Verizon Enterprise Solutions is launching its first hosted PBX service for small and medium businesses with the help of its indirect sales channel.
Called the Virtual Communications Express, the service was made commercially available Oct. 5, and has been in customer trials for the past three months with Verizon Indirect Solutions Partner (VISP) agents and their customers, said Janet Schijns, vice president of Mid-Market Solutions and Alternate Channels for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. Schijns said Verizon is planning to leverage indirect channels to sell the service as well. The carrier already trained its agents ahead of the direct sales force and is creating marketing programs for agents.
Schijns said the launch has been collaborative; partners helped the company with refining its pitch for the product, for example. "This represents the first of many solutions that will be 'channel first,'" she said.
Verizon is targeting the service to SMBs, companies with 20-999 employees, for the first time. It's previous foray into cloud communications was only available to large enterprises.
Virtual Communications Express combines Verizon’s VoIP solution with Broadsoft’s cloud infrastructure to deliver unlimited local and long-distance calling as well as features such as simultaneous ringing; visual voice-mail messages; and “Office Anywhere," which forwards incoming calls from an office to a mobile/home line and displays outgoing calls made from a mobile/home phone as coming from an office phone number. The service also enables traditional PBX features, such as enhanced hunt group and call queuing.
In addition, Virtual Communications Express can be combined with Google Apps to enable capabilities, such as presence of other Google users and “click-to-call" from email, calendar and chat.
Administrators can authorize and manage user-feature availability through a dedicated online tool. Similarly, employees can manage their communications from the Web or their office phone to designate where they want to be reached – whether in the office, or on a mobile device.
Integration with Android and iOS operating systems is planned for early 2013 so that users will be able to also use the collaborative features from their mobile devices, Schijns said.
To use the service, customers need a Verizon-certified phone (Verizon is using Polycom) and an Internet connection, from any broadband provider. The cost for the service is $35 per month, per user, plus the cost of the phone. Users can rent the phones as part of the monthly charge for $10-15, depending on the phone model.
Commissions to agents are upfront and based on a percentage of the total deal value as well as the partner's level in the VISP program.
Schijns said she believes the service will be appealing to telecom agents since it's "BYOB." They can use any network provider they choose, which gives them the ability to serve customers that require multicarrier networks because of the locations of their offices, for example.