform can deliver. (BPI!)
It has been 12 years since I first saw Hosted PBX. In that time, 15% penetration. Something has to change for that to change.
Robert Scoble announced that Rackspace will be re-selling AWS! You get Rackspace's fanatical support for your AWS finally. People will buy support. Always have, always will. Rackspace has a culture of fanatical support. There is a $1.8 billion dollar business model around support.