If you’re a regional ILEC or CLEC it’s easy to get depressed about the overall state of the telecoms market.
Most younger people don’t have a landline, and if the trend of the last 5 years continues (extrapolating from the graph below) fewer than 10% of households will still have a landline by 2030. If you make most of your money from residential wire-line service, it’s fair to say this is very bad news.
But all is not lost – businesses still need phones, right?
Yes, they do. Phew, panic over.
But even for business voice services, the news is not all good for local telcos. Since the advent of VoIP, a business can get phone service from literally anyone – as long as they have an internet connection (which thankfully, you provide). Using that high-speed connection, a business can use a variety of over-the-top apps ranging from consumer apps like Skype or Facetime to OTT business phone services from Vonage or RingCentral.
Which begs the question: how is a small regional telco supposed to compete with some huge nationwide corporation?
I have some ideas, but before I give my answers let me emphasize that you need to think deeply about this question before you start selling hosted PBX / UCaaS services. If you don’t have an answer, then you’re not going to have much success. If you’re going to compete then you need to make the most of your strengths, and by doing so you can actually grow your business through a hosted PBX / UCaaS product.
So what are those strengths? Your answer will be unique to your business, but I’d suggest the following themes may be common to many regional service providers.
You are trusted by your community
If you’ve been offering phone service for 100 years in your community then hopefully you’ve built up a good reputation. Hopefully local people know the company, local people know your employees, and you’re engaged in community events.
People buy from people they trust, and if you are a local company, trusted by your community, then that will go a long way when you’re selling hosted PBX services. You have a head-start, just so long as you don’t screw up.
Boots on the ground
I know it’s a hassle to physically send sales and installation folks out to visit your customers, but this is one of your key strengths – the OTT guys can’t do this. Setting up a new phone system is complex – designing it, installing it, training people on how it’s used. And you can make the whole experience much smoother for your customers by sending people on-site to talk to them face-to-face. This is huge.
A competitive product
While you may not have a legion of engineers and developers on-staff like a big technology company, if you’re offering a high quality product from someone like Metaswitch you can rely on their developers instead. They’ll keep improving the features and reliability of their products so your hosted business voice product can be as good as anyone’s when it comes to features.
You own the network
Any OTT provider is reliant on a reliable IP connection over the public internet for voice service to work, and while that will work most of the time, you have a huge advantage if you ever need to troubleshoot any IP issues. As the ISP you can both diagnose and fix problems in the IP network, in a way that’s just not possible for OTT providers. They may try to mitigate such IP network issues using SD-WAN and perhaps with twin internet connections, but all of these things add costs to their services, which can give you a pricing edge.
Bottom line: don’t panic. You can absolutely provide a compelling hosted PBX / UCaaS service to businesses within your service area.
If you’d like to read more check out my series on strategy or Rural Telcos: The 4 big ideas you need to succeed.
Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you launch hosted PBX in your territory, check out our services and schedule a free consultation.