By John Romeo, TBI, Cloud Communications Architect
In the era of COVID, customers of MSPs/VARs are struggling with shrinking bottom lines while simultaneously seeking new solutions to provide virtual customer service. A growing selling opportunity for MSPs/VARs lies in the cloud-based solutions of Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS), which gives customers versatile, cost-effective communication tools that do not require building backend infrastructure.
The COVID-19 crisis has increased the demand for this type of technology to comply with social distancing and lockdown regulations. As COVID has forced businesses to close their doors to face-to-face interaction with their customers, companies must figure out how to capture consumers’ increasing demands for online service and purchases. As a result, the CPaaS market is expected to grow to nearly $17.2 billion by 2023, according to IDC.
CPaaS offers solutions to businesses’ most pressing issues: first, it allows them to stay in touch with their customers and meet consumer needs from afar. This type of interaction is especially important for industries with a focus on the customer experience, such as retail, finance, restaurants, insurance, and healthcare.
CPaaS allows real-time communication to be added to already existing business applications via voice, text messages, chatbots, or video. These cloud-based solutions are easy to deploy via API’s, allowing business owners to pick and choose which communication tools are best suited for their businesses, while also providing consumers with the quick, on-demand responses and resolutions they crave.
Second, in a time that companies have been forced to trim their bottom line, CPaaS brings efficiency and cost savings by supporting sales and improving the customer experience.
Start Capitalizing Through CPaaS
The CPaaS market offers a lot of opportunities for selling partners, bringing in additional, ongoing revenue outside the traditional voice and network sales and fostering “stickier” relationships with customers.
There are several selling opportunities offered by CPaaS:
- Present a full package of services: By bringing a slew of API-driven communication and services that include voice, SMS, email and social, customers can pick and choose from a variety of options, opting to deploy one at a time or all at once. Some might start with integrated SMS messaging and then expand into AI capabilities or advanced voice recognition that includes sentiment, tonality, and language detection for “smarter” tailored interactions.
- Add Rich Communication Services (RCS): Delivering multiple communication services through a single API allows for a business to make stronger connections to the customer and deliver a customized experience. Customer behavior, online purchase history, and the way customers engage with a brand can be used for segmentation and marketing using various communications. CPaaS supports what many businesses are looking to achieve – high touchpoints through high tech.
- Bring greater value to existing applications: Through CPaaS, businesses can help their customers get more out of their investments by enabling them to offer advanced features and functionality on existing business applications – without requiring costly redesigns or backend infrastructure builds. Companies are welcoming easy-to-deploy, API offerings that tie into critical business systems like CRMs, CCaaS, or marketing automation platforms. Telcos are adopting this approach of bringing greater value to existing platforms by advancing CPaaS partnerships to get the most use out of their networks, infrastructure, and data centers.
- Connect across your customer’s organization: Talking cloud solutions and digital transformation can have you engaged in discussion outside the IT department more often with the Chief Experience Officer, head of Customer Success, or even the Chief Marketing Officer. These conversations lead to greater visibility for you, making your presence and value known, while also giving you a seat at the table where additional challenges and pain points are discussed.
Identifying Opportunities With CPaaS
Today’s consumers expect on-demand responses and quick resolutions, making effective real-time communications part of the customer journey for most businesses. While the ideal business for CPaaS is one focused on the customer experience and invested in transformation, some other businesses are potentially strong CPaaS candidates.
- Online Sales: Online purchasing requires retailers to engage with consumers in a variety of ways, including processing orders, managing inquiries, handling returns, and marketing/promoting goods. CPaaS supports retail sales by not only keeping customers updated on the latest products, sales, and promotions via text and email but also tailoring messages based on the customer’s activity and engagement. With the spike in online shopping also comes an uptick in shipping delays and order issues, and CPaaS facilitates frictionless communications by updating customers on order status notifications, allowing them to reschedule deliveries, cancel orders or connect with agents easily.
