VoIP has been around for decades, yet most SMBs (small and midsize businesses) are way behind the technology curve when it comes to business phone systems. If your job is to sell PBX services, this is probably the best piece of news you’ve heard this year.
Next-generation communications are getting more versatile by the day. While this is awesome for the industry, it’s also in conflict with SMBs’ views. The more advanced the features, the more intimidated they seem to be to give them a try. It’s ironic. The main ingredients that make up a modern phone system are also embedded in the gadgets we interface with every day – from smartphones and tablets to desk phones and computers. The problem lies not in the technology, but in the perception.
Between December 2014 and January 2015, Hanover Research conducted a study on capital equipment purchase decision markers or influencers at small-and medium-sized businesses (5-499 employees) across the United States. Titled “What Do SMBs Want (In Business Phone Systems),” the Hanover Research report reveals that despite the rise of email, video, and social media, voice communication remains critical in any organization. At the same time, it requires much improvement in SMB environments. The info was gauged from a total of 427 respondents. I’ve condensed some of that data into five outstanding signs that the opportunity to sell hosted PBX is at its highest ever.
#1 – Most SMBs are clueless
An aspect we’ve discussed time and time again on our blog, the research shows that the majority of SMBs aren’t keeping up with the times, preferring to rely on their aging PBX for fear of change. The numbers associated with this finding are staggering. Only 23% of those surveyed knew what Hosted PBX was, and even fewer recognized the dawn of Virtual PBX, Gigabit Ethernet, IPV6, or POE (Power Over Ethernet). Just 10% were familiar with the concept of Unified Communications.
Put bluntly, awareness of telecom trends among SMBs is abysmal.
#2 – Business phone systems are here to stay
A chart that talks about at the importance of voice communication today reveals, unsurprisingly, that it’s an operational requirement for most businesses. 31% find voice comms “extremely important,” 43% say it’s “very important,” and 20% say it’s only “moderately important.” Just 4% say it’s “slightly important,” and only a mere 1% considers voice communication “not important at all.”
In other words, 99% of SMBs make proactive use of voice communications. Other findings in this particular query included:
- 75% use voice communication internally
- 74% have ongoing client communications by voice
- 65% have inbound customer service & support communications
- 63% have vendor and /or partner communications
- 44% have outbound sales communications
#3 Their tools no longer get the job done
The most common reason for SMBs craving a state-of-the-art business phone system is “outdated phone equipment” that no longer copes with today’s rapid shifting demands for growing and maintaining a business. The problem is few SMBs have any idea where to start, or even if they should take the plunge. A quarter of them don’t even know how their voice service is delivered.
Roughly a third of SMBs are looking into new business phone systems solely with an eye on their annual spending. Apparently 31% of those surveyed believe that cloud calling can and will reduce their operational costs significantly. To their credit, most SMBs nailed this one. Some see it as a must-have after moving to or adding new office locations, and as many as 30% say they need a new phone system for the specific features if can offer. Speaking of which…
#4 No shortage of “wanted” business phone features
Some of the top business phone features currently being used by SMBs today include 3-way calling (60%), Intercom (42%), Conference Call Bridges (41%), Music-on-Hold (40%), and Calling Other Locations Using Extensions (37%). The top 10 wanted features among SMBs who are currently struggling with a legacy system are (in order of importance):
Getting voicemail messages as email attachments (38%)
- Remote desk phones (25%)
- Music-on-hold (25%)
- 3-way calling (24%)
- Mobile client for your desk phone (24%)
- Calling other locations using extensions (24%)
- Intercom (21%)
- PC- or web-based user interface for managing desk phone (21%)
- Call recording – for individual calls (20%)
- Customized call routing (18%)
#5 Nearly half of SMBs plan to evaluate new solutions
The study shows a stark contrast between the number of SMBs who are currently using next-gen communication tools and those who are finally planning to evaluate a new business phone system. Almost half of those surveyed (47%) say they are looking into new solutions. Of those, 36% are planning to take a more serious approach within the next year, while 50% say they’re planning to do the same within the next 3 years.
If we were to highlight two takeaways from the research, there’s good news and then there’s bad news. The bad news: the study cements the idea that awareness is the biggest problem faced by service providers and VoIP developers alike. The good news: the opportunity has never been greater for SPs to upsell the benefits of hosted PBX to those stuck in the past.