I recently had a chance to speak with Nancy Gofus, Vice President of Product Management for Verizon Business and ask her some questions about what is happening at her company and what the future holds. I asked a number of candid questions and got back responses that I didn’t expect. Generally, corporate executives I speak with are much more guarded about sharing information and wait until a press release is sanctioned before divulging information about the future.
Not in this case... The more I asked, the more I got. Hats off to Verizon for breaking a mold in telecom and giving me many great details on what they plan for the future. Here is my Q&A with Nancy:
How are businesses benefiting from VoIP?
VoIP is reducing actual telecom costs by allowing for flat rate unlimited local and long distance. In addition, moves, adds, and changes are easier, as is wiring and management. Companies are using the power of feature functionality in very interesting ways, such as rolling out unified messaging and more collaboration. In addition, companies are using call blasting to multiple devices to ensure calls get through in a timely manner.
Enterprises are embracing what VoIP can do. They are getting creative and figuring out how to run their businesses differently.
What is the next step in business communications?
Corporations are using managed service companies to help with the transformation to VoIP, but they aren’t using the complete outsourcing of the past. Instead, they are picking and choosing aspects to outsource.
We are going to be launching a managed wireless LAN business in addition to the managed PBX service we currently offer. There will be a trend towards mobility and companies will be able to take advantage of industry consolidation between companies, such as between Verizon Business and Verizon Wireless, for example.
Using the wireless LAN for calls is also a new trend that will accelerate and become more mature over time.
In addition, presence will be incorporated into everything and calls or conference calls will escalate from instant message sessions. We will seamlessly move from one communications vehicle to another.
How is the market responding to the new managed PBX offering in conjunction with Cisco and
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There is nice pickup and people are saying a managed solution is better than doing it themselves. We will launch additional managed services offerings in the future as companies have different hardware preferences. In addition, we have added enhanced management, patch management, SLAs, time to repair guarantees, and quality assurance based on MOS scores.
When does it make sense for a company to purchase a hosted solution rather than CPE equipment?
I get asked this often. If it is a capital expenditure issue, then a hosted solution makes sense. Many Centrex customers will upgrade to hosted telephony. But in the end, it is a personal choice, unique to each company. The only predictor is whether capital is an issue or not.
How do you measure business customer satisfaction?
We do a few things... Twice a year we do an extensive customer survey with Gallup, asking a broad range of customer service questions, such as how is our billing and the overall experience? This program has been in place for 2 ½ years and will continue under the new Verizon Business. We also conduct monthly online surveys, which helps us with course corrections.
What do you think of the telecom consolidation going on?
Companies are interested in working with service providers that can invest and also combine wireless and wireline networks. They know with comfort these companies will be here for a long time and are aware that these companies can make capital investments.
Customers still have many choices and we compete to serve them.
How will Net Neutrality play into business side of things?
We haven’t seen this emerge as an issue with our business customers.
What will the U.S. telecom landscape look like in five years?
There will be two dimensions, as well as more and more management choices. Customers will be able to choose to have service providers manage parts of their network while managing others themselves.
Customers are also looking for increased visibility on network as well as more hands on control. Subsequently, service providers will invest in portals and companies will demand dynamic bandwidth to flex network up and down as they choose.
Wireless and wireline networks will come together, allowing us to talk with a device in a building and use the same device when we leave the office. This will happen with secure access to business tools, such as CRM,
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, and more.
Ethernet will continue to grow in importance, allowing connectivity from the WAN to the LAN. Verizon Business will introduce a virtual private LAN later this year, which will be layer-2 end to end.
All locations look as if they are on a LAN nationwide. Everything will become IP and VoIP will grow. The same will happen in the toll-free market.
Finally, later this year Verizon Business will have IP toll-free service, IP trunking, and IP routing — skills-based routing. This will allow a customer to terminate across an IP trunk to customers IP ACD.
What are your international plans?
Going global is a key focus in terms of serving global business customers. Our focus is on serving global business customers, but there are fewer players left who have this focus. Our goal is to continue to offer consistent global services. VoIP services also are going global as we offer IP integrated access throughout Europe.
We have a Beta with hosted IP centrex in the U.K.; in September, we will roll this out in France, Germany, and The Netherlands.
One of the takeaways from this interview is the emerging trend towards wireless and wired integration. One of the biggest challenges corporations of all sizes have is managing wireless devices with disparate voicemail systems. Companies want to consolidate message stores and, perhaps most importantly, the greetings their customers hear. Individual cell phone numbers with non-uniform greetings are certainly not the right image any company wants to give off.
The integration of the wireless and wired worlds will allow companies to have this seamless connectivity between these disparate worlds. In addition, dual mode devices will be more likely to be sold in the U.S. if an operator owns the wired and wireless networks, so industry consolidation seems to favor this trend.
Rich Tehrani is President and Editor in Chief at TMC.
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