- UC services are becoming increasingly feature-rich.
- Not all features are valuable enough to sway business buying decisions.
Unified communications (UC) have long held promise for service providers as an opportunity to differentiate services, add value for the customer, add revenue streams, and make their services ‘stickier,’ and in 2012, more players are building up a head of steam to drive new service elements such as video conferencing. Those already in the video conferencing game will respond by offering more features or competitive pricing. Each UC feature has a value in price for the service provider, as well as a cost in development and manufacture that they pay technology vendors. Even long-established, standard features are an ongoing cost in order to keep them interoperating with new features. There are already numerous features offered in today’s UC services, for instance: abbreviated dial plans; call hold; music on hold; caller ID presentation; call waiting; call logs; directory/contacts; call park; find-me/follow-me; click to call; dial ‘0’ for company operator; softphone; audio conferencing; distinctive ringing; do not disturb; net conferencing; direct international dialling; call forwarding; reservation-less, scheduled and assisted audio, video and telepresence conferencing; real-time utilization statistics; and many, many more as standard and optional.
So, how much does your business value each of these features? Are there any that did not or will not influence your decision to buy the service? If you already buy a UC service with features you valued in your original service choice, you might check now to see how many are widely used and how much users value each feature in terms of a percentage of the service price you pay. If you forgot to turn off your ‘do not disturb’ feature, weigh up the value of the peace you enjoyed against the business you lost and multiply that out across the business.
Service features and licensing can sometimes be turned off by the provider, and this may save you some budget right away, or provide you insight at renewal to wield in negotiations among competing providers. You can even ask the service provider for a report on feature usage right away – to get it thinking about your renewal. If your business needs are likely to change, so that in the very near future you require currently unused features, then take that in to account; but if you do not have time now for this exercise, do not anticipate time for real-time utilization statistics in the future.
It is in service providers’ interest to know which features are valued; they pay for those features before users and need information to select the right vendor’s offers. It is also in some vendors’ interests to know which features count in buying decisions and regular usage. To compete with dominant players’ ultra-rich feature sets or emerging market manufacturers’ prices, some vendors need to cut out the cost of features that do not impact buying decisions favourably: third-party supply and licensing costs for parts and software they do not develop themselves, as well as manufacturing costs for their own unvalued features. Once vendors know the features that no longer (or never did) really appeal to buyers, then the costs for vendors, service providers, and end-user buyers could be reduced. It starts with users.