VoIP Services Come Of Age For Small and Medium Enterprises

    December 27, 2004

When it comes to advancements in telecommunications, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) tend to get the short end of the technological stick.

Need proof? Then consider Voice over IP (VoIP). Today this low-cost IP alternative to traditional wireline telephone service is being sold to large corporations and consumers, but not to SMEs. The reason? Large corporations spend millions of dollars annually on publicly-switched telephone calls. If they can save money by installing their own VoIP corporate voice networks, they are willing to pay to install it. Meanwhile, consumers leave it to third-party vendors to invest in VoIP technology, reaping the benefits by signing up to such services for a low monthly flat rate.

Falling in the middle are SMEs; too small to afford to build their own custom VoIP networks, and too large to ride on the coattails of consumer VoIP offerings. Clearly, there is a market here that is waiting to be tapped, and companies are emerging hoping to tap into this fast growing and lucrative market.

SMEs want and need the same kind of telecom solutions that large corporations enjoy; such as low-cost international calling, fast-access conference tele-hookups, reliable corporate voice communications, and the ability to work collaboratively with other offices online in cyberspace. And those companies able to deliver and then integrate these services at affordable prices will flourish.

VoIP is crucial to making this happen, because it provides the low-cost platform to carry these services economically. This said, VoIP is only the platform: it is the combination of powerful equipment and innovative products that makes Fortune 500-style services targeted to SMEs possible. This is precisely the kind of combination that my company, Telvita, has chosen to offer. Voice solutions are only meaningful if they empower businesses to re-invent their services, as well as improve their customer and vendor relationships etc.

Strategy: Targeting SMEs

Only a fool – or someone who slept through the dot.com crash – would wander into an SME’s office today and attempt to sell VoIP service as the panacea to every company’s telecom challenges. To succeed, a VoIP salesperson must offer pragmatic, cost-effective solutions that deliver real value and capabilities to the SME. Otherwise, they might as well not even waste the time knocking on the SME’s door.

Mindful of this fact, Telvita has crafted our VoIP offerings to catch the eye of SMEs. Not surprisingly, our pitch includes long distance rates that are very competitive when compared to those offered by conventional ILECs and CLECs; 3.0 cents a minute between New York and London, for instance. Throw in a free Fidelio Omni handset capable of supporting both VoIP and conventional telephony with a six month subscription – a value of $150 – and one can see that Telvita’s value proposition is tempting. All Fidelio telephones can be used for in-network communications as well as for calls to PSTN (based on Fidelio’s SIP capabilities).

This said, targeting customers on the basis of cost alone is no way to sell VoIP and we know that very well. For us and our growing base of customers, it’s about ease-of-use, unsurpassed voice quality, increases in productivity and convenience as well as really making the communications as easy as a click of the mouse. Selling by pricing alone only encourages cutthroat competition, and there’s always someone who will be willing to undercut you for a short-lived advantage. As a result, we decided to go against the “talk for cheap” trend by delivering a variety of very useful data and voice-related capabilities, which, in turn, become indispensable business tools and benefits. At the core of the Fidelio offering are the proprietary Fidelio USB telephones offering private as well as public and customized implementations.

These go beyond the ideas noted above. For instance, say your company provides 24/7 technical consulting to your customers for $170 an hour: Wouldn’t it be worth your while to give your best customers VoIP phones that they can plug into their computers, so that they can reach your support services department (and even a specific person) directly from anywhere in the world just by pushing a button? No dialing; no fumbling for numbers – just direct personal access any time of the day, whenever your clients need you.

Another market where VoIP phones make tremendous sense is inter-branch communications. I’m not talking about major multinational corporations here; I’m talking about SMEs who have opened international offices in far-flung locations with traveling staff, and who need to be able to talk to those offices regularly without racking up thousands in conventional long distance charges. Beyond cost, VoIP phones allow access to these offices either through the phones themselves, or buy using a graphical interface on your computer. It’s fast, secure, and inexpensive.

Meanwhile, VoIP telephones are a great idea for SMEs wanting to control usage of their networks. Why spend a fortune trying to police your telephone network, when you can build a VoIP network that controls who gets called, and records when they are called and by whom? For SMEs who don’t have the staff to do such policing nor the money to write off such abuse, VoIP telephony is a great cost-controller.

Now I am the first to admit that SMEs will need to be educated about VoIP’s advantages, before this sector of the VoIP market starts to take off. Still, this is no more of a challenge than what was faced by the advocates of the PC 20 years ago. The fact is that the right combination of VoIP services at the right price constitutes a must-have telecom solution for SMEs. As was the case with PCs in the 1980s, our task is to help SMEs understand why VoIP is the right solution for them.

Can it be done? It must be done! SMEs need VoIP, whether the majority of VoIP service providers care to provide it or not. This is why my company, Telvita, is in this space. This is why I personally am one hundred percent committed to it. You have my word.

Dr. Matti Laserson can be reached at matti@telvita.com or at 954.920.3131