Customizable notifications, online presence status, screen sharing, video conferencing, messaging, and recording—these are all out-of-the-box features in the UC&C market. To differentiate their products, some over-the-top (OTT) providers have also added all sorts of gimmicks to make their offerings stand out, such as blurred backgrounds, stickers, filters, voice masking, and so on. But CSP-led services have a real edge over these competitors: Telephone networks.
While OTTs typically mention "telephone" as one of their features, most services provide a limited voice-over-IP (VoIP) option because, according to them, nobody needs the "old-fashioned copper and optic-fiber networks" of CSPs. But what they fail to mention is that the mobile phones their apps require to make those VoIP calls need the same "old-fashioned" telephone networks to connect to the internet.
Using telephone networks, CSP-led UC&C services can offer real phone calls to end customers, even in locations where an internet connection is not possible. That’s important, because even developed countries such as Spain, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Serbia had not yet reached 85% penetration of 4G networks by 2021, according to Speedchecker. Besides the power of their phone networks, CSPs can also offer tailored services to individual groups of customers. These range from simple UX/UI individualization of white-labeled solutions to industry- or company-exclusive add-ons such as contact centers, hunt groups, IVR, conversational commerce platforms, single sign-on (SSO), and unified billing. Overall, CSPs can deliver tools that are tailored to the specific requirements of their customers in a way no one-size-fits-all product provider can.
Tailored solutions also open the door to market-specific configurations and services. Due to their proximity to local markets, CSPs are in a perfect position to understand the unique requirements of business customers and deliver their unified communications services as customized packages. Public-sector offices may have specific security requirements. SMBs might require specialized features that are not available through the one-size-fits-all products of OTTs. Or SoHos from niche markets (healthcare, finance, retail) might need an offering with fewer features. CSPs can satisfy all those needs and give their customers a reason to switch to CSP-led products.
In addition to their close connections with local markets, CSPs have another ace up their sleeves: Contextual information about locations collected from customers and partners. This data, kept securely inside national borders and properly anonymized, can provide valuable insights for enterprises looking to understand their customers.
Technology buyers rely on much more than specifications and product features when selecting UC&C vendors, from detailed information about possible integration complexities to available training and adoption tools. CSPs need to be one step ahead of their customers’ needs and be prepared to provide plentiful and concise documentation (videos, fact sheets, user manuals, webinars) in answer to the most frequently asked questions about their products.
When acquiring a UC&C solution, end customers expect to simplify their array of business communications and have everything under one single application, including phone, messages, mail, and meetings. They expect their sensitive data to be properly handled and stored. And they expect service with the highest availability and reliability.
It should be noted that even if CSP brands are household names in telephony, they are nevertheless challengers in the UC&C market. Innovation and product differentiation will be the key to gaining a competitive advantage, attracting and retaining customers, and boosting customer satisfaction.
Security is a big topic for UC&C, and for good reason. Regulations such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) aim to give individuals more control over their personal data while requiring that their information be processed and stored within a certain territory. This is fertile ground for CSPs.
COVID might be long gone, but it has had a lasting effect on our working habits. We no longer need to "go to the office." We collaborate remotely. We work simultaneously and asynchronously. We are part of virtual teams with people we have never met in real life, and we enjoy the occasional face-to-face meeting. As they open up a new world of possibilities, these new working habits bring with them new challenges for which UC&C providers should be prepared. Fortunately, CSPs are well-positioned to take on these challenges.