UCaaS Performance: Dial Tone is a Human Right
Jul 03, 2019
How RingCentral Ensures High-Quality, Reliable and Secure Customer Experiences
If you regularly attend telecom industry shows, you know the main focus today is on showcasing advanced user features. This trend is perfectly justified and understandable. The shift to software-based communications has created much greater possibilities to deliver richer and much more tailored user experiences. Furthermore, the influence of line-of-business managers (LOBs) and end users (especially younger generations of workers) on technology choices has increased due to the influx of consumer devices and apps into the workplace, giving rise to the trends commonly referred to as “bring your own technology (BOYT)” and “consumerization of IT”. These trends are compelling business solutions providers to continually innovate to replicate and exceed the quality of consumer technology experiences and satisfy the ever-shifting user requirements.
However, user features only deliver the desired value when they are backed by robust service performance. Service reliability, scalability and security ultimately determine customer satisfaction and return on investment (ROI). Furthermore, most enterprise communications decisions are still made by IT staff, whose jobs depend upon the quality of communications services, including audio clarity, as well as service uptime and resilience to security breaches.
Frost & Sullivan research shows that innovative hosted IP telephony and unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) providers often dazzle IT/telecom investment decision makers with an ever-expanding array of advanced communications and collaboration tools. However, telecom investment decision makers continue to rank service reliability and security as their top criteria when selecting a UCaaS solution or provider.
At Enterprise Connect 2019, I moderated a panel of UCaaS industry experts. Titled Nuts & Bolts vs Bells and Whistles, the panel discussion focused on the challenge of reconciling demand for advanced user features (bells & whistles) with requirements for excellent service performance (nuts & bolts). All panel members shared valuable perspectives that were greatly appreciated by the audience. I followed up with Curtis Peterson, SVP of Cloud Operations at RingCentral, to receive his more detailed insights on these important issues.
1) Popova: The UCaaS industry has considerably evolved and matured in the past decade. However, most providers still struggle to deliver the coveted five 9s of service uptime. There have also been some major cloud services outages recently that have raised major concerns. What are some of the architectural design characteristics, business practices and service management policies that can ensure greater service uptime? How does your company preempt potential outages?
Peterson: RingCentral’s architecture was designed to provide the enterprise-grade service reliability that customers expect. RingCentral was born in the cloud and built for the cloud. Over the years, it has proven that it can scale to millions of endpoints without disruption.
We strongly believe that dial tone is a human right. That means that we strive to deliver top-notch voice quality to businesses of varying sizes, industry verticals and technology posture. To ensure that we maintain cutting-edge service quality, we invest and have one of the largest R&D budgets in the industry to continually enhance our technologies and service delivery. As a result of our robust technology investments, we are able to use AI-enabled predictive analysis to help identify areas in the global network, whether in our control or not, where problems might occur, before they impact our service and disrupt our customers’ operations.
2) Popova: No matter how hard we try, disasters happen. Conventional wisdom suggests that it is very difficult to offer a service level agreement for over-the-top (OTT) solutions. What in your opinion is a compelling SLA?
Peterson: RingCentral believes that 99.999% is the required delivery in this business. Whether it’s an OTT service or another delivery mode is irrelevant to the end user. OTT has its pros and cons as far as service reliability is concerned. On one hand, OTT provides businesses with tremendous flexibility and freedom. OTT services allow users to leave the building and go to the mall, whether because of a natural disaster or simply to mix business and pleasure. On the other hand, OTT delivery has not been a full 5 9’s service on the edge.
3) Popova: What do you offer customers that need a high level of assurance?
RingCentral has the capability to let customers connect to us any way they want. They can use dedicated connections to our data centers or use our services entirely over public broadband. Also, we recently introduced a product called RingCentral Persist. Persist allows people to call each other, dial emergency services, and communicate even when every last-mile contingency has been exhausted—and it’s cloud controlled, not a hybrid solution.
4) Popova: What are the key steps a provider must take to ensure that customers do not defect after an outage? What compensations and/or human factors play a key role to ensure that an incident does not break the relationship?
Peterson: RingCentral’s mantra is to be honest, transparent, fix whatever problem has occurred immediately, and aim to eliminate the possibility of the same problem repeating in the future. This is a departure from old-school telco mentality whereby the providers generally did not share any information.
5) Popova: Security and customer data protection are top concerns for all businesses migrating any IT or communications solutions to the cloud. Security and privacy requirements can be handled on multiple levels. What are some of the technologies and practices that a provider must have in place to prevent security breaches and data leaks?
Peterson: We are fortunate that we are not in the business of deriving revenue from selling customer data so our sole purpose is to prevent that data from getting into the wrong hands. Greater clarity of purpose is always greater security.
Most of our enterprise prospects/early customers have no dedicated security [staff] looking at their corporate communications strategy or systems. At best they share reviews or go through a procurement group to ensure that their cloud solutions meet minimum security requirements.
