In my last post we covered the biggest threat to VoIP providers currently, and the way they are syphoning off customer wallet share and ramping up their competing voice services. Collaboration providers like Microsoft, Zoom, Google, are luring customers in with their video conferencing and team collaboration services, and are now gearing up to poach the hosted voice business.
This post will cover what we have seen in the VoIP provider market, some of the methods being used to prevent customer churn and most importantly, the advantages you have over these Goliath-esque competitors.
How did we get here?
Up until the last couple years, you could argue that it was predominately businesses that were ahead of the curve that were looking to introduce collaboration services, the market was new, and very few VoIP providers felt the need to productize such a service. Microsoft began an aggressive push to migrate users from Skype to Teams, and other factors like COVID-19 led businesses to quickly shift their mindset, and suddenly the market was ready for a solution that their VoIP provider likely didn’t have on offer.
Droves of SMBs and enterprise customers were going straight to software providers and were ready to pay top dollar for a collaboration service. Often it would be months later that an account manager would learn that their customer had started using a service like Zoom, and were now looking to switch to switch the voice services as well. The unfortunate reality is many VoIP providers didn’t (and still don’t) have a collaboration up-sell service and their customers have been going straight to the source because of it.
What can be done?
VoIP providers need to recognize this threat to their business and align themselves with a collaboration service that not only offers the features and capabilities that their customers are looking for, but also one that can complement the natural advantages a local VoIP provider has over a large face-less organization.
What are these advantages?
Leveraging a locally based or high-touch account management/support experience.
One of the biggest challenges large scale providers have is managing customer accounts both in terms of onboarding and ongoing support and account management. Much of the process is automated and there is no shortage of horror stories out there from businesses that have been burned by this experience.
When you’re up against these major providers it may feel like every dollar per seat makes a difference and the pressure on price is unrelenting, but the reality is that telecom costs make up only a small percentage of a business’s average annual expenses. So a 20% difference in costs between your own service versus a major provider really doesn’t make an enormous difference. The key is in educating the customer and showing them that this modest cost difference will make a huge difference in the experience they get. There isn’t a customer out there who doesn’t place value on being able to pick up the phone and speak to a real person.
Leveraging API’s and customized PBX solutions to make their services less portable
Solutions like Google Voice and Zoom Phone rely on customers having a standard PBX environment with typical needs and minimal customization. Taking a highly customized PBX, or a soft client with API integrations built around their business processes and trying to fit it into their one size fits all box of hosted PBX functionality is a nightmare for these providers. It makes this an excellent way to not only build value for your customers and safeguard against churn, but it also becomes a great way to differentiate your offering.
Getting as far away from a commercial off the shelf solution as possible (particularly for your larger accounts) makes it extremely difficult for them to take a customized solution and replace that with a COTS solution like Zoom Phone, Google Voice, Microsoft Teams, etc.
Leveraging solutions that are standards-based with robust, well documented and supported APIs, such as the Bria Desktop API, allows you to create integrations and customizations that you can re-purpose across your customer base.
Proactively approaching your customers and your market.
The services you’re up against all fall back on brand recognition and marketing dollars to drive customers directly to them, often through self-serve or automated sales channels. There is no rapport, the relationship is superficial and transactional, and there is very little proactivity on their part unless you happen to be a named account.
This is where a skilled and relationship-driven sales team can prosper. Proactively approaching your customer base and market with a new product, offering trials and insight, proves that you are knowledgeable and keeping with the current UC trends. It will ensure that you are front of mind when they are ready for such a service and is one of the best ways of addressing customers quietly finding their way to these new competitors.
CounterPath is in the business of facilitating productive remote work for teams across the globe. Bria converges calling, messaging, presence, and collaboration tools into one secure interface. Our solutions can help you streamline your communications on one platform for improved virtual team collaboration. That's why we recently detailed what business leaders can do to better manage a mobile workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis.