Peter Radizeski is Founder and President of RAD-INFO INC. He is an accomplished blogalyst, speaker, author and consultant. He has helped many service providers with sales training, marketing, channel development and business strategy. He is a trusted source of knowledge about the telecom sector. His honest and direct approach make him a refreshing speaker.

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EX > CX > F(x)

Employee experience is more important than customer experience. The employee spends as much time communicating internally as externally so their experience with software (tools for their job) is paramount. Clunky UX (user experience) for customer facing situations means unhappy customers (who call in and get frustrated by how long it takes to talk to a human that might not be able to help either!) This all costs you money.

Customer Experience is what companies try to achieve through Digital Transformation – or as I like to call it the Amazonization of the business. Every business wishes it had the ability to interact with customers in the frictionless and repeated manner of Amazon.

If the EX is great, the CX can be also. Ever on a call when the agent can’t get your records or some other piece of technology prevents a positive outcome (first call resolution)? That is why EX is more important than CX.

Unfortunately most software is built for F(x) – functionality. Broadsoft’s portal is a perfect example. Clunky, lacking in a user interface — might as well be a MS-DOS app.

Most cloud contact center software is built for the call centers. Reporting and analytics are designed for managers. What about the agent experience (EX)? The better that is the more efficient the center becomes.

I don’t know if it is a function of the product/tech or not, but most of UCaaS sells their offerings the same way. (Not much discovery; not much understanding of how the offering can accelerate digital transformation goals and get businesses to where they need to go.) Chatbot sales is the same way – like a guy selling pretzels on a NYC corner. “We got pretzels here! Get your pretzels here!” Contact Center is the same way – and directed at mostly one buyer: the call center manager. Without discovery, research and understanding, sales will be stymied and price pressured.

Functionality and features are great but that’s the engineering. Buyers don’t care if it is CPaaS, UCaaS, CCaaS, WebRTC or what-have-you. They care about what it can do for them. Are you making it easier for employees to help customers? Are you making it easier for customers to self-serve? What does the offering provide for? What is the outcome? Not the price. The value.

NOTE: With WFH EX is the key. This pandemic isn’t over. We will likely see another one. WFH and EX are tied together. That’s the lesson from COVID. Digital Transformation (DT) was just getting started before COVID (as a marketing buzz word), but no one articulated what DT was. Now we know it is about customer self-serve and EX. Don’t miss that lesson!

Musings on the Industry

So much hype around 5G without it really being deployed as anything different than 4G. 5G for the most part will run on new spectrum; hence, no phones in existence can pick up that 5G spectrum nor can these phones receive millimeter wave (unless they have a soft-radio that can be tweaked by PLR settings).

We are really seeing 4G LTE improvements like we did with 3G from 2.5G if anyone remembers that AT&T mess.

5G millimeter wave trials can’t go around corners since it is line of sight and effected by rain! Like satellite TV.

VZW is pushing fixed mobile again. They did it with Fixed LTE and now fixed 5G.

I think that the cellcos will spend big on 5G, but how much can they raise prices? The key is to pick up IoT customers to pay for the expanded network. I truthfully don’t know how this works out for the cellcos. Turn up thousands of small cells while prices are flat and going unlimited – but have to pay more tower leases and backhauls. They do make some of it up with SD-WAN back-up and added devices like iPads, security systems, and monitoring gear. I don’t have a bright outlook for telecom.

8×8 grew revenue and grew losses while decreasing the cost of sales and service delivery.

  • AT&T debt is $179B;
  • VZ debt is $109B;
  • Comcast $107B;
  • Spectrum at $80B

With what new services do they pay down that debt? Streaming TV?

FTR’s problem was like retail: highly leveraged to get declining assets (copper). Then service problems mounted and customers left. Boom! BK.

