Skin in the Game: How GENBAND Ties Its Success to Telco Selling Outcomes

COVER STORY

Skin in the Game: How GENBAND Ties Its Success to Telco Selling Outcomes

By Rich Tehrani, Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC  |  October 01, 2014

The telecom infrastructure landscape, like just about every other industry you can think of, is facing massive disruption. The pace of change across virtually all the markets has never been faster in fact. Hotels are now competing with AirBnB, Uber is a new taxi alternative, and singles bars most recently have to compete with Tinder.

Telecom operators face enormous decisions about their future. On the one hand, to compete with OTT providers they need to become far more nimble and have lower expenses. To do this they can become software telcos, utilizing SDN and NFV to run their networks on off-the-shelf servers. In addition, they can resell cloud services from others.

If this wasn’t enough to contend with, they have to deal with companies like Apple and Google that are functioning as competitors by giving away alternatives to SMS and traditional telephone calls with services like FaceTime (News - Alert) and Google Voice. VoIP is a known threat, but WebRTC is new and could be even more disruptive.

In a recent conversation with David Walsh, CEO of GENBAND (News - Alert), at the Perspectives 14 conference, I had a chance to get the story on why GENBAND thinks it will be one of the few to successfully navigate these changing waters.

The number of companies GENBAND has acquired over the years has been substantial, and many of these have helped position the company very well as the industry goes through transformation.

GENBAND is transforming itself from an equipment company to one that provides real-time communications solutions, software, service, and a platform that is the center of an ecosystem.

This is where the challenge for traditional companies comes into play. If an equipment provider decides to transition to become a provider of cloud services, the revenue model changes dramatically, as you no longer get paid immediately for your product by customers. Instead, you get paid more, like a lease than a purchase. In other words, in an environment where payments are decreasing, these companies have to ramp up investment to be able to provide new services. They have to make acquisitions, build data centers, and develop administration and other software.

Walsh refers to this as the fish problem – basically two lines inverted on a horizontal axis where investment ramps considerably as profits inversely decrease. At a mirrored point around a vertical axis, investment starts to decrease as profit starts to increase, and more and more customers start to pay monthly. At some point in the future there is a breakeven point where profit starts to be generated in excess of investment.

GENBAND has already made these investments, notes Walsh, and is way ahead of the game. At the same time, he says, some competitors are challenged because they don’t already make profit. GENBAND has no debt, he says, and he emphasizes the company will stay profitable to remain a solid company on which its customers can rely.

fring (News - Alert), for example, is now part of the company’s arsenal of products and is white labeled for carriers, who as a result can provide a variety of services such as reduced-rate calling when a person leaves their home calling area.


This transformation has been pivotal for the company – enabling GENBAND to get deeper into its customers’ wallets and share in their success. Historically, Walsh explains, the company would ship a product and install it, but it was tough to understand how a customer would benefit from using it. In addition, it wasn’t able to ascertain what was important or required.

Now, however, with its cloud-based services, GENBAND is able to immediately see what its customers and their customers are doing, what features and capabilities are being accessed most often, and so forth. Moreover, the company’s Kandy offering, a bundling of WebRTC, cloud services, and programming tools, is an entrepreneurial division within the company that understands the need to get customers to use the new services it provides.

This is where it really gets interesting. Walsh explains that makes it easy for customers to have access to new services but enables clients to pay only when they benefit.

“This is completely different than the telecom equipment model for 50 years,” says Walsh. “This is a completely different way of running the business.”

A large CRM company is already a customer, using GENBAND to enable call center functionality with WebRTC, allowing customers to click on a web link to communicate with agents via IM, voice, or video. The CRM company’s field service software is also seeing WebRTC integration. The basic field service software provides a database repository for all actions taken on a particular item – in this case, the customer is a piece of machinery. A full record of maintenance, including who and what was done to an item, is kept on file, with additional help added through a 3D CAD graphic tool to illustrate how a particular piece or part needs to be replaced.

In case of difficulties, a technician can use WebRTC from the service page to call the dispatch office for assistance, opening up a video chat to provide a direct illustration of a problem. If necessary, subject matter experts can be brought into the discussion for consultation. Think of it as Google (News - Alert) Hangouts for fixing things.

Walsh emphasizes that customers can still purchase products if they so choose, but he does believe it will become less attractive than the alternative over time. In addition, using the cloud model, customers can launch complete, massively scalable services in 90 days – something that used to take a year or longer.

Walsh adds that GENBAND is betting on business voice services and, more specifically, on real-time collaboration that is integrated into applications where contextual communications takes over as the driver for real-time communications and the market. In fact, real-time communications is where GENBAND is planning on being the market leader. It believes the really large competitors such as Cisco (News - Alert), Ericsson, and Huawei are too big to worry about this market given they have bigger markets to contend with, such as wireless infrastructure, access, and optical.

Another interesting point Walsh made is that GENBAND bonuses are now tied to customer satisfaction, and his past experience working in the field of Wall Street technology showed him the telecom industry has a long way to go to improve from a quality of service standpoint, and GENBAND wants to lead the way to getting there.

