Vonage recently rolled out its first formal partner program.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

April 18, 2018

4 Min Read

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CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — Vonage (booth #3011 and a Premier Sponsor) has launched its first chatbot, Vee, which augments the customer experience via the company’s cloud-native platform, Vonage Business Cloud.

Bob Crissman, Vonage’s senior vice president and channel chief, tells Channel Partners that Vee illustrates the importance of going to market with business solutions as opposed to simply selling products. Vonage sponsored the Business Success Symposium at this week’s Channel Partners Conference & Expo.


Vonage’s Bob Crissman on stage at he Channel Partners Conference & Expo, April 17.

Users can set up and manage their accounts, using natural language commands to ask Vee questions and receive assistance in troubleshooting issues in real time. Live chat with Vee suggests a variety of options to meet a customer’s needs based on the context of the questions asked, the company said.

“Over the long haul, (customers) don’t say I need new phones,” Crissman told us in an interview at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo. “What keeps them up at night is, ‘Wow, I wish I could get to market faster, I wish I knew my customers better, my competitors seem to know them, why don’t I know them that way?’ So what we’re really trying to do is lead with business solutions and impress upon our partners to lead with business solutions.”

Vee was purpose-built to complement Vonage Business Cloud’s set of features and functionality, said Ron Mayaan, Vonage’s vice president of product management.

“With Vee, we are enhancing the customer journey to empower businesses to more easily take charge of the vast capabilities their Vonage service provides, and to easily access customer support when they have questions or need guidance in managing their accounts,” he said. “And, for customers who prefer a more personal touch, Vonage’s 24/7 customer care team is always available to answer questions and lend a helping hand.”

Listening to customers and providing solutions to their problems is a recurring theme at the conference. Vee is an example of some of the technology that Vonage is pulling together to allow partners to “put these solutions together for their customers,” Crissman said.

“So the agents, if they have professional-services capacity of their own or if they want to work with somebody who has professional-services capacity, to go and take these pieces of technology and …

… bring them together so then you’re not just selling a phone system, you’re selling a solution to a bigger business problem is a great thing because they become the trusted adviser,” he said. “They’re not a vendor that’s just coming in and selling something, and moving on. That opens the door for them to solve a whole bunch of other problems with both our technology and other technology. That’s an example of what you’re going to see more and more coming from us so you can really go and do these larger solutions.”

Crissman took over as Vonage’s channel chief last fall, and said “a lot has happened in those six months.” Vonage launched its first formal partner program and next week is rolling out a new partner portal designed to make it easier for partners to do business with the company.

“We have over 400 sales professionals in North America, more than any of our competitors, but we were working against each other,” he said. “Our direct sales folks weren’t encouraged or incented to work with partners, and now they are. Our salespeople, whether they do a deal on their own or do it with a partner, they get paid the same, so it’s to their benefit to work with partners because they’re going to get to do more opportunities.”

Vonage now has the foundation in place with its agent partners, “and we’re going out on a recruitment drive to recruit more agents,” Crissman said.

“We love the agents we have, but we need more of them,” he said. “And then we’re looking at how can we match agents with system-integrator-type folks because system integrators generally don’t want to sell; agents are really good at selling and they’re doing it at a professional services capacity. So I really want to figure out how can we bring these two together so they can help each other. When you start talking solutions, you need that capacity to do it. That’s the next chapter.”

Partner feedback on what’s been announced has been mostly positive, Crissman said.

“I definitely have gotten some other feedback saying, ‘Hey, there [are] other areas where you can do better, and we’re committed to doing that,” he said. “What we do is really complex; it connects a lot of moving parts, so sometimes all the moving parts don’t mesh together as much as we’d like, so we’re working to figure out how we can make service delivery a competitive advantage for us because we really believe we can.”

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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