As the unified communications (UC) market continues to penetrate the IT & telecom space, understanding how to effectively sell UC services is crucial. We sat a few of our Superstars down to share their approach, experience and expectations in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Are there common areas where providers and/or partners will come up short when providing UC/hosted telephony services?

“Many sales partners don’t fully understand the difference between features that are must-haves vs. nice-to-haves. This is especially true if the customer has a PBX today. It’s key to understand how that functions and make sure the new solution can provide similar functionality or, alternatively, identify the gaps that the new solution can’t fill. Understanding requirements is key.

Also, UC providers don’t always live up to expectations and have outages that can affect the ability for sales partners to support larger customers on their network. UC providers often overpromise and underdeliver. We live in a world of setting expectations and often times, providers fall on their face. Clearly setting out next steps and timelines sound simple, but, have emerged as a major challenge for some UC providers.”

Is security being increasingly addressed in UC/hosted telephony? Are cybercriminals increasingly targeting UC?

“I would ask UC providers how many fraudulent situations they encounter. The need for UC security is something that we should be aware of, but I’m not sure if cybercriminals are targeting UC or not. I would ask the network security engineers working at UC providers.

Most VoIP systems operate behind firewalls and any that don’t are just asking to be hacked.

UC systems are protected with usernames and passwords, but even that solution can create new challenges, such as identity management and employing multifactor identity solutions. As users go to mobile clients and laptops vs. hard phones, then the security of those devices will come into question.”

Is changing customer needs impacting quality of service? If so, how?

“Yes, changing customer needs are impacting the need for quality of service.  Workforces are more mobile than they used to be and that is changing the game. Mobility is one of the biggest drivers for PBXs going by the wayside. (That along with slow pace or lack of feature development.) There’s so much more competition now than ever before and that has made it very hard for the premises-based vendors to keep up. The fact that many of the premises-based vendors have gone bankrupt or don’t exist also has changed the game for clients.

I’m seeing lots of movement away from premises-based to cloud-based PBXs for larger customers of 200+ seats. The pricing is crazy competitive for those customers to move to the cloud.

Contact center is also a big driver for cloud-based systems. Customer service departments are now using chat, email, SMS and social media to interact and service clients. CRMs are tied into the communication system to improve support. This is why so many companies are moving to CCaaS. “

What are some ways that partners can ensure they’re fulfilling all of a customer’s needs?

“Partners can serve UC customers better by asking good questions, really digging into what they’re trying to accomplish and aligning or mapping goals back to how the solutions address both challenges and goals. Partners also should make sure they address customers’ current issues, but also their wish list to future-proof and modernize their communications.”