By C.P. McGrowl, Chief Channel Curmudgeon
Since its popular inception with AOL’s Instant Messenger (AIM) in the late 1990s, text has become an indispensable communications tool for business users as well as consumers. Text is unobtrusive (unlike a phone call) yet lightweight (generally read more quickly than email), continuously available (best if you have both a desktop and a laptop as well as mobile access, as you get in the Apple environment), universal (at least the SMS variety), flexible (one-to-one or many-to-many), persistent (chat sessions can last for months or years), and multi-functional (with multimedia capability). For many of us, text takes up more of our time each day than voice. Ever try to get a millennial to voluntarily make a phone call?
For UC&C and team collaboration vendors, text functionality is a key building block in their product offerings. The question is, will anybody use it? Uptake is far, far from a sure thing. The challenge is that text functions within UC&C and team collaboration apps compete with other, often more flexible, options:
- Mobile operator SMS and MMS: AOL may have started the texting revolution, but it went viral with the availability of mobile SMS and MMS for pictures and videos. SMS/MMS is unique in that it is the only universally available, any-to-any mobile texting option. Along with Skype, it’s available on desktops if you’re an iPhone/Mac user. UCaaS and CPaaS providers have even extended SMS to wired devices.
- Premium texting services: Apple iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger epitomize the premium OTT texting market in the United States; all deliver enhanced features pioneered in BlackBerry Messenger. However, these solutions recognize their prized positions in the texting space and limit or flat-out prohibit interconnection with other platforms. And, as younger people enter the workforce, they’ll bring their preferred texting tools with them. Yep, that was your price list on Messenger. On an unmanaged, BYOD-program smartphone.
After those two, there is the “everyone else” bucket. UC&C and team collaboration texting fits into this category, along with web chat and the secure texting solutions required in high-security environments.
The challenge that UC&C and team collaboration text faces is getting anyone to choose it over the more popular options. In high-security environments, employers can mandate use of a secure texting solution under penalty of termination (yeah, they’re that serious). But short of a pink-slip-shaped gun to the head, how do you advise customers to get their end users to text on that expensive platform you just sold them?
What’s that? Crickets?
No surprise. I’ve yet to speak with a partner that circled back after three or six months and found even mildly frequent uptake. Side lesson: Don’t use the old “we’ll replace the AOL/Messenger/SnapChat texting ‘wild west’ with your corporate IT-approved tool” selling point. It’ll kill your credibility. Proof of service it’s not.
Suppliers aren’t much help. The UC&C and team collaboration vendors we all know and love faced a very similar challenge in years past with …