I'm sitting in the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, awaiting a flight back to San Francisco. I came for Nextiva's first annual Partner Summit, at which Polycom has been a gold sponsor, and I was invited to be the opening speaker (and then a panelist) for a session on "The Future of Unified Communications." I talked with a lot of people today, and the day gave me a lot of thoughts to chew on. These are some.
Nextiva is one of North America's largest VoIP providers. This means that in the VoIP world, they're one of the major phone companies. It's as if AT&T had actual competition in the old days, and had to compete. Nextiva has competed and has done it well, having established a reputation for extraordinary quality and support among their customers and partners, an enthusiasm for going the extra yard and then another. For growing so fast they're still relatively young though. Polycom was an early friend to them, and over lunch one of the Nextiva execs expressed their gratitude for Polycom's support since seven years ago, when Nextiva was new and there was no clear payback to Polycom for our investment in them. We did it on faith. Here's where I found...
Lesson one: Smart bets can pay off, and sometimes, you just have to go on your gut even if Excel extrapolations can't prove it. After all, babies have no provable payback either.
The excitement among partners at this conference charged the atmosphere. They're all there to learn and to find how to make money, and the program was stocked with talks and workshops on how to sell, strategize, learn, market, and give better service.
Polycom had a table there, and it was loaded with endpoints. It wasn't lavish or large, but it was stuffed with - well, with stuff. Here it is.
Take note of the two IP phones on the ends, and their placards. I'll get to those in a minute.
There were other endpoint vendors there, but Nextiva has taken hold of Polycom with both hands because of the quality, support, and innovation we've proven. Those are not just words, they're principles that Nextiva itself takes pride in, and they've found us to be soulmates because we believe the same things. This quickly became clear during conversations. It was about here that I learned...
Lesson Two: Partner support is as important a part of UX, User Experience, as is what buttons do and LCD icon design. The partners may benefit more visibly from that support while their users benefit more obviously from those icons, but they're both essential components of the Experience.
Which brings us back to innovation, and those two placards. Our Polycom guys here in Austin set up those two IP phones to demonstrate Acoustic Fence on this tabletop. The one on the left had the Fence "OFF" and the one on the right "ON," and when calling point to point during the noisy breaks in the program, the difference was breathtaking. Polycom Acoustic Fence became the buzz of the whole show, and is likely to be a centerpiece of Nextiva's marketing programs. They see it as a major differentiator for them against their competition, and it was a feather in their cap (and in ours) among all the partners and customers in attendance. That's another example of a baby that had no business case at birth, but will be taking starring roles in the future.
So in conclusion: It's service and support, not just interface design, that enchants customers. And it's investing in things you trust, like quality, innovation, top-notch partners and Acoustic Fence, that give the big paybacks.
It's lots more fun that way too!