At RingCentral, we spend millions on personnel and millions more on scanning and software and tools, totaling more than what companies spend on their communications platform. So we know we are typically providing something more secure than what the enterprise was delivering or can deliver internally.
Our security motto is “Trust nobody.” We’ve moved towards ZTM (zero trust model) so we use extensive third-party scanning, white-hat hacking, bug-bounty programs, dark-net monitoring and other tools to consistently check on our own internal assumptions. This enables us to maintain higher security levels that meet and exceed customer requirements and expectations.
6) Popova: Distributed organizations, growing businesses as well as businesses with mobile users need to know that their provider can support them across large geographic areas. They expect consistent service quality and service plans across country borders. How can a provider ensure cost-effective scalability and consistent service regardless of the user location?
Peterson: There are no shortcuts to delivering world-class service in every country in which your service operates. You must build the network, peer locally, peer with Tier 1 carriers, operate under regulatory authority, follow the law, understand how porting works, provide a true local experience (in terms of local dialing/tone/ringing). For example, French ring tone should have a slight air of superiority to it. American ring tones should be slightly annoying (I’m joking).
Service plans, on the other hand, should be the same. While there might be slight variations in local law, and costs in certain countries, what you get, how you pay for it, what SKU you use—these should be no different regardless of the location. If you’re going to sell globally, you have to be a global company.
RingCentral leverages robust resources to ensure we scale globally:
- 28 data centers
- 7 development centers
- 12 corporate offices
- 4000 workforce
The sun never sets on all major functions of RingCentral!
7) Popova: Onboarding, migration and ongoing customer support are critical to ensure that a business is receiving the anticipated benefits from their deployment. Customer support becomes even more important as cloud services reduce switching costs and customer loyalty dwindles. Most businesses, even those that start with a digital journey, require some degree of hand-holding to ensure that the solution is properly implemented and that users know how to use new features. What are some of the best practices that can minimize customer churn, which is disruptive to both customers and providers?
Peterson: All of these are important, but without a relentless focus, delivery model, and campaign for USER ADOPTION, all the best plans and procedures will fail. We focus our campaigns, regardless of business size, around user adoption. We also focus on companies with a desired business outcome—whether that’s improving the business through digital transformation or reducing costs with certain goals in mind—and businesses bought into delivering those goals. Then it becomes a singular focus on user adoption with the objective to gain the desired benefits.
If you believe in your product and you invest in your R&D, once users have adopted your product, it becomes easy to continually delight them, providing them with an easier way to do their job and be more efficient. Businesses achieving breakthrough transformation capabilities that enable them to realize benefits far beyond just communication are the best indicators of long-term loyalty.
8) Popova: I hear that NPS is now a dated metric and customer sentiment analysis is a much more realistic measure of service and provider performance. What is your opinion?
Peterson: I don’t believe NPS is necessarily a need; it is just a lagging indicator. In the speed of SaaS, you need predictive indicators. A user who just received their new account and who is instantly using 15-20 of your features and continues to use them is the “right now” metric of customer satisfaction.
9) Popova: Solution manageability is an important topic, especially among large organizations where existing IT staff wishes to retain as much control as possible. What are some of the key features and capabilities of an excellent admin portal that gives IT/telecom staff a sense of continued empowerment? Also, do you ensure that you have sufficient and effective documentation to help admins effectively manage their solutions on their own? How important is 24/7/365 support for telecom admins?
Peterson: The reality here is that businesses are expecting to outsource the heavy lifting to RingCentral so they can free up resources for more strategic projects and tasks within their company. We understand that there is a perceived loss of control when outsourcing this capability, so we provide robust administrative portals for granular control of permissions and rights that can be managed around the world; a QoS portal so they can self-diagnose any issues with calls; an alerting portal so they can be alerted on potential incidents before the users start reporting it; and a 24/7/365 support and NOC from RingCentral.
Most IT departments really don’t want to run their communications infrastructure anymore. They just don’t want to be caught flat-footed. This is why I say that today dial tone is a human right—if it’s not working, we have a problem!
10) Popova: How important is contract flexibility in a UCaaS deployment? What happens if a business discovers that the solution they deployed does not meet their needs or that the provider is not providing adequate support?
Peterson: The real risk is that a customer selects a solution that does not maintain the pace of innovation necessary to stay current in today’s business environments. The SaaS business model is infinitely more flexible than on-premises solutions. In the on-premises world, you had to buy a system for the largest you ever thought you would be and, if it didn’t work out, you were stuck with 10 years of depreciation. In our world, full proof-of-concept trials usually work out any potential buyer’s remorse as customers have the ability to add or remove seats and handle business fluctuation globally—all without penalty.
As far as providing adequate support, RingCentral has SLAs for support as well as product in order to keep this in line with customer expectations. Nothing beats tasting the soup—run a short proof of concept to make sure it’s really real and it works the way you expect it to and solves those use cases you’ve identified.
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