Windstream is the showcase of the ILEC problem: buy up assets, misuse said assets (like Allworx, Broadview, KDL, fiber, USF monies); pay financial roulette and miss. Boom! BK. They have no plan to exit BK and turn a profit. Frontier has that problem. CenturyLink is heavily reliant on business fiber sales without cellular or data center to make up for rural ILEC holdings, which was an issue for Windstream & FTR as well.

AT&T and Verizon are global (C-Link is too); have entertainment holdings (Yahoo/AOL and WB); own a large cellular business; Big Brand with equally large marketing spend; and no one ever got fired for buying either one.

MPLS losses are hurting all 3 (AT&T, VZ, CTL). SD-WAN dollars do not replace MPLS losses. Globally that hits revenue harder than it hits EBITDA since those global assets are largely Tier II circuits.

T-Mobile buying Sprint helps VZW and AT&T. Comcast and Spectrum are hurting VZW by taking away accounts that VZW has to move to wholesale, which might help EBITDA since support costs for wholesale is lower.

DISH buying Boost and now Ting Mobile may someday be a contender, but since Charlie Ergen couldn’t win with DISH + Sling… he won’t beat the Big 2 here either. Altice USA (formerly Cablevision, Optimum and Suddenlink) is partnered with Sprint for MVNO, so this merger will disrupt them some. Plus Altice walks around with its shoelaces tied together anyway.

This pandemic showcased the Digital Divide, racism, stupidity and so much more. It also highlighted how the ILECs have been grabbing USF monies for years without really delivering on promises. Several have pointed this out before to a gutless FCC but now it was glaringly ugly in the spotlight.

Zayo, GTT, Cogent, FiberLight and others had a chance until the pandemic moved most of the buying away from commercial properties. Yes, data center capacity will fill up and carriers will get some dollars on bandwidth there but will it be enough?

FirstLight is an example of a residential fiber provider in rural that has pieced together a sizable network. By pulling in rural healthcare and E-Rate money while landing anchor tenants for fiber builds, FirstLight is doing better than the ILEC (Consolidated (formerly Fairpoint) is the main ILEC they compete against in New England.

If the exodus from NFL cities is real and not temporary and work-from-home for 20-30% of the population remains beyond 2021, what does that mean for all of it? That wasn’t the network that anyone was really building for.

Truthfully 3Q 2020 financials will give a better picture than we have today. More of the bad money will have hit the spreadsheets, but watching RIFs (layoffs) at CTL and others foreshadows what is to come.

Your Sales Calendar – Tips for Salespeople

Sales depends on Time Management. The better you are at managing your time and priorities, the more successful you will be.

Tom Peters says that your calendar knows what is most important to you. I say that your calendar reflects your sales. If you don’t have time blocked out for prospecting, follow up, networking, research and other aspects of the sales process, they may or may NOT get done. Time blocks help with focus and reminders.

Pre-pandemic, breakfast and lunch were great times to meet with clients and prospects. Now how do you replace that one on one time?

During this time, I have noticed myself (and others) having Zoom fatigue, lower motivation and general malaise that can sap the motivation. My calendar has blocks (now) for exercise. We bought a used elliptical from Play It Again Sports. I also get breaks in to move around as our 2 year old German Shepherd likes to play catch – and reminds me when it is time to.

What are you doing to stay positive?

How are you getting motivation? I miss being around people. I am using playing with our dog, music, and podcasts with the Greats (Jim Rohn, Seth Godin, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, et al). I have a large library of DVDs and CDs from all of them and many more including two CDs by Earl Nightingale: the Strangest Secret and Creative Thinking.

I have deleted my Facebook account. I found it a time suck and filled with negativity. Twitter can do that too, but twitter is a source for leads, news and connections for me. A timer has helped me to not get lost in the rabbit hole. Lists on twitter are helpful as well. LinkedIn is a twice a day, 15-minute interaction to check notifications, read some posts (to comment, like, share for interaction), and wish Happy Bday/congrats on people. I can be on LinkedIn longer if I am doing research for prospecting, which everyone in sales should be doing!

