UCaaS Is the Next Product-to-Service Transition Opportunity

One of the hallmarks of our modern economy is the shift from products to services. As products mature, consumers and businesses want the flexibility services offer, and the office technology industry is no exception. From selling printers to managed print services or offering IT services to support the products businesses buy, the industry has no shortage of experience in adapting to customer needs. The next service wave many businesses will be riding is unified communication as a service (UCaaS), and dealers need to be ready for this next revolution.

What is UCaaS?

Unified communications as a service combines apps and services such as calling, chat, text messages, file sharing, and video and audio conferencing into a single cloud-based platform that unifies communication. By contrast, many businesses still rely on on-premises networks and communications, even if they are unified. There is enormous opportunity in UCaaS, with a total unified communications/cloud communications market estimated at $79 billion, around 450 million business telephony users globally, 126 million cloud-based business telephony users, and 25 million current UCaaS users.

If it isn’t broke…

The primary reason that many businesses haven’t unified their communication suites on the cloud is lack of awareness of the benefits. Since the annual cost of UCaaS for a business is approximately the same as a traditional on-premise communications bundle, it’s hard to blame customers for not wanting to change the way they’ve already operated — it’s up to the dealer to help them understand the benefits UCaaS offers.

The limitations of legacy products

It may sound harsh, but an on-premises phone system or device is at its best at the point of purchase. It’s not going to get new features and continued investment from the vendor; it’s the textbook definition of a depreciation asset.

A lot of business owners might point to their inexpensive phone bill and ask how UCaaS could possibly be the same price. It comes down to the hidden costs of maintaining multiple communication products, from phones to conference setups. There are mandatory upgrades, mobile phones, maintenance and administrative costs; additionally, not bundling these services through one provider or platform costs more.

UCaaS is tailor-made for modern needs

On-premises communications were built for a business world that doesn’t exist anymore. Gone are the days of nearly every worker being at their desk from 9 to 5 every day right next to their phone. Hybrid work is increasingly common, with work and business happening both at the office and outside of it. Phones are now only one of the various communication methods a business needs, with text messages, video calls, and other means now standard.

Consider mobile phones. It’s practically a requirement for every sales representative, who either uses their personal phone or a company phone. Both have significant downsides that UCaaS could eliminate with an app and VoIP.

  • Personal phone: Workers have to give out their personal contact information, and when they leave, they take their contacts with them – and maybe to the competition.
  • Company phone: These are expensive, provide the business with limited visibility into communications, and they lack interoperability with other business systems. A sales rep must take a call, then spend time logging information into a CRM. Plus, who likes carrying two phones?

And it’s not just businesses that need more than traditional communications. Customers want this too. 90% of customers prefer messages over direct phone calls, according to SMS Comparison. The classic office phone system is not known for its ease of navigation, either. UCaaS offers tools to keep customers happy, instead of losing them after they get frustrated navigating a clunky call system.

UCaaS is a force multiplier

One of the greatest strengths of UCaaS is it’s a vehicle for ongoing improvements and the latest technological advances, such as AI. For all the hype, UCaaS is one of the clearer use cases for these revolutionary tools. AI integration would allow a business to:

  • Automatically transcribe or even translate meetings and summarize correspondences. Employees can now focus completely during meetings without having to juggle note-taking.
  • Integrate business analytics seamlessly. AI could analyze communications, find trends, and integrate with a business’s CRM and databases.
  • Pull out details. With UCaaS, customer service reps could get a summary of previous communications when they follow up with the customer, reducing errors and saving company time.

UCaaS is a perfect fit for dealers

No matter the industry, every business needs to communicate. And who better to serve this need than office technology suppliers? UCaaS intersects with many of the products and services they offer, from IT to cybersecurity. It’s only logical that dealers leverage these relationships and offer the logical step of unified communications on the cloud.

Noel O’Dwyer is Strategic Alliances Manager at Intermedia. He has over 20 years of experience in promoting solutions to the copier channel market and he has held senior executive positions with eCopy, Equitrac and PrinterLogic. Noel is focused on building the Intermedia brand in the copier channel.