November 6, 2023
For the past year, Samuel Wilson has held the position of CEO at 8x8, a company formerly known primarily for being unified communications-centric. This is, following the ouster of Wilson's predecessor, David Sipes, who the firm relieved of his duties likely due to 8x8's stock price falling during his time with the company, MarketWatch reported.
Wilson, 8x8's former CFO, was initially named provisional CEO but has since taken on the role indefinitely. That has not been the only leadership shake-up in recent months, as its former channel leader, Lisa Del Real, abruptly left 8x8, landing as channel leader for a legal technology solutions startup.
That left wide open a desirable channel position with a company repositioning itself as a CCaaS leader. Michael Quince landed that role, at least in the interim. He also still serves as VP of channel sales, a role he’s held for nearly seven years.
The company last week held its quarterly earnings call and reported having met or surpassed analyst forecasts for the second quarter of its 2024 fiscal year — attaining some $185 million in gains. Of that figure, Wilson says communications platform as a service (CPaaS) was a consequential force for growth.
To apprehend how these leadership changes continue affecting the business beyond the financial figures, we caught up with 8x8's interim channel leader at our Channel Futures Leadership Summit to get the scoop on how he intends to alter 8x8's channel partner program.
Contact Center will Lead 8x8's Channel Partner Strategy
Quince, talking to Channel Futures at last week's Channel Futures Leadership Summit, contends that there are great opportunities for channel partners that are only now seeing the light of day.
8x8's Michael Quince
"That is around our investment and strategy around the contact center, as we want to ensure our partners are ready and enabled to sell contact center solutions," Quince told us. "We have seen a massive transformation, with voice starting to commoditize and the emergence of contact center from an innovation perspective. No longer are traditional contact center agents solely leveraging 'basic' contact center software but more complex applications that use AI, machine learning and chatbots — all things partners can integrate to provide increased service revenue."
Having shaken things up as pertaining to strategy, Quince told Channel Futures that 8x8 is no longer primarily a UC company.
"Our investment strategy is shifting, and we're putting lots of money into CCaaS development," noted Quince.
That has turned into guaranteeing the provider aligns with those integrating into its contact center offering, and assuring that partners know they have options to extend their customers.
"We intend to offer best-of-breed solutions," Quince said.
The buzz and excitement is around knowing partners comprehend the usefulness of solutions with best-in-class-AI and other tools offered, "and in making sure partners know how to monetize all that," added Quince.
"Some (providers) have decided to do it on their own, but we have decided to partner," Quince told Channel Futures, acknowledging that customers are already using multiple platforms, so making it easier for cross-functional or enabling interoperability is paramount.
Being oblivious to this is not only a poor business strategy, but isn't the customer-centric mindset 8x8 hopes to exude. As Gartner analysts have noted, desk workers today leverage almost twice as many apps as they did in 2019 before the onset of the p—andemic.
Emergence of the Traditional Value-Added Reseller
"Agents aren't going away. And we have plenty of them in our program, all of which we treasure — but we have seen the emergence of the traditional VAR (value-added-reseller) in our program as well," Quince said.
They own the end customer, bill on their paper, take on advanced customer support and handle implementation, which Quince says, for lack of a better term, adds a lot of value.
"VARs are not just building the UCaaS/CCaaS piece; they handle wiring, security, plugging in phones and making sure those phones blink, and they own the entire end-to-end customer experience," he shared.
As a result, Quince told us, they experience higher top-line revenue.
"This is why VARs are starting to take off, becoming a pivotal part of our ecosystem, and when it comes to partnerships," said Quince.
VARs also have several incremental ways to make money around application development around the contact center as they find new use cases based on customer conversations and the trust they've built over time – which he contends – reduces customer churn over time.
Investing More in Partners Who Prove Loyalty
Having launched the 2.0 version of its partner program earlier this year, Quince says the latest version of the partner program extends more incentives for channel partners.
"Think about your favorite hotel or airline — you use them to accumulate points and to build loyalty," Quince said. "What happens when you're three days away from a complimentary Marriott stay? You go stay at a Marriott to get that free night," Quince said.
He told Channel Futures that 8x8 has built a similar system for channel partners.
"We want to reward partners for the loyalty and the things they do organically, not solely based on bookings," the 8x8 exec said. "We know when a partner gets certified, their win rates increase by 75 or 80%.”
Based on where channel partners find themselves in that program, they acquire entry to various materials that Quince says set them up for wins. That includes marketing materials/lead and demand-generation assistance. And, the more partners give, the more 8x8 says it will invest in that relationship with the ultimate goal of partner success front-of-mind.
Evangelizing for 8x8
Justin Robbins is quite literally 8x8's chief evangelist, whom we also had the chance to sit down with at the Channel Futures Leadership Summit. He had a lot to say about the evolving channel, chiefly that things are going to look a lot different at 8x8.
Having released hundreds of features during the pandemic and overhauling its platform, Robbins says partners in the company's program have a new set of obligations.
8x8's Justin Robbins
“They are no longer trying to fix the technology issue,” but customer experience is now involved more grandly, said Robbins. "Continuing to focus on businesses that only want to update/change their technology is fine, but there is an interesting chance to deliver technology changes along with adding real strategic value to the customer.
"How do I define what AI means for a business? How do we take something that seems easy to businesses, but we know is an incredibly complicated process? That is where partners come in." Robbins told Channel Futures.
As partner considerations shift and the landscape does as well, there is a great deal of promise and hope among channel leaders, as demonstrated at last week's channel event. The channel is getting younger, more vibrant, and embracing new technologies — all signs there is no chance this momentum will taper off and die down anytime soon.
It seems to have ignited a fire that most would consider exciting, at the very least.
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