When do you write? Blog posts, guest article submissions, email copy, LinkedIn articles?

When do you read? Not social media posts but articles, books, magazines. Reading and writing keep the creativity brain churning.

Sales is about daily activity. Sales activity (especially RGA).

Resources for scheduling your sales day: From Salesforce, an example schedule from InsightSquared, and ways to structure your day. Productivity tips to tame the “squirrel brain“.

Almost Half the Market

That’s what one analyst wrote: that UCaaS is on its way to taking half the PBX market. Seventeen years to approach 50%. How are they defining UCaaS? Does it include CPaaS or CCaaS? Are they still counting SIP trunk licenses as seats? Are remote call forwarding or just auto-attendant counted as a seat (like Grasshopper)? Are contact center seats counted as UC if it is sold by a UCaaS provider? Is a voice-activated Microsoft Teams seat counted?

In 2012, Synergy RG had this leaderboard: 8×8, Shoretel, RingCentral, Vocalocity, West IP, iCore, thinking phones and OTHER. Today, after all the M&A that would be 8×8, Mitel, RNG, Vonage, West IP, Cisco, fuze and Other.

In 2016, IHS (now Omdia by Informa) published this UCaaS leader-board: 8×8, Vonage, West, RingCentral, Mitel, Verizon, Star2Star, Broadview (now WIND), Fuze and Nextiva.

In 2020, IHS has essentially the same leader board: RingCentral, 8×8, Verizon, Mitel, Comcast, Vonage, LogMeIn, Star2Star, Nextiva, fuze. VZ absorbed XO and had a hit with OneTalk. LogMeIn is Jive plus Grasshopper & GoToMeeting. My question: where are these providers?

I get Avaya is legacy PBX but they have the deal with RNG and a cloud office offering.

AT&T and Spectrum are part of the Duopoly. Spectrum is a combo of Charter, TWC and Bright House — a lot of Broadsoft there. Also, cableco sell an awful lot of small business and residential voice! AT&T has a BSFT and a deal with RNG, but don’t make the cut?

Intermedia did the deal with NEC (which is similar to the RNG-Avaya deal less the $500M in cash). Intermedia also added Telax for CCC (cloud contact center) to round out the offering.

Lots of other contenders:

  • Dialpad gets mentioned as a smart outsider.
  • TelePacific acquired the BSFT shop DCSI and re-branded as TPX has a new owner, Siris.
  • Evolve IP is a huge Microsoft shop with Broadsoft.
  • Momentum?
  • Coredial even has CCC now.
  • Fusion is a messy mix of Cbeyond+Birch+Megapath – and just out of bankruptcy (the preferred business model of Birch).
  • Not that I give a F but Windstream doesn’t get a mention due to BK?

Amazon and twilio both have conferencing and cloud contact center. Twilio is the biggest CPaaS shop with IVR and other functionality.

Cisco isn’t doing better than LogMeIn? Webex, Spark, Teams, Broadsoft, BroadCloud mixture? Or is Jive killing it despite all the turmoil over there?

Sangoma acquired FreePBX, Digium/Asterisk, VoIP Supply, VoIP Innovations and Dialogic. VoIP Supply white labels VoIP/UC. VoIP Innovations was a DID house with CPaaS and trunks. Digium wholesales HPBX.

I understand the Big 3+1 on the list: VON, RNG, 8×8, Nextiva. Mitel okay although I don’t think they did as well during the pandemic as others did. I think Avaya and Mitel lost users in 2020.

Fuze and West? Who even sees them in deals any more? Fuze spends most of its time trying to IPO or get acquired. West has a new owner and re-branded as Intrado, so how much UC business are they doing?

NOTE: “Based on Omdia’s criteria, neither Microsoft (for Teams), Cisco (for Webex), or Zoom, among many others, made the list, but are “ones to watch,”” Myers notes.

SIDE BAR: You know what company is having a great year in UC&C? Logitech. Logitech has partnered with Zoom for hardware as well as offers numerous WFH devices – microphones, headsets, cameras, keyboards, mice, speakers and more.

