SMBs in the U.S. who have deployed VoIP systems say their new converged voice and data infrastructure has met or exceeded expectations, but not for the reasons VoIP providers have been touting, according to a new study from consulting firm Savatar. The findings were released at the VON show in San Jose, Calif.
While providers continue to promote features, SMBs ranked system management capabilities at the top of their list when asked how well their systems performed, Savatar said.
For SMBs considering VoIP, their perceptions of the technology are clear: they want lower total cost of ownership and better system management, Savatar found. Still though, providers trying to sell to these SMB continue sending confusing messages about feature sets the SMBs don’t understand.
Seventy-one percent of the 84 SMBs surveyed that had deployed VoIP said their system met their expectations; 22 percent said their system exceeded their initial expectations. SMBs say their VoIP system performed “very well” or “well” for routing (76 percent), capacity (69 percent), moves, adds and changes (68 percent), multi-location management capabilities (61 percent), and cost (60 percent), according to Savatar.
In contrast, those companies who have not deployed VoIP (476 companies surveyed) don’t perceive its value nor do they have a strong imperative to implement the technology, Savatar said. Fifty-five percent of companies expected the cost of VoIP to be “about the same” or “worse,” while 56 percent said the same about features. These numbers jump dramatically for system management (74 percent) and migration (77 percent) issues, the consulting firm found.
As in the three previous studies of the SMB market conducted by Savatar since January 2005, no one category of VoIP provider has gained a foothold in capturing the SMB market, the firm said, adding SMB decision makers are unclear where to turn for the best VoIP options. The market is wide open for providers who want to seize their share of this growing segment, Savatar advised.
Savatar said its study shows that SMBs who have already deployed VoIP are buying from equipment providers (39 percent), VARs (20 percent) and, to a lesser extent, traditional telcos (14 percent).
One element of the study was an in-depth analysis of product, pricing and service offerings by leading VoIP providers. Savatars analysis revealed providers are closing the total cost of ownership gap between IP hosted and IP PBX offerings by providing new leasing options for IP PBXs and creating more choices for SMBs, Savatar said.
“The small and medium business VoIP market is starting to heat up, yet it is still up for grabs. SMB decision makers still don’t know which providers to turn to for services,” said John Macario, president of Savatar. “The good news for providers is that we’re seeing a ‘TIVO effect’ once SMBs deploy VoIP; once they have it, they are using a range of capabilities and features and now can’t seem to live without them. There’s still plenty of work to be done to win in the SMB VoIP market. Providers need to improve their sales pitches and deliver the right messages crisply to win this important segment.”