Comms Business Magazine talks to voxclever Sales Director Steve Walker about the hosted service providers’ push in to the channel and what makes their offer compelling for resellers.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): voxclever is not a new player in the hosted telephony market. What is your pedigree – what platform are you using and why are you now entering the channel?
Steve Walker (SW): We launched the service in 2009, and so far have rolled out our hosted voice platform to over 2,500 companies and have just under 20,000 subscribers. We reached these clients through partnerships with Flexible Office Providers, so in reality we have always been operating a channel model and now want to open up to a wider audience.
The service is delivered using BroadSoft BroadWorks hosted in geographically diverse data centres running on resilient IBM blade servers and protected by Acme Packet SBCs. BroadWorks is a tried and trusted platform which is deployed by 18 of the world’s top 25 Telco’s and in its largest deployment supports over 10M subscribers in the U.S.
CBM: How would you characterise the market for hosted telephony today? What factors are driving the market – is anything holding back adoption?
SW: The market for hosted telephony is transitioning from early adopter to mainstream acceptance, it is a huge and rapidly growing opportunity and with no established ‘giants’ is still an area where everyone can compete. Now is the perfect time to be adding a hosted telephony solution to your portfolio.
Traditionally, one of the main inhibitors to growth of hosted solutions has been connectivity. Good connectivity which properly supports QoS (which is essential for business grade voice) has been too expensive, and cheap connectivity via the Internet has created a bad impression through poor quality of delivery and service.
Another major element is control; people are naturally averse to handing over any element of their business to a third party, especially something as vital as communications. The reduction in bandwidth costs and the introduction of end user portals which empower the end customer have removed the main objections to adoption and are enabling clients to realise the many benefits available from a hosted solution.
Given the current uncertainty in the economy and the rapid development in IT and communications, the ability to access high quality feature rich telephony on a per user, per feature basis is a main driver for adoption. Of equal benefit is the location independence of a hosted service, which perfectly suits the needs of an increasingly mobile and flexible workforce. An added benefit of this location independence is built in business continuity which can be relied upon as it is already providing service 24 x 7.
CBM: It’s a very competitive market out there. How is voxclever differentiating itself from the competition?
SW: We see the market as split into two factions, those whose primary selling point is price and those offering a differentiated, quality offering at a competitive rate. We fall into the latter camp and believe we have a number of elements within our offer which will give us, and more importantly our partners, the edge in this high growth sector.
The voxclever solution has simple intuitive provisioning, monitoring and reporting tools. Our largest partner handles hundreds of new customer provides and thousands of MAC work requests per month without any help from us, all using non-technical admin staff, and in some cases allowing the clients to self-serve, thus minimising the cost of delivery.
We recognise many potential partners will already have a chosen SIP provider, a connectivity partner (or their own data network) and a billing platform. We can offer these services but don’t mandate them. Instead we are happy to work with our partners existing infrastructure where possible give them freedom of choice and enable them to fully sweat all of their existing assets.
Whilst the BroadWorks platform is very feature rich, it doesn’t cover all of the bases. We have partnered with a number of providers to offer a comprehensive range of additional applications and features such as mobility, desktop integration, voice and screen recording, IVR and both inbound and outbound contact centre functionality, thus providing a single solution to address every requirement. What’s more, our provision tools allow partners to bundle features and functions to provide a unique offer to their clients.
Letting sales guys loose with new technologies is always risky so we have included a quote tool and order management system within our offer. This allows our partners to define pricing structures based on sector, client and volume (among others), impose strict sign off policies for opportunities based on value and discount level, rapidly construct quotations based on these rules, and turn them into orders at the click of a button.
With voxclever one application handles provisioning, mediation, rating and billing. Any user or service added will automatically be captured and billed, using partner defined rules for applying charges pro rata, in advance or in arrears, ensuring our partners capture all revenues.
We can provide end to end forensic analysis for every leg of a call and every signalling message sent and received. This allows partners to rapidly identify the root cause of any problem, provide accurate explanations to their clients and resolve any issues with the minimum disruption, thus delivering the best possible service.
Great margins – Our provisioning tool optimises platform licence costs, and our flexible approach enables our partners to source the most competitive connectivity, call rates and CPE. This combination ensures that our partners retain significant margins whilst being competitive on price and features.
CBM: What kind of channel partner are you looking for and what success have you had to date?
SW: We are looking for solution sales organisations which can appreciate and sell the benefits of hosted telephony. We are offering partners a high quality, feature rich solution which will preserve and enhance their own brand values. Jon Chappell, Revenue Director of MWB BX, our first Flexible Office partner has seen his revenues and profits grow by over 50% in the last three years. We are looking forward to helping our new partners achieve the same results or better!
CBM: What advice would you give for resellers considering entering the market for hosted telephony?
SW: A recent survey by the Cloud Industry Forum revealed that most resellers still believe clients are looking for cost savings from a hosted voice solution, whereas the clients themselves indicated that flexibility, scalability and 24 x 7 service were their top three priorities. Resellers need to understand the fundamental benefits that hosted solutions can deliver and ensure their approach reflects this. Finally, they need to choose a partner who will make it simple and inexpensive to enter this market, who will keep promises to their clients and who will deliver them a solution which builds on their strengths to profitably grow their business.