How Voice Hardware Will Play A Role In The Modern Workplace

As businesses continue to unplug from hardware-centric on-premise phone systems in favor of more virtualized offerings, it makes us question, what is the future of hardware in the VoIP market? Should MSP VoIP resellers be rethinking the way they market, advertise, and sell their services to accommodate for the ear-bud wearing “zoomers” that are growing accustomed to softer means of communication?

I recently spoke to George Bardissi of BVoIP about this topic as he filled me in on some of the emerging trends that will likely keep the hardware market churning in 2021 and beyond:

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Full Service Mobility

As soft deployments continue to trend upward, it has become clear that traditional hardware-focused selling tactics will gradually become less effective. Nonetheless, as George pointed out in our conversation, the need for a speaker and microphone will always exist in some capacity thus making hardware a permanent fixture in the foreseeable future.

The obvious trend to pick up on is that being able to make calls from anywhere without sacrificing call and/or video quality will be a critical component of any VoIP offering moving forward. Communication has always been a convenience business. Consumers want the ability to connect to whoever from wherever. The more you can embrace this concept and echo it into your sales messaging, the more likely you are to attract forward thinking VoIP prospects.

“Illusion” of Choice

Hardware standardization is important for MSPs, not just in their voice offering, but across their entire technology stack. The challenge with this is that it is somewhat against human nature, as most consumers want the freedom to use devices that they are comfortable with for reasons that are entirely their own. While your customer could probably care less about the brand and model of firewall that you install, phones are quite different. This is because they are far more integrated into their workflow than they probably even realize.

The solution is what I call the “illusion” of choice. This is all about offering your customers the ability to choose between only good options. Some may want a desk phone with 25 buttons, some may use only a headset connected to their laptop, but the important thing is that they were offered the ability to choose and each solution was spec’d and engineered for stability long before these services were ever deployed.

Accessories & Add-Ons

In my days as a VoIP reseller, our deployments were quite traditional. Rarely were we asked for headsets and accessories during a discovery meeting and frankly we did a poor job at offering. This almost always came back to bite us as we received calls from users that claim to have phone problems, only to find out they are talking into a $10 device from amazon that they bought on a whim.

The times have quite obviously changed, which is why every MSP offering VoIP should be putting together their “kit” of webcams, headsets, and accessories to offer clients (even at a low margin if necessary) simply to avoid the hassle of troubleshooting unsupported tech. While there will always be some users that prefer to bring their own, having a clearly defined and supported offering will set the proper expectations from the beginning, something that will be difficult to do without one.

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Access To Inventory

Before 2020 it seemed like just about anything we needed was at our fingertips (or at least one quick delivery away). This now couldn’t be further from the truth as manufacturing is restricted, supply chains are slowed, and the logistics of purchasing technology is dramatically different than it once was. While this appears to be improving, it is still a major factor in our purchasing decisions now as we have to choose between the “best” and the “best available.”

As an MSP, I would recommend evaluating whether or not a light inventory of products would help expedite your sales cycle and open opportunities that other drop-shipping MSPs may not have. If a prospect received two competing quotes, one who is able to deliver “tentatively in a month” and another who can deliver immediately, the latter is likely to win every time regardless of price. While tying up your cash in inventory may not be the best long-term model, it is certainly worth exploring now at a time when the benefits appear to outweigh the risk.

Value Pricing Models

In the grand scheme of things, the hardware market is becoming more commoditized as ecommerce marketplaces grow. If you send your prospect a quote on a fleet of VoIP phones, they can likely pull up the model number on Amazon and purchase them in two clicks for far less than what you are offering. This has always been the growing challenge of building a hardware-centric offering in a product vertical where partner pricing is largely unprotected.

The solution to this problem is to focus your hardware offering more on the value that it includes than the device itself. For example, pricing your phones with full warranty, maintenance, and support for the life of your contract when they are purchased from you will help to add an additional layer of value to “justify” the cost. This now becomes a selling point that can not be easily compared with e-commerce offerings.