- Contact Centers: Many contact centers have already expanded beyond simply taking phone calls. They are engaging customers across multiple channels, including voice, email, text, social media, and sometimes even video. CPaaS allows an agent to do these simultaneously. For example, if an agent is engaged with a customer product inquiry, CPaaS allows a customer experience to build, with the agent sending that customer a message, having a video chat, and sharing a file or image of the product being discussed. CPaaS’ quick to deploy, easily scalable real-time communications become crucial for the enhanced customer experience.
- Services with Appointments or Pickup Times: Late or missed appointments can be costly for many businesses, including healthcare, financial services, real estate, home delivery services, utility companies, and salons. Healthcare systems, for instance, report losing $150 billion annually due to missed appointments. Automatic appointment reminders and updates using the customer's preferred communication method can improve efficiency, customer relations, and revenue. The same would apply to businesses utilizing pickup or carryout services, like many of today’s restaurants and brick and mortar stores, that can use CPaaS to maintain communications, avoiding customer satisfaction issues and lost sales.
- Payment Collections: Making sure payments are being received promptly is crucial to a business. CPaaS solutions can streamline the payment collection process with automated calls, texts, and inbound payment collections. This frees up time and resources while also ensuring payments are taking place. Customers can be reminded of an upcoming payment or notified of a missed payment using their preferred communication method, with some CPaaS solutions even processing payments.
Recommending The Right CPaaS Solution And Provider
Most CPaaS providers offer a mix of real-time communications (RTC) services - voice calling, text messaging, chatbots, and video. Selecting the right provider comes down to present and future business needs (present and future); here are some questions to ask your customers:
What communication features does the business need now and in the future?
If the company is currently using outside voice and text messaging, find out if the business needs video messaging, group messaging, picture messaging, or adding additional phone numbers. For businesses using SMS today, see if they are scheduling and tracking engagement.
What applications does the business have? Are they planning to deploy any new applications soon?
Because CPaaS providers make deployment easier through the use of APIs, it is important to consider compatibility with business applications.
What level of support will the business need?
Some businesses may be able to manage provider instructions, documentation, and internal resources but some may need dedicated support resources. CPaaS is a very self-managed solution; professional services can be engaged for more advanced routing and setup.
Will the business need communication solutions to be scalable and what flexibility should the provider offer?
Consider if the business has an app and how well it integrates and communicates with multiple departments. Consider fluctuating business activity, growth plans, and cost structure as some organizations experience varying levels of demand or seasonal spikes.
The global CPaaS market is in a high growth stage and analysts are bullish on the market; Frost & Sullivan say many providers are reporting double-digit annual growth, with the incredible growth trajectory driven by a steady stream of innovative new features and capabilities being delivered by CPaaS providers, the addition of new providers in the market, and increased interest and adoption of API-driven communications services.
MSPs/VARs should maximize on the opportunities CPaaS platforms offer the service market.
About The Author
John Romeo is a Cloud Communications Architect with over 24 years of extensive expertise in cloud solutions including contact centers and unified communications. He is a dynamic technical leader and strategic planner with more than 30 years of experience impacting enterprise performance through expert alignment of IT resources with corporate objectives.
TBI is North America’s largest privately held Master Agent. Since 1991, TBI has served as a technology services distributor, assisting Systems Integrators, VARs, MSPs, IT consultants, developers, software distributors, and more in advising and sourcing the right technology solutions. TBI serves as a partner’s advocate, ensuring the proper provisioning of cloud, internet, data, mobility, voice, and managed services from best-in-class service providers to achieve clients’ desired business outcomes. With a 75+ person back office, TBI partners are fully supported by pre- and post-sales operations, commissions analysts, and project managers. Solutions engineers and subject matter experts along with training and an award-winning marketing team empower its partners to be the foremost authority to advise and source all of their clients’ technology needs in over 40 countries. For more information visit www.tbicom.com and follow TBI on LinkedIn.