Do You Have the Communications Glue For SMBs?
Businesses demand more than "just as good" or "almost as good" quality.
The disruption that is hitting telecommunications arguably was long overdue. Throughout this process, old big iron has either disappeared or been the subject of reinvention. Former Siemens and Mitel PBX dealers I interviewed last year seem to favor honing in on the hosted action while abandoning "warehouses of gear" and "fleets of technicians driving vans."
Early on, I feared Managed Service Providers (MSP's) getting picked off by Tier 1 carriers that had a sudden revelation that they could easily monetize the scores of SMBs. It's still possible.
Remembering what customers want, demand and need for their businesses remains a market driver in determining what specific communications glue or elements of it are used to connect people and machines. Call it best of breed or whatever you like.
Here's the SMB universe that we're talking about:
So what will these SMBs want as the "glue" to connect their communications and users together?reading this
Several days ago my buddy Eric posted in Quality Matters the research from Wainhouse about preferred methods to connect to a conference call. The key difference that "landline" or "hardwired" connections have over softphones and cellphones isn't just call quality but the overall experience that includes access, availability and user experience. Shortly after reading the post, I briefly joined a webinar on a key managed service provider. I tolerated the airport-based cellphone call for about five minutes before disconnecting.
Businesses including SMBs still refuse VoIP to serve as their primary carrier services (SIP Trunks). They have good reason, simply attributing past negative experiences with call quality and IP solutions tried and abandoned by these SMBs. The other issue is softphones as the primary communications device, and here the quality concern isn't necessarily pointed to voice quality, but rather to the internal IT infrastructure.
Then, until everyone realizes that cell phones are in fact radio devices, those expectations of topping or matching landline quality will remain elusive. Slice and dice the airwaves however you like, but you still can't control temperature, humidity, sunspots including solar and earth weather, including any other environmental factor that impacts cellular service. Cisco forecasted that more than half of the Internet's traffic would originate from mobile devices and over 70% of that traffic would be large video files. The carriers can't afford to keep building towers so they've been quietly adding macro cells.
The other observation that Eric made is that PBX vendors "continue to grow the number of desk sets that they're selling." Of course we're selling more phones! Quality counts and the PBX has demonstrated consistency in delivering more than just call quality. This is where I refer to the above statistics and findings from the US Census Bureau and U.S. Small Business Administration--not to demonstrate market share but as to why desk phones won't die soon enough. These businesses demand more than "just as good" or "almost as good" quality.
These businesses aren't experts in voice, UC, collaboration and the litany of other things that are thrown into telecommunications. They don't have to be, but they are aware of the past failures and future promises of the technology. I agree with Eric that some people, not all, will gladly surrender their desk phones for mobility and Lync, but it won't be by chance, goodwill or because they're willing to blindly try new things.
PBXs are still viable, and for those basking in the glory of selling more endpoints, things will change eventually. Hitting that momentum and then providing the next communications solution, whatever it is morphed into, won't be as easy as just selling more desk phones.
The SMB space is a huge opportunity and if they're not looking at what you may have to offer, it may be simply because your commodity may not fit, or fit well enough, into their organization.
One last point: Value driven solutions and cost sensitivity are two other factors in dealing with SMB's even when call quality isn't a concern.