By Ryan Harrelson, VP of Engineering at Light Networks
Unified Communications (UC) is a service that grants users the ability to work with each other across any platform from anywhere. It eliminates obstacles in productivity, making it easy for enterprises of any size to enjoy frictionless interactions regardless of location. Perhaps that’s why, here at Light Networks, we’re inundated with an overwhelming number of UC projects. In fact, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is — without a doubt — our fastest growing cloud and carrier service.
As an agent in the partner community, how we approach customers is exceedingly important. We often remind our clients that, while they may overhaul their communications systems once every 5 years, we design and deploy solutions across multiple providers and multiple customers on an ongoing basis. That’s why we’ve made it our objective to look beyond the marketing side of a product. Unfortunately, not everything you hear about UC platforms is what it seems.
Fill the void
To resolve this issue, agents need to think about how they’ll fill the void between the strengths and weaknesses of these providers, and what the customer desires. This can become even more challenging as companies transition from a small business to enterprise territory. Personally, I don’t see many enterprise customers getting excited about new features. Rather, they seem focused on talking about the total cost of ownership, and they’re looking to get rid of on-prem servers, which pose both a risk and a responsibility.
When an enterprise purchases an on-prem solution, you have no option but to purchase features for the entire organization. In reality, though, the majority of an organization’s employees aren’t superusers of any particular product. For the most part, they only use a tool for its core functionality. For example, 99% of what I do personally with UCaaS at Light Networks is make and receive phone calls. It’s not as if I’m playing around with advanced features on a regular basis.
It is still important for us to show our customers the “sexy” products and features sets end users want to see. As the saying goes: “sex sells.” It is even more important as an agent to pay attention to effectively using the customers’ budgets to give them what they need by reducing the management footprint. This increases an organization’s ability to satisfy the needs of their external and/or internal customers. Further, it helps agents provide additional services that can help customers succeed and make the agent more valuable, while increasing wallet share in a single customer.
How can partners distinguish the marketing fluff from important concepts they need to sell to customers? We recommend an approach that’s a bit different from our competitors. At Light Networks, we aim to spend time understanding our customers’ environments and solutions that can work for our customers, instead of merely taking end-users at their word and assuming they know exactly what they need and exactly how to use it. It’s the whole trust-but-verify model. It’s wonderful when a customer says they can do X, Y, and Z, but we like to do a full review of usage to ensure they are not missing anything that they may not recognize is required.
If someone tells you they’ve got the greatest solution for your business, you don’t just go all in right away. You install and test it before you make a full-blown commitment to it. It’s more about being diligent in your practices and not rushing through the sale and trying to get ink on paper. It’s about taking the time and spending it with your customer to ensure all of the features they want are actually required.
And if you’re wondering how Light Networks has been so successful in the marketplace, it all starts with us being an engineering-first firm. When one of our client principals or account managers meets with a customer, they ask a ton of questions and gather plenty of data. Then, they bring that information back to our engineers to find out what they think. If our engineers say we need more information, we’ll schedule a secondary call. But if they say some of our providers might have certain solutions that fit perfectly, we dig deeper to find out if those providers are truly viable.
Every provider will tell you they offer the best services around. And it’s not that they’re lying — at least hopefully not. For the most part, they likely believe their product is better than the competition. However, I feel like it’s our responsibility to be honest and upfront with our customers. Otherwise, what are we doing?
It’s imperative to understand your customers’ situation first, before recommending a solution. So use your experience, and make the best recommendation based on your customers’ needs.