What Can We Learn from the Pandemic?

UCaaS has been pushing the rock up the proverbial hill for 17 years. Last year the market penetration of UCaaS was shy of 20%. Today, it is pushing 50%. It took a pandemic!!! Think about that. Many billions spent to build and launch IP Centrex, Hosted PBX, Hosted VoIP and then UCaaS – and the message was always wrong.

According to the Avant State of UCaaS report, the number reason to move to UCaaS is still that my PBX is tired. It isn’t that UCaaS is awesome.

Even with the pandemic, businesses are flocking to technology to remain in business, not because the technology is awesome. It is a need – a new need.

What did we learn? The story of Unified Communications was always off. Just look at the number of acronyms used over the years to tell you that the story was bad!

At CCA earlier this year, the new term they were going to use was Enterprise Collab in place of UCaaS. It turns out that most of the sweet sauce of UCaaS was actually the collaboration piece that failed to get mentioned in demos and pitches. Presence, chat, shared documents and conferencing (especially video).

Turns out two companies would win: Zoom and Microsoft (Teams). They ran away with it.

Despite Microsoft’s past failures with this product set (Lync, Sharepoint, OCS), it is winning with MS Teams. Why did MS Teams win? A recipe that includes price, features, familiarity, brand and number of certified people to install and support it. Who else has that? Not even Cisco.

Zoom – I can’t explain how they turned up 600K users in March and it took 8×8 ten years to hit that many. Granted, most are free, but price was never the point. There is a UCaaS provider right now selling seats for $5 per month. They will not reach 600K seats this year.

All of the UCaaS players have roughly the same feature set, so why did 8×8 and RingCentral beat Vonage, Nextiva and everyone else with sign-ups? (I say sign-ups because so much of this was free trials.) Likely brand recognition and execution. 8×8 has had its own service delivery problems, but I guess they can turn people up quickly. The less friction in that process, the better off you were. That was Zoom’s claim to fame: ease of use! (Gee, how many times have I said that on this blog?)

I’m not suggesting that Vonage, Nextive, Evolve IP, Intermedia and others didn’t get a bump from the pandemic. I suggest that the numbers will show that RNG and 8×8 had a bigger bump. [And Avaya and Mitel had a big loss.]

Now how much of this stays if we ever turn the corner on this pandemic remains to be seen. How many businesses survive also is up in the air.

Yesterday a VP at a CPaaS company asked me how to jump start sales.

That was a question that we asked in 2013 when I was working with Vidtel. There are a number of factors: Is the market ready? Are the partners receptive? Does the story resonate? It is about Timing.

Seven years after Vidtel, after raising almost $200M in VC dollars, Blue Jeans sold to Verizon. Zoom was only 2 years old in 2013.

The tech environment is better today than it was 7 years ago. Smartphones are more prolific. Laptops have webcams built-in (so do some TVs!). Wireless cameras are $100 and easy to install. Wi-fi is a given in every home and is better than it was 7 years ago in many cases. People are use to Facetime and other video apps (Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, twitch, YouTube). So much has changed in 7 years.

Getting Attention right now is hard. People are anxious and the environment is unstable. That said, the story is the thing. The story has to resonate with the buyer — and the story has to ignore the tech and highlight the outcome. (I have been saying this for ten years!)

CPaaS — who knows what it is? Who cares? You know what matters? What can it do for me? How easy is it to use? WIIFM!!!

UCaaS – it was never about the acronym! It was even less about the tech. TECH IS JUST A TOOL! It has always been about the outcome.

No one cares about the features. They care about what the features can do for them. Keep that in mind. During EC last year, the demos I attended just flipped around highlighting features. What a dumb way to demo. You demo to what the buyer needs; what other buyers have complimented; not on the newest shiny widget. Oh, well. That’s why it took 17 years and Microsoft won (75M daily users).