Who Moves To the Cloud?
Hosted providers are turning the competitive heat on, luring in customers with incentives.
You can call it a golden opportunity because that's exactly what it is. The real question is who gets the gold? SMBs are moving to hosted voice services seemingly faster than anything else, and if these projections below are accurate then those old days of dealing with the Telco are becoming a thing of the past. Well maybe.
These numbers demand attention and evidently garner it from plenty of businesses that don't have cash to invest in a premise solution. This doesn't negate investment in the infrastructure, but the hosted players are making it easy to do business.
FREE phones, free installs and other hooks to make it easy to say goodbye to the Telco--such measures are commonplace. Last month I interviewed several hosted providers and they are turning the competitive heat on, luring in customers with incentives.
Now, they can afford to do this since they are the ones reaping the gold. Customers pick what they want as a phone and can mix and match manufacturers if they desire. But this isn't the only reason these small businesses are moving.
The platform that offers the right user interface to create call flows and easily adapts communications to the needs of that particular business are the ones winning new accounts. Those needs, while varied, are not typically what you find from your business line or Centrex type of services with cheap phones. The right features, including the glue to get calls to where business owners want them, are important but not as important as a predictable phone bill.
There are three distinctive traits that I've found in what I think will be a successful hosted voice provider:
First, the provider makes it easy to do business. No-risk and trial-setup periods are offered, and then hand-holding from pre- through post-implementation. Customers all have different and often unique requirements, and the provider that listens to the requests and pays more than lip service eases more customers into the fold.
Secondly, the provider that makes the interface easy to use and understand will stand out. People learn differently, and when a solution employs a useable knowledge base with solutions, visual call flows, and simplifies the process of setting up a communications system, then customers will come on board.
Thirdly, the provider ensures customer engagement and success. A valuable lesson that some providers learned early on is that, while they may have regional, national or even international presence, without local support, their odds of continuing successfully diminish. Churn rates don't tell the full story, but cash flow and profitability does. A static solution from a hosted provider just isn't acceptable, and if they are going to compete, then the engagement process doesn't end with the initial sale.
This circles back to the Telco. Customers still need access and viable bandwidth. As the customer's dependence upon the communications solution grows, so will their investment and so will their reliance on the Telco and even other carriers for redundancy.
While I'm not moving all of our voice services to the cloud, I've already encountered providers and have now selected "a provider" to launch some services. That's my project for starting into the New Year.