November 14, 2017
A new survey of IT decision-makers shows hosted VoIP will play an increasingly critical role in strategies to improve business processes.
CenturyLink partnered with Spiceworks on the survey of 250 IT decision-makers. It focused on how they view hosted VoIP, including the challenges, benefits and drivers of using or considering a hosted VoIP offering for their organizations, as well as the most critical hosted VoIP features.
Eric Nowak, CenturyLink’s director of product management, tells Channel Partners that VoIP adoption is being driven more by customer-experience possibilities than as a cost-saving voice replacement service. The cost savings are “almost gravy,” he said.
“The ability to make your employee – and, in fact, the entire business in some cases – mobile is a big driver,” he said. “If the service can be reliable and secure, then customers are increasingly happy to abandon or augment handsets with softphones or smartphone apps. One other driver is that not that long ago, customers who had legacy phone systems were looking to move to IP versions of their PBX with local feature control. Today, customers are so comfortable with cloud environments that a model where there is no equipment or software licenses to buy is appealing. They want to have a set of capabilities bought on a per-user basis with strong dashboard/portal controls. This is what is causing hosted VoIP growth.”
Another driver is the ability to integrate with existing business apps which range from Office 365 to Salesforce with everything in between, Nowak said.
Some 59 percent of respondents currently use on-premises VoIP, while 65 percent are using hosted VoIP, according to the survey. While VoIP has grown in popularity, the industry still has work to do in terms of satisfying the expectations of many IT pros. Of those using hosted VoIP, only 46 percent were very satisfied or extremely satisfied with their current solution. Another 29 percent were satisfied, while 25 percent were either somewhat or not at all satisfied with their current VoIP solutions.
There are a variety of technologies and applications that respondents identified they’re using now or are considering as part of a future hosted VoIP offering, with desk phones (65 percent), video conferencing (63 percent) and web conferencing (60 percent) being the top three choices.
Budget constraints (44 percent) and security concerns (41 percent) are the two biggest hurdles for companies increasing or accelerating plans for hosted VoIP deployment. The issue of security continues to be one of the major concerns of IT decision makers; however, in spite of reservations about budgets and security, three in five (60 percent) respondents report that they’re likely to evaluate new hosted VoIP offerings in the next year in an effort to be more efficient and innovative.
There is a real need for the IT channel to make “power users” out of their hosted VoIP customers, Nowak said.
“If a customer only sees the services as a phone replacement, they are underappreciating the potential value,” he said. “We know that an end user who doesn’t take advantage of an available feature in the first 30 days after getting it — the probability they will use it ever drops dramatically. We have found that the primary reason that only 46 percent were fully satisfied is that they were unable to …
… get users to fully adopt not because of quality and outage issues.”
In seriously considering a hosted VoIP offering, respondents identified the top five most critical features: audio conferencing, video conferencing, web conferencing, IP desk phones, and IP telephony/IP conference phones. The most important factors sought from a hosted VoIP provider included reliability, quality, security and cost/value.
And when it comes to actually buying hosted VoIP, more than half (52 percent) of respondents preferred a bundle that included other networking options beyond simply VoIP, while 35 percent would select a standalone service. By bundling hosted VoIP with other services, IT pros expect to reduce costs, increase savings, and realize more value from an integrated group of services, the survey revealed.
Customers increasingly are skipping over the step of legacy phone system to IP PBX, opting instead to go directly to seat-based models with cloud-driven capabilities, Nowak said.
“We are seeing increasing confirmation that hosted VoIP is really allowing businesses and their employees and other resources operate from anywhere,” he said. “They work from home or non-traditional locations and don’t need/want to be tied to the traditional handset. They do want to participate in audio, video and web conferencing from their laptops, tablets and smartphones.”
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