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Promoting Adoption: The Next Frontier Of Selling Collaboration Solutions

‘After deployment, it’s about how do you help customers adopt these technologies? I think partners have a big opportunity to go help [vendors] roll the tools out to the end users and make sure they’re leveraging the new features that make that product sticky,’ one channel partner tells CRN.

The success of a collaboration or Unified communications-as-a-service deployment is contingent on one main factor: whether or not employees are actually using the solution.

Axispoint Technology Solutions Group (ATSG) serves both small businesses and large enterprises that have been asking for hybrid or completely cloud-based tools for employee collaboration over the last year and a half, according to Anthony Marino, vice president of enterprise engineering services for ATSG. Helping with adoption, said Marino, is a big part of the solution provider’s job.

“We ask the questions: How are things going? Hey, did you know that there’s now new features that you could be using as part of what you already purchased? Did you know that I can help you turn those features on?” he said.

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Marino started a customer success program within ATSG around the same time that Cisco, one of the company’s biggest partners, started to focus heavily on customer experience and lifecycle. The program, while not specific to Cisco products, centers on mapping out what a customer will need to have a successful deployment. Promoting adoption and support around UCaaS tools not only makes customers more satisfied with their chosen solution overall, but can lead to more business for the partner because they’ve stayed in close contact with their client to learn their needs and goals, Marino said.

“We wrapped customer success services around [UCaaS] to make sure that the customer was happy, not just during the sales cycle, not just during implementation, but as they were using the solution,” he said. “If the customer believes that they’re gaining value from what you’re providing, and they have someone to communicate with on a regular basis on how it’s going, they’re going to keep coming back when that contract is up.”

[Related: Cisco Webex: From ‘Stodgy’ To ‘Cutting Edge’ As Tech Giant Takes Aim At Zoom ]

The worldwide UCaaS subscriber growth rate jumped to 41 percent in 2020, up from 27 percent compared to 2019, according to a May 2021 report published by Synergy Research Group. Microsoft Teams and Zoom Video Communications’ share of that growing market increased by nearly 10 percentage points during 2020, followed by 8x8, Mitel and Cisco, which all saw double-digit subscriber growth in 2020, the year, the report found.

Demand for UCaaS during the pandemic took off “like a rocket,” said Larry Metzger, collaboration practice director at Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider that partners with many providers in the collaboration space, including Cisco, RingCentral, Zoom, and 8x8. While Trace3 has many IT practice areas, 100 percent of conversations with customers around long-term, work from anywhere strategies have included UCaaS, he said.

“[UCaaS demand] really torched anything that we had before. The trend was moving that direction, but COVID-19 has really forced companies to seriously look at cloud,” Metzger said.

Trace3 knows that product adoption is most of the battle when it comes to implementing new solutions. The firm has a training and adoption group that that works with end customers to show them the value they can get from a new or upgraded collaboration tool. “Obviously, anytime you’re rolling out something new or making a change to them, there’s got to be some training along with that,” he said.

The majority of customers don’t see high adoption rates immediately for new IT solutions, and the ones that do are “unicorns,” Metzger said. ”Most of the time, it takes some pushing and some training, some follow up, and some business opportunities to really drive that adoption and get people to see the value of it. It’s the same strategy when a business is implementing multiple applications for different functions, or standardizing on one platform from a single vendor,” he added.

For partners, understanding this challenge is key to boosting adoption rate of a collaboration solution, Metzger said. “It all has to start with the analytics, because you don’t know what you don’t know,” he said.

Trace3 uses several applications from third-party vendors that allows the firm to collect data around use. “We can actually go in there and see how many how many users are actually using this technology, how many users are using that technology, and be able to help them understand where they’re falling down or failing with getting adoption within the organization,” Metzger said.

Understanding business unit and end user requirements of collaboration tools are arguably the most important factors a solution provider should keep top of mind when helping their clients come to the right technology decision, said Joe Berger, senior director of World Wide Technology’s (WWT) digital workspace practice.

Collaboration selling affords partners the opportunity to do things like persona modeling and mapping technologies to business outcomes, Berger said. “After deployment, it’s about how do you help customers adopt these technologies? I think partners have a big opportunity to go help [vendors] roll the tools out to the end users and make sure they’re leveraging the new features that make that product sticky with the end user community,” he said.

WWT, like many solution providers with strong collaboration practices, has invested heavily in its adoption services team. The team is getting a lot of traction with customers because they’re realizing that that getting a return on their UCaaS investments means training employees on its features and functionality. Some of WWT’s larger customers have their own internal training departments, while other times, training is outsourced to WWT.

Partners have to stay current on the technology and then most importantly, stay in front of end users, Berger said.

“It’s about teaching them all the features, especially because these are cloud tools. The features are changing every week — there’s always a new feature coming out.”  

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