By Alan Rihm, CoreDial
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that American businesses are resilient. There are countless examples of companies that dealt with, and continue to deal with, unprecedented disruption by suddenly having to shift to work-from-home environments and adopting new social distancing protocols. For many of these companies, the “go-to” solution to maintain some level of normalcy during the pandemic has been video conferencing and collaboration technology. As long as we are limited by the inability to meet in person with colleagues and customers, access to simple, efficient video technology has been a lifeline for businesses. As a result of this instant demand, video has elevated its perception from a “nice to have” feature to table stakes for channel partners.
Video Has Momentum
For channel partners, the ongoing popularity of video poses both an opportunity and challenge. The hunger for these services is apparent and looks to escalate over the next several years. Even as the pandemic subsides, and people become more comfortable with returning to offices and meeting customers face-to-face, the ease and convenience of video will continue to push this technology into a dominant position in the communications stack. According to Grandview Research, the video conferencing market in 2023 is expected to reach $13.8 billion, nearly quadrupling from where it stood in 2019. TrustRadius also reports that the demand for web and conferencing solutions jumped over 500 percent during the height of the pandemic and that 67 percent of all companies it surveyed pledged to increase spending for video conferencing.
But there is one trend that is most telling and perhaps a harbinger of things to come: One of the more dominant video collaboration vendors has claimed that nearly 90 percent of the businesses they serve are now expressing interest in working with a single provider that can consolidate video, voice, collaboration, and even contact center services into one package.
This is undeniably a shot across the bow for channel partners — especially those that have centered their portfolios around unified communications solutions. Over-the-top (OTT) video providers already have their hooks into hundreds of thousands of organizations and see this customer base as a ripe opportunity to layer on UC, contact center, and other capabilities. The popularity and necessity of video represents a paradigm shift that will most likely impact every partner who has made their livelihood selling voice and data services. The video vendors are coming after their customers, and unless immediate steps are taken, the results will not be pleasant.
So how should partners prepare for this onslaught, and turn this challenge into a strategic opportunity?
First and foremost, the channel should not just recognize, but embrace the power of video in day-to-day business communication. It’s a technology that is here to stay and will most likely redefine how team members interact with each other, as well as with external customers and suppliers. After partners complete this reckoning, they need to add, if they haven’t already done so, video collaboration services into their product offerings — and they need to do it fast. Not offering these capabilities isn’t just a shortcoming, it shines a spotlight on a partner that is hopelessly out of touch with customer requirements. Video has become table stakes, and every single channel partner must offer this service if they have any desire to survive and thrive over the next few years.
Second, it’s incumbent on the channel to leverage their position as trusted providers to their customers. While video providers can easily layer additional services on top of their video stack, all they’re doing is tossing technology over the fence. They don’t have the familiarity of the customer, and certainly don’t have the history of helping their end users navigate the ever-changing technology landscape.
Partners should use video services as an opportunity to re-engage with customers. They should discuss how users can leverage it appropriately, and what steps businesses should take to ensure that it performs as expected. This is where the channel can shine, by providing those relevant insights that distinguishes them from distant video providers. Evaluating critical business needs like proper bandwidth utilization, security protocols, and integration with other essential communications services — and then providing the appropriate upgrades and enhancements — will help reinforce the channel’s place as an indispensable resource for customers. Video gives partners a reason to re-engage with their clients, to discuss how they can help them use these capabilities more efficiently, but also discuss new solutions, such as SD-WAN or robust security software, that will serve short- and long-term customer needs.
The third item for consideration is choice. Partners should select their video provider carefully. The evolution of cloud technology has already allowed the channel to quickly onboard UC, collaboration, and contact center customers quickly and reliably, and there’s no reason partners should expect any less with video. Cloud-based providers that can deliver video both as a stand-alone offering or bundled with other communications services should be appealing to partners that are looking to pursue multiple opportunities. The stand-alone service enables partners to deliver video “over the top” of existing infrastructures and generate revenue in situations where the business is not looking to supplant its current unified communications or contact center vendor.
Bundling video with existing communications services is a perfect strategy for protecting channel partners’ existing customer base, and gaining new, profitable relationships over time. Injecting feature-rich video collaboration into the existing customer deployments expands the ARPU of that customer, strengthens customer relationships, and best of all eliminates any path for a competitor to gain a foothold with that business. Vendors that can offer both stand-alone and bundled offerings through the cloud offer partners the best option to pursue any business cost-effectively and efficiently.
Video conferencing and collaboration has already dominated the communications landscape in 2020, and there’s no reason to think it will go away in the foreseeable future. Even after vaccines are available and offices reopen, businesses are comfortable with the value proposition of this technology and will continue to invest in it. Rather than howl at the moon and dismiss the appeal of video, MSPs and other channel partners should embrace video, and integrate it into their portfolios. Selling video — both as a stand-alone service and bundled with other communications solutions — generates additional revenue and serves as a foundation to offer other high-margin services down the road. Most of all, video creates a defensible position from encroaching video vendors and enables the channel to articulate a value proposition that will resonate well into the future.
About The Author
Alan Rihm is CEO of CoreDial, a leading provider of high-quality and scalable cloud communications, contact center, and video collaboration to more than 35,000 businesses.