Consumer VoIP is booming – Helping Business VoIP breakthrough

womanphone4According to a recent Infonetics study on the VoIP services market, VoIP services brought in US $21 B worldwide, of which consumer VoIP services represented the majority.

In the consumer market, service providers have often packaged VoIP services as part of a N-play offers. From this standpoint, it has been sold as just another form of fixed-line telephony, offering a bit more flexibility and cost savings of course. But the bottom line is that users have not really had to change their habits or devices.

The business VoIP story is a bit different. Most service providers see clear incentives in investing significant time and resources for securing and ensuring success of large-scale deals with Large Enterprises, to replace their existing PBX systems with more modern, managed or hosted IP-PBX solutions. However, deciding how to effectively address SMBs (small and medium businesses) can be more complex.

In many markets, SMB adoption of VoIP communication has been slow for a number of reasons. From a go-to-market perspective, service providers have faced many practical challenges:

Managing a more complex value chain – The trend in many SMBs today is towards outsourcing of non-core activities, including communication services and infrastructure. Service providers can play a key role through Virtual or hosted IP-PBX services, which are effectively SaaS serving business communication needs. To do so they need to be able to effectively serve a large number of individual companies, of varying sizes and specific needs, while offering adapted SLA, billing and post-sales sales services. This requires providers to manage the complete service value chain, orchestrating a wider range of services, processes and systems.  Overall, it is much more complex than re-selling discrete IP-PBX systems with network connectivity.

Developing compelling customer value propositions – Developing the right SMB propositions is critical. Most SMBs want to step-up to professional communications capabilities in a way adapted to their diverse organizations, while keeping operations simple and of course saving money vs. their present mode of operations. Such offers need to be accompanied by clear, standardized pricing schemes, giving businesses greater cost control. Sales channels – direct and indirect – also need to be well trained and equipped with the right tools to clearly demonstrate the value that hosted IP communications can offer SMBs. The commercial success of such offers is directly related to how easily this can all be made viable, operational and scaled.

Ensuring effective distribution – When using external sales channels, few service providers offer them the possibility of being more than just simple resellers. But not doing so can be counter-productive by lowering the resellers’ incentives to sell. These agents could play a more active role, offering additional customer services (ex. site survey, service options advice, MACs and other support), which could in turn have more positive effects on the further development business VoIP sales.

Facilitating service set-up and usage – Once Virtual or hosted IP-PBX services have been sold, the key for achieving uptake within a business is in ensuring ease-of-use for end-users. While most offers may include dozens of features, functions and options, many may not be so intuitive to set-up or use. In such cases, easy set-up and quick-start user guides and tutorials can play a critical role. Third-party distributors can also play a range of customer service roles, helping ensure satisfied, end-clients.

Obviously, every service provider is in a different competitive context, but effectively addressing these points can help remove some of the key barriers holding back the business VoIP market, also setting the stage for Hosted Unified Communications.

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