Channel partners have a continuing challenge in 2014 – they must either step up their game and focus on the provision of higher-value services where they can earn reasonable margins, or they need to concentrate entirely on a commodity offer where the only way they can survive is by chasing volume.
Channel partners operating somewhere in between will find 2014 increasingly difficult, particularly as it will be harder for poor performing services businesses to paper over the cracks by continuing to make good margin on product and infrastructure.
In the customer service and communications space, for example, trends such as cloud, social, mobile and big data are all coming together to support omni-channel ambitions, and different communications channels are beginning to adopt new roles.
For example, with more users opting for non-voice channels such as social, email and chat to get in touch with organisations, traditional voice is increasingly being used as the channel of escalation for consumers. This places a renewed focus on getting things right in the contact centre.
One challenge is the need for a much stronger alignment between e-commerce and customer service teams
One challenge is the need for a much stronger alignment between e-commerce and customer service teams. Smart channel players will be concentrating hard on this issue, identifying new ways to help those organisations which recognise that e-commerce and customer service should now be all part of the same unified customer journey process. From a solutions perspective, however, this is quite challenging, so channel partners which can ease this transition will do well in 2014.
We are also seeing an acceleration in innovation, with a number of more specialist solution providers playing a growing role in the solutions mix. While larger vendors may nominally offer solutions that span the entire, end-to-end consumer journey, organisations are often reluctant to adopt a wholesale suite approach – particularly if that affects their need to procure solutions on a software as a service (SaaS) basis, or their ability to deploy using the most appropriate hosted model.
This pressure for flexible, cloud-enabled delivery will inevitably present challenges for those vendors struggling to offer their products on a true SaaS basis. From a user perspective, this is not helped by continuing confusion over just what constitutes a cloud solution. Is it dedicated, shared or hosted? Should cloud offers be public, private or hybrid? While that debate continues to generate uncertainty into 2014, pure-play cloud vendors will inevitably prosper.
Adam Faulkner is director at Avaya partner Sabio