Craven charts UCaaS growth

In an often complex and uncertain market one thing is becoming more obvious by the day – that there is no better time to offer UCaaS, writes Jane Craven, Sales Director Enterprise Solutions, UK&I, EPOS.

Here, she outlines how resellers have everything to gain – and much to lose – according to how they approach this burgeoning opportunity.

With an expected growth rate of 10.6 per cent between 2016-2022, the UCaaS market in Europe is soaring. UCaaS platforms have risen in popularity due to many factors - their proven scalability, cost-effectiveness and they have become an attractive proposition for businesses moving to a hybrid model. According to EPOS research, 64 per cent of business leaders believe that having quality audio technology today is now more important than having a quality laptop or PC equipment to facilitate communication with clients and partners, and is essential to business performance. On top of this, the majority of business leaders (78 per cent) are willing to pay more for audio collaboration solutions to get ahead.

Business leaders are placing a premium on future proofing their companies and employees to enable a permanent shift to hybrid working, and this is affording resellers in the space a unique opportunity to capitalise on market needs. Ultimately, there is no better time to offer UCaaS to customers. However, securing a slice of the pie means understanding a customer’s business and their pain points - particularly those that have arisen in the last 12 months.
Being able to evaluate the obstacles an organisation faces and pinpoint the right UCaaS solutions that will work in the long-run is key. At the start of the pandemic, offering free trials was a great way to onboard new clients. However, now it is about understanding what is preventing those businesses that haven’t already, to make the transition to UCaaS.

Last year shone a spotlight on the importance of the cloud in UCaaS. Most organisations using cloud-based services prior to the move to remote working were able to continue collaborating and communicating seamlessly without the worry of implementing new, unfamiliar systems.

The transition to cloud is expected to surge this year and beyond, with businesses moving areas, if not all, of their communications to the cloud. From business continuity, enabling a hybrid workforce to disaster recovery, cloud services have proven their reliability over the last year.
While we know virtual meetings are here for the long-haul, the user experience is far from perfect. In the coming months, we expect to see continued improvements including more automation and intelligence introduced to video meetings, increasing ease of access to more attractive layouts. Vendors are striving to make the virtual experience more productive and less fatigue inducing. Collaborating via video won’t be limited to meetings. Instead we’ll start to see a trend with the visual element being added to the customer service experience and contact centres.

End users in the UC space are seeing an opportunity to purchase all the services they require online – this is forcing resellers to rethink their value proposition and go-to-market strategy

The UCaaS market has endless possibilities to improve the collaboration experience by harnessing new innovations – from noise detection and reduction, transcription and translation services, meeting room scheduling and assistants – are just a few of the already established deployments. When it comes to new technologies like AI, we’re seeing big brands experimenting with offerings. For instance, Zoom uses AI for its Zoom Rooms Smart Gallery to create a gallery-view of in-room participants, while Microsoft uses AI for its Together Mode and custom meeting layouts.

With some businesses planning for some sort of return to the office, the current focus is around maintaining health and safety. From a tech perspective, organisations want to limit ‘touch’ as much as possible which is where the role of voice comes in. Touchless tools and technologies will play a vital part in facilitating the return to the office. Smart personal voice assistants like Alexa for Business and Microsoft Cortana can help employees manage their devices, control conferencing systems, book meeting rooms, initiate conference calls, send messages, share files and set reminders – all through the power of audio.

Traditionally, UC vendors’ brand and reputation have been partly built and reliant on relationships they had with members of their channel. More recently we’ve witnessed a shift as companies, like Microsoft, start to re-evaluate relationships with resellers. For example, self-service eCommerce solutions are allowing some vendors to deliver cloud-based solutions to customers without any need for reseller input. So, what does this mean for partnerships going forward?

End users in the UC space are seeing an opportunity to purchase all the services they require online – this is forcing resellers to rethink their value proposition and go-to-market strategy. Instead, resellers need to assess and identify new ways to enhance their product offering through bespoke services, personalised customer packages and offer unique additions to the UCaaS solution.

We’re seeing some resellers explore the concept of the master agent model which involves partners focusing on areas such as marketing and sales, while the vendor oversees securing deals. This could enable resellers to explore opportunities for growth in a market where self-service eCommerce options are becoming more available, while also working with vendors who are committed to a channel-only model. With customer expectations evolving so quickly, resellers may need to evaluate whether they’re going to a single provider to offer everything or explore the opportunities offered by combining various offerings in a multi-vendor environment.

With AI and APIs, resellers will have another opportunity to stand out from the crowd in the modern environment

It’s no secret the UCaaS market is crowded and competitive. Being able to differentiate between different resellers’ and partners’ UCaaS offerings is becoming increasingly difficult. As the market continues to mature, the need to establish USPs is vital. As a result, a new generation of UCaaS platforms has been ushered in, powered by open technology like multi-application integrations and APIs. This technology allows resellers to build tailored environments for their end users.

Instead of having to replace old technology, this process enables users to build new technology on top of existing processes. These platforms benefit resellers as they’ll always be able to offer the latest range of intelligent features and tools to their customers.

Open platforms and APIs allow partners and customers to integrate the UCaaS features that suits their business needs. An example of this would be using immersive video conferencing from within a collaboration tool. With AI and APIs, resellers will have another opportunity to stand out from the crowd in the modern environment.

However, connecting with the right vendor is also key. These new solutions will only work if the vendor is prepared to allow for open platforms, immersive integrations and future growth. Having the ability to adapt quickly to changing customer demands and market trends will ensure resellers don’t get left behind or lost in a sea of similar services.

Despite the progress made to enhance the customer experience, retaining customers continues to be challenging. According to McKinsey, three quarters of consumers have changed their brand preferences in the last year, indicating customer loyalty is on a downward trajectory. Resellers need to ensure they are prioritising customer relationships above all else. To retain customer loyalty resellers must showcase their ability to help organisations choose the right solutions by asking the right questions, but also remain agile enough to change services to fit in with the evolving market and consequent change in customer requirements.

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