The evolution of VoIP as an essential part of any business infrastructure

JEANNET CLARK: In the new world of work that now includes both hybrid working and remote working on a larger scale than ever before, businesses need reliable, secure and high-quality voice and contact center services with a minimum downtime.

In this context, service providers are constantly innovating and improving their offer, to such an extent that one could say that “Voice over IP [internet protocol]’ – or VoIP – has become an essential part of any business infrastructure.

Sharon Maasdorp, Head of Voice and Unified Collaboration at BCX, joins us today to talk about the evolution of VoIP. Sharon, can you start by telling us how traditional voice services have evolved over time?

SHARON MAASDORP: Thanks a lot. Voice has evolved from traditional voice to now where we have Voice over IP, also known as “VoIP”. Thus, where voice services were previously delivered over traditional copper lines, they are now delivered over the Internet or a private network over fiber as the means of access. As you know, fiber is now much more relatively available than it was before, and this has made customers feel comfortable moving to VoIP networks.

JEANNET CLARK: What is the benefit for the end customer and other stakeholders of this new way of delivering voice services?

SHARON MAASDORP: I can definitely say that moving from traditional voice to VoIP has significant benefits for customers, as well as our customers’ customers. So switching to VoIP leads to lower costs, as well as increased flexibility, as you can now take your number with you wherever you go. It also brings scalability as you are no longer limited to a fixed number of channels, but have the flexibility to scale your channels up or down as your business grows.

I think we live in a very unstable world where we can’t always predict what’s going on, so from a VoIP and telecommunications perspective, I think a lot of organizations are moving towards flexible solutions. The beauty of VoIP is also that you can access and use the service from anywhere that has an Internet connection.

So even when you’re on vacation or on a business trip abroad, you have access to your office voice services, essentially over the Internet.

This is a very important convenience factor and it also improves productivity.

JEANNET CLARK: Certainly in the world we live in, it is very relevant. But can you explain exactly how it works?

SHARON MAASDORP: We are currently in the age of Unified Communications, or UC as it is called. This means that we can provide anytime, anywhere communication on any device.

We also see that our customers want more flexibility, and that’s exactly what Unified Communications provides. With unified communications, a user can have a voice or UC application on their smartphone. Their landline number is then configured on this application and, via the internet or even via the phone’s native dialer, they can make and receive calls via the application.

Basically, it’s an over-the-top service. They can also use a number of UC-related services, such as presence, UM, video, and chat from the same app. Thus, a user would have access to a rich portfolio of communication and collaboration services from a single application. The benefit is that you’re always connected and can stay productive on the go. I think that’s really what every business, from small to large, is looking for.

JEANNET CLARK: Sharon, can you maybe tell us some of the other key trends you’re seeing around the world – and also specifically in South Africa with regards to Voice over IP?

SHARON MAASDORP: I think with the advent of Covid many [people within] organizations are now working from home, and the mobility offered by unified communications or unified communications also allows office workers to use their desktop computer to make and receive a call. With this option, they would have a headset instead of a landline IP phone. More and more organizations are embracing the mobility benefits of unified communications.

When the Covid pandemic started, it was found that around seven out of 10 businesses were not ready to work from home. So with Unified Mobility Solutions, businesses will always be available and ready to work from home, no matter what.

I think the focus on flexibility and “always on” is something that really stands out when we’re talking to an enterprise as well as our small business customers.

JEANNET CLARK: Now sometimes you hear people say “the voice is dead”. Do you agree with this observation?

SHARON MAASDORP: Absolutely not. Yes, I heard that statement, and I absolutely disagree with it. I think as human beings we always have a definite need for connection. There will always be a need to connect and communicate. I think it’s actually a basic human need. The business world is no different.

The only difference now is that voice is no longer an isolated application. Voice now [has] additional applications. Think of it as friends, such as chat bots, voice bots, other messaging apps, virtual and AI systems that can also be voice activated, and a host of other apps next-generation digital. Now, voice works with these digital applications to ensure customers have a true omnichannel experience.

To go further, for example, a customer interaction can start via a chat bot. So, no need to wait indefinitely for an agent to answer; the chat bot can give you an immediate response, or it can even start an interaction through a social media app or even through an app like a self-service app or micro app. The client can get the standard, repetitive type of information they need, and then if they need a deeper interaction, if they need a more personal approach, they can be transferred to the most appropriate agent who then completes the interaction via voice. .

So in this case, voice is just one of many applications, and all of these channels complement each other. I think at the end of the day it’s really about giving our customers choice, not limiting them to one channel – and making sure they get the best customer experience by leveraging the voice for more personalized support, as well as the many digital channels available to them. Businesses can really take customer experience to the next level.

JEANNET CLARK: My last question: what is BCX’s position in the voice market and how has the company evolved?

SHARON MAASDORP: Thank you very much for this question. As you know, BCX is a traditional IT integrator. We are also part of the Telkom Group, where voice and data service has been the core business for the past three decades. We have always provided the robust, carrier-grade converged communications solution that our customers rely on. I think the quality of our voice solutions, the quality of our data solutions is a key strategic differentiator for us – and our customers have come to rely on it over time.

BCX takes its role as a digital enabler very seriously. So even in voice, we’ve evolved our network and made significant investments in a portfolio of next-generation VoIP and UC solutions. We have a rich portfolio of hosted and cloud-based UC-as-a-service solutions, or unified communications as a service solution.

Our solutions offer a flexibility that is not easily found in the market, where we offer a bouquet of paid subscriptions. So you only pay for what you use.

Additionally, we have invested in a number of hosted and cloud-based contact center solutions, from budget brands to premium brands, also available on an a la carte subscription basis. All of our user solutions, unified communications solutions, are offered as an end-to-end managed service.

So we bring it all together. We bring together voice, data, UC application, then provide an end-to-end SLA [service level agreement]. We have dedicated teams whose objective is not diluted. They focus solely on sizing, deploying and supporting voice and UC solutions, and we offer design assistance as part of our offering.

Basically, our managed service is positioned to move business from a traditional capex-intensive model to an OpEx or subscription model, where you pay for what you use, which also reduces management overhead. related to operating your own voice platforms.

JEANNET CLARK: A recent report showed that the global VoIP market is expected to grow to around US$102 billion by 2026. In South Africa, like the rest of the world, we will see some of this growth come to fruition as businesses are looking for service providers who can provide compatibility and reliability through their VoIP platforms that connect with clarity and minimal downtime.

That was Sharon Maasdorp, Managing Director of Unified Voice and Collaboration at BCX.

Presented by Telkom and BCX.

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