Conferencing is one of the key applications in the UC mix and the market is extremely dynamic with new product introductions most months. Here we talk to the key players in the market in order to establish the market trends.
When considering Unified communications (UC), conferencing is fast becoming one of the key constituent applications. Whether audio or video based, conferencing is a powerful collaboration tool that is available to use in an instant. All we have to do is persuade customers to use it and this is a theme picked up by Nicola Noon, Marketing Campaign Manager at distributor Zycko, who says, the healthy sign of the conferencing industry, unified, video or otherwise, is the vast choice of products available to achieve a similar goal: the ability to communicate more effectively.
“There is no magic recipe for a product to do well in the market place with many preferences and other IT influences encouraging CIOs and decision makers in different directions. That said, if you want a successful product, we should really focus on three measures: ROI delivered; how it is adopted by users and how it grows. If the latter two points are successful then the first will definitely be realised. Any product that wishes to be a success, must be able to deliver on these.
Therefore user adoption has to be Holy Grail. Whatever a solution costs, if it cannot cross the user experience hurdle then at best there will be a drop in productivity as users struggle to navigate new technology; at worst there will be no usage ultimately leading to a wasted investment. To get this right, solutions must fit in the lives of the users. Outside of the workplace there is a growing ubiquity of video conferencing, especially with ‘Millennials’ where Facetime and Skype are widely used as primary communication methods.
Therefore the ability to deliver video to a user’s preferred locations and devices is key – it must evolve beyond the boardroom and extend past the desktop. The solution is to be current for the next generation of workers who already expect this ability to communicate, companies who fail to do this could risk losing out on the best new talent.
Take Lifesize Communications, Lifesize Cloud for example. Not only is this easy to purchase, use and deploy but it gives users great options in connecting meeting rooms direct to users and virtual meeting rooms without having to enter troublesome conference codes. It provides vast joining options including voice and WebRTC offering a unified solution that could save expense on other communication and collaboration. It also interoperates well with Microsoft Skype for Business allowing users to take only Lifesize meeting room capabilities and seamlessly integrate them with users whose preferred desktop client is Skype for Business.”
What’s selling well?
Distributor ProVu says their best selling audio conferencing phones in the last six months have been IP based, feature-rich phones.
“We have also begun to see sales shift towards more compact wireless DECT solutions. Many people now look for flexibility in their applications and wireless conferencing units provide users with a variety of options.
With regards to the mobile device conferencing solutions that we sell, the Konftel 55W offers users a mobile solution with enabled bluetooth, users can simply connect their mobile devices to the conferencing unit and speak seamlessly over Konftel’s omnisound facility. Sales have increased for this product in previous months, we believe this is not only due to its mobile capabilities, but also the compact size; allowing users to take the phone with them when and where they need it.
Many of our other conference phones feature ports to enable mobile connectivity, which allows users to utilise the conference phone as a speaker extension module to their mobile devices. Whilst this isn’t often the ultimate selling point of our IP conference phones, the inclusion of such ports highlights the use and demand for mobile device conferencing and flexible communication.”
Steve Glaiser, Sales Director at Invosys, says that in his experience conferencing customers have an ever-changing list of requirements so it’s imperative that a conference service is dynamic and agile in order to meet these requirements.
“For example, at Invosys we offer all number ranges running into one conference as this is something that our customers have asked for and we also provide International Toll Free numbers so that calls are free all around the world – again, something customers have come to expect.
The other thing we have learnt is that customers don’t like perceived limits, so our standard conference product can take 100 conference attendees. If you are limited to 20, that appears to make some customers nervous (even though they are unlikely to have that number within a call). Giving them flexibility is key.
A key tip for successfully selling conferencing is constantly reminding customers that you have it as part of your offering. It is a product that is not necessarily required all the time, however we still get 2 or 3 calls a week asking if we have the service because that customer wants that product today, and if they need it they will source it – so better through you than one of your competitors.”
Andy Nolan, VP of UK, Ireland and Northern Europe at Lifesize, says that cloud based collaboration is taking the industry by storm and his sales have reflected this.
“We have found that our Lifesize Cloud subscriptions and the enterprise licensing with our connected Lifesize Icon room devices are our bestsellers.
In today’s connected world, people are seeking more meaningful ways to communicate with each other. We are seeing an increased demand for video conferencing solutions, especially on mobile devices. The rise of the millennial workforce, also known as the ‘always-on generation,’ has meant that staff expect simple, speedy answers and solutions, regardless of location. Providing organisations and employees with collaborative technology that extends beyond meeting rooms and boardrooms to mobile devices, accommodates the flexible working trend that is rapidly on the rise.”
Jeff May, Sales Director at Konftel, says that over the last 12 months he has definitely seen an increase in all things wireless and UC oriented as customers evidently want maximum flexibility when it comes to their group and remote meetings.
“Wireless and UC means people can convene meetings quicker, even immediately, wherever they happen to be. We work at a frantic pace and people want access to other people and information immediately so they use and demand services and devices that allow this.
The best selling conference products are those that allow multiple connectivity and are mobile. Our Konftel 300Wx HD wireless conference phone, now with a choice of analogue or IP base stations has been particularly successful.”
Mobile Device Conferencing?
“People work remotely, communicate remotely to all parts of the country and even the world at all hours. It is simply not practical for any company to expect all group meetings to take place face to face in an office meeting room.
It is easy now to quickly get people on a call or a video link or a webinar as the networks and devices all allow remote collaboration. It is how we work. We just need to make sure that Resellers and customers are aware of all of the different ways that people collaborate and the different devices available to enable this.
Even within one company there will be many different applications and “meeting” options as opposed to everyone meeting in a traditional conference room.
Mobile solutions are absolutely crucial and the ultimate mobile conferencing device is a dedicated mobile conference phone such as the Konftel 300Mx, the world’s only GSM conference phone which allows group calls anywhere, on site or off site, with no concerns about internal infrastructure or costs.”
Keep Your Eyes open
In order to maximise their own revenues whilst enhancing client satisfaction resellers should highlight conferencing options when handling every telephony sales enquiry according to Steve Watts, general manager of Yelling.
“It’s important to always examine if conferencing could add value to a new or upgraded telephony solution. Ask the specifier if staff can be found huddled around a colleague’s desk, lending ears to a deskphone. Also if a business has a meeting room, the chances are that there’s a place for some form of conferencing solution especially, of course, if they trade internationally.
Clients always appreciate resellers who take the time to understand their needs and offer solutions that they may not have considered but which could deliver productivity and cost efficiencies.
If they need further proof of value then a sale-or-return or try-before-you-buy option can prove invaluable, giving end users first hand experience of how dispersed teams, customers and partners can be quickly brought together to promote stronger relationships and engender faster decision-making.
We practice what we preach by offering a free 15 day trial of our Video Conferencing System (VCS) because putting the technology in people’s hands, letting them discover for themselves its ease of use and benefits, is the most powerful sales technique.”
Ed Says… Today there is a well priced audio and video conferencing solution available for virtually all sectors and segments of the market and the margins available are very respectable thus making conferencing a profitable addition to any portfolio.