TBI Big Event: 8x8, CenturyLink Hype Up Customer Experience, Comcast Touts SDN

Some of the channel's biggest vendors were on hand in Chicago for TBI's annual event.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

May 10, 2019

4 Min Read
8x8's John DeLozier at the TBI Big Event, May 9.

(Pictured above: 8×8’s John DeLozier on stage at the TBI Big Event in Chicago, May 9.)

TBI BIG EVENT — It sounds blatantly obvious, but your customer’s experience should be at the center of your business.

Channel leaders underscored the importance of customer experience, or “CX,” as they described it, at TBI’s Big Event at Soldier Field in Chicago on Thursday. Just because everyone’s talking about CX doesn’t mean everyone’s doing it.

For example: A Harvard Business Review survey of Fortune 500 companies found that 80% of CEOs believe they are doing CX right, while only 8% of their customers agreed.

The standards have totally changed, according to John DeLozier, 8×8 vice president and channel chief.

“It used to be, when you called in with a problem, if they solved that problem for you, everybody rang the bell and everyone applauded together,” DeLozier told an audience of partners at the event. “That’s expected of you today.”


CenturyLink’s Gaurav Chand

Gaurav Chand, CenturyLink’s chief marketing officer, said getting his coffee in the morning previously took 30 minutes. Mobile ordering has reduced that number drastically and streamlined the entire process.

Did the improved experience come from better coffee? Not at all.

“It was technology that was at the heart of that improved experience,” Chand said. “And that’s what the world’s transforming to. Technology is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution.”

The disparity between what our customers want and what we’re giving them is a huge opportunity for the channel. It’s time to step up, DeLozier said.


8×8’s John DeLozier

“Why is there such a gap? It’s simple. The expectations have changed,” he said. “Status quo, status no. We’ve got to change the way we do business today. If you’re not a 4.9 out of 5, you better forget it.”

Jonathan Erlich said it’s important to not let SPIFFs dictate what products he sells to customers. He said he’s in the business to have fun, and the fun is customer-centric.

“It’s just a matter of finding whatever’s going to fit the client’s business needs for whatever they’re doing,” Erlich said. “If you switch from one provider to another because the client’s needs change over time, so be it.”

Erlich owns J&B Communications, a Chicago-based telecom agent. He’s made good money selling VoIP phone systems and ISP services. His time working with customers has shown him plenty of examples of vendors missing the boat on customer experience. He said the biggest technological shift he’s seen in the last nine years is how popular texting in VoIP systems has become. It’s no secret that the youngest generation on the workforce much prefers texting to calling, as studies have shown, and the preference has leaked over into the business world.

“The use of it has become much more wide than I ever thought it would be,” Erlich said. “To be able to text not only off an app that’s on your phone, but also you can send and receive on your computer as well.”

But have vendors met this demand?

“No,” Erlich said. “A few have caught on to it. Some are doing it very well. Some are doing it kind of well, and some are not doing it at all.”

He gave shout-outs to RingCentral and FluentStream as companies that have made texting a key piece of their platform.

Comcast and SDN

Craig Schlagbaum, who runs Comcast Business’ channel partner program, shared his company’s latest efforts around software-defined networking.

Schlagbaum declared that Comcast is in the business of network management, as evidenced by …

… its hot-selling ActiveCore platform.


Comcast’s Craig Schlagbaum

“It’s not just the network connectivity. People think of Comcast as just cable, network asset, connectivity. But it’s much more than that,” Schlagbaum.

And there’s another side of Comcast that partners and customers may not realize. Schlagbaum repeated what he shared with Channel Partners last month, that the company’s SDN platform can be sold off-network. That creates a “game-changer,” he said.

“Not only can we sell it in the Comcast footprint, but we can sell it off-net. This is an over-the-top offering that, when married to our network gives a substantial benefit, but if it’s not in our network – whether it’s New York, L.A., wherever – we can handle all off-net as well.”

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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