GENBAND has positioned itself nicely at the intersection of key trends ­– such as the cloud, customer experience, software-based networking, virtualization, and WebRTC. It’s a smart strategy and can be summed up by saying the company will tie its success into selling outcomes. If customers are successful, GENBAND will share in their success. This sounds like the ultimate win-win for a supplier in any industry.

 

Development Platforms: GENBAND Offers a Taste of Kandy

The arrival of the over-the-top applications and the connected consumer has changed the game both for service providers and businesses of all types. This unprecedented rate of change means organizations need to get solutions to market more quickly, and deliver better and faster customer service. GENBAND is promising to address all of the above with a new solution called Kandy, which launched last month.

Kandy, which was previewed in June at GENBAND’s customer and partner summit, Perspectives14 in Orlando, is a Platform as a Service that enables fixed and mobile carriers, OTT providers, enterprises and independent software vendors to advance forward from traditional communications services to more innovative user-centric services. Developers can utilize the Kandy APIs, SDKs and Quick Starts to easily build real-time communications into their applications and business processes. 

“Our fring OTT solution makes it very simple for mobile operators to enable web and mobile endpoints leveraging Kandy’s already built PaaS,” said Roy Timor-Rousso, general manager of GENBAND fring. “Kandy handles the BSS/OSS and enables API's, SDK's and Quick Starts to provide greater access and extensibility of the network.” 

GENBAND acquired fring in 2013, and in 2014 has been investing in development of even greater functionality and integration as part of the Kandy initiative.

It allows service providers to insert themselves into the OTT application value chain, quickly and with less development expense, less risk, and much faster time to market.

“Kandy changes everything – it lets you build an OTT experience ‘LEGO style’ using only the components you need,” Timor-Rousso explained. “It lets service providers or other developers quickly bring new OTT services to market and customize them to address particular customer needs.”

Adding real time communications to an application has traditionally required specialized skills, but with Kandy, GENBAND explained, developers’ tool belts just became much more powerful.

In his “Resistance is Futile” presentation at GENBAND’s event in June, Paul Pluschkell, executive vice president of strategy and cloud services at GENBAND, said Kandy will help create new business models and new consumption models.

Pluschkell and his colleagues demonstrated how Kandy can help bring together customer transaction history. This demo showed a scenario in which a customer had a check that didn’t clear, so he was overcharged. The customer was able to connect in real time via video chat with a representative at his bank, who was able to fix the issue immediately.

Another demonstration highlighted a sporting goods retailer that uses crowdsourcing to enable online shoppers to get information in real time from others who have purchased the products they are considering buying. Shoppers can use the same app to contact customer support, tapping once to launch a real-time video interaction. Kandy was used to bring real-time communications capabilities to all of the above, providing a successful outcome and reducing friction in the sales process.

Kandy and WebRTC, another technology of which GENBAND is a big proponent, are also useful in bringing real-time communications to dispatch and field service applications. GENBAND highlighted a transportation service for elderly patients called DriverBuddy, which allows drivers and dispatchers to video chat, and access geolocation information for routing purposes.

In a recent interview, Pluschkell explained that with Kandy and fring, service providers can “open their back-ends, and tie their service offerings to capabilities that create additional value for their customers, on top of our licensed application monitoring/ reporting/billing capabilities.”

He explained further that “fring is a basic must have app! Service providers can make it great and unique with Kandy...without starting from zero. With the fast growing Kandy ecosystem, including world-class brands like Samsung, service providers benefit from innovation out of the box where they can create their own future road map, faster, with less risk, and a lot more creativity.”

For more information, visit kandy.io.



Toy Retailer Embraces WebRTC, Kandy to Deliver a Genius Customer Experience

Once upon a time there was an awesome toy store with two locations in New Jersey, and no online presence. Its owners, Maria and Jeffrey Singman, wanted to launch a website, but initially had concerns that they couldn’t deliver the same high-touch customer service online that they do in store. But this story has a happy ending, because WebRTC and a new GENBAND solution called Kandy came to the rescue.

In August, the retailer, Toy Genius, was set to go live with a website through which shoppers can communicate in real time with clerks that can tell them about products, answer their questions, and trigger videos showing those products in action. The clerks appear on video to online shoppers, but website visitors who are still in their jammies don’t need to worry, because the clerks can hear but won’t see them.

While talking with online clerks, shoppers can continue browsing the Toy Genius website, and the clerks can see what they’re looking at to engage them in conversations about additional products on which the shoppers have paused.

Not only can the clerks interact with and share information with shoppers, they can put the products customers select into virtual shopping carts and move shoppers to the checkout when the time is right.

The real-time communications features on the website are powered by Kandy, a new Platform as a Service from GENBAND. Kandy allows access to communications sessions via APIs, SDKs, and Quick Starts so developers can more easily leverage them to bring real-time communications to their applications.

Jeffrey Singman, who in addition to helping his wife with Toy Genius is president of Tri-Mil Consulting, created the store’s website, and now plans to patent that real-time communications website experience for other retailers, as well as for other verticals.

Toy Genius also plans to make the real-time communications retail experience available to shoppers and its clerks via mobile devices.

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