In this episode, Max Clark talks with Jason Wieser, the Regional VP of Channel Sales at 8×8, on how 8×8 has evolved their product offering to meet the needs of their customers impacted by the Novel Coronavirus.
INTRO: [00.00] Welcome to the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast, where you’ll meet new tech vendors, and learn how they can help your business. At Clarksys, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before.
Max: [00.18] Hi, I’m Max Clark and I’m talking with Jason Weiser, who is the RVP of Channel Sales for 8×8. Jason, thanks for joining.
Jason: [00.24] Thanks for having me, Max. I look forward to chatting with you today.
Max: [00.27] So, for people that don’t know 8×8… What does 8×8 do?
Jason: [00.31] Yeah, so I appreciate the question – 8×8, ultimately we’re a cloud solutions company. We help businesses transform their customer and employee experience with a single system of engagement for voice, video meetings, chat, team messaging, contact center and enterprise API solutions, powered by one global cloud communications platform.
Max: [00.59] So let’s dig into that a little bit. You know, you say voice, you’re talking about phone systems; contact center, you’re talking about inbound call routing probably predominantly, and then you said API… Can you give me a little more color on each of those topics?
Jason: [01.15] Yeah, absolutely – I feel like voice is pretty self-explanatory, right? You’ve got calls coming in – if you’re looking at it from a contact center standpoint – but also if you’re just looking at it from communication amongst the office. So, you’ve got the ability to reach out to internally seek presence of employees, also have the ability to interact from a chat standpoint, and transition amongst those channels. So, I can be on a call and – let’s say you and I are chatting, and one of my co-workers has a question, they can still message me and be able to have that interaction, and get the answer in real-time… One single pane of glass. I don’t have to leave disparate systems and incorporate it, it’s all in one UI environment.
Max: [01.53] So, 8×8’s been around for a while – you guys have been in this space for some years now, right?
Jason: [01.57] Yeah, so we started the company – and don’t hold me to this exact date because I’m sure one of the founders is going to call me out on this if I don’t know the exact date – but I want to say it was in 1987, is when we originated. So, we’ve been around for quite some time, made a couple iterations, and we’ve really morphed as a company, really focusing on voice in the cloud, and one hundred percent in the cloud. We’ve never done anything from a prem-based environment, everything has been focused from a cloud ecosystem standpoint.
Max: [02.24] So in today’s world, post-COVID, there’s a lot of discussion and activity related to remote and distributed workforce. I mean, we saw a pretty rapid shift of companies that were maybe on-premise and located or collocated in office buildings or locations that now have remote workers. How does this work in the 8×8 world? What would be the experience for somebody looking at or thinking about going remote or supporting a distributed workforce or deciding what they’re doing in the next months and years?
Jason: [02.52] Yeah, so I think remote work has kind of been a – it’s been a topic that’s been talked about over, I would say the last ten years. I look back to when I started my career… Personally, I was working remotely myself, right? The tools I think have progressively gotten better over time, and so I think this transition, or this pandemic, has really catapulted that into a much faster environment for us to adopt it from a business standpoint. Some of the articles that have come out as of late have shown the increase in productivity from people being at home, they liken that to people not stopping by to just chit-chat at an office desk, and while everyone needs that interaction, when you see five, ten percent productivity increase, is it absolutely has an impact to the bottom line. So, I think we’re going to continue to see that shift from a standpoint of… Getting more and more companies taking advantage of the remote environment, and 8×8 allows for that to happen, by and large part because of the single platfform that we offer. So, you’ve got the ability to leverage your computer – a simple laptop – there’s no downloads that need to happen, so when we did have this pandemic and companies were forced to make that shift, there was no IT security things that companies had to do. They could simply say, “Hey, here’s your meeting link,” and they can log in and have video chat, et cetera. So, I think in general, this has put a focus on… People can do it, people I think are starting to like to do it – to an extent – and don’t get me wrong, people are missing that interaction, but I do think that there’s going to be some sort of healthy balance of folks that are no longer needed to go into the office versus folks that are in fact needed to be there.
Max: [04.38] So, I mean for a company that was already an 8×8 customer, their transition to remote was, you know – take the phone off your desk and go home with it, or download this softphone and use a softphone app on your computer, or install the app on your phone. For companies that have now been caught and are looking at transitioning into a cloud communications system, or they’re maybe thinking from the standpoint of, “I need to have remote workers now, what do I do?” What has 8×8 done and what are you – how are you facilitating and helping people with that transition?
Jason: [05.10] So, we looked at it from a two-pronged approach. You mentioned a little bit earlier from the current 8×8 customers, there were things that had to change necessarily from a user standpoint, more so in terms of the licensing model. Once you had that shift of everyone being remote, all of a sudden companies saw the increase in the number of their staff that they had to be able to support working from home. So we immediately enacted a program called the rapid expansion program – and this was for current customers – where it allowed them to turn on new licenses – excuse me – to be able to assist the workers that are now going to be working from home, who didn’t necessarily need a phone number, who didn’t have to have that sort of interaction or videos, et cetera. There’s no terms associated with that, so it’s more, “Hey, we need this for one month, or ten months, or we want to continue on,” they can cancel it at any time with no ETS. So, that’s the first part of the equation. The second element was more around the net new customers, and with a lot of companies not being able to forecast – obviously nobody was able to forecast this pandemic – but they didn’t necessarily have the backup or disaster recovery in place to be able to make that transition incredibly quickly, over to that remote, at-home environment. And so, one of the things that we did was we offered our video meetings platform right off the bat, for free as well to anybody in customers and business to be able to use it. It’s three easy steps, you go on to the website, you name the meeting, and you click ‘start meeting’. You can invite folks, it integrates into Google Calendar, Micsofor Calendar, et cetera. So, it allows them to be able to have that video interaction as well. We’re certainly looking at it from that kind of two pronged approach of, “How do we help the current customers,” but also focus on some of the net new customers. And then the last part of that was, with those net new customers, we allow them to upgrade into what we call a kind of premium model, where they can pay on a monthly basis, they get more analytics on the back, and they can see their speech analytics and there’s some additional features in terms of integrations that you’re going to get with that month to month model, that allows them to be able to leverage it as well. So, we’ve been evolving as the pandemic continues on, and as the needs of the customers continue to change, we continue to make that evolution with them.
Max: [07.35] So your video collaboration tool is all browser based, you said? So, from that standpoint there’s no software downloads, the IT department doesn’t have to be involved, you’re not talking about security pulse revisions… It sounds like that becomes a very easy thing to integrate into an enterprise.
Jason: [07.47] Absolutely, yes, and when you talk about – from an enterprise standpoint – the next thing that always comes up is, what’s the security? What does that security look like, right? When you hear ‘browser-based’, people start to get concerned, and so not getting into some of the challenges that the video companies have had over the last two months, but that has been a big topic, now that everybody has shifted. And so, we’ve gone to end-to-end encryption, we’re currently building that out right now, and there’s a couple other security things that we’ve put into place to be able to satisfy the IT and security folks at a given company, up including to telemedicine, to be able to have HIPAA compliance from that standpoint, and to be able to leverage those certain security protocols.
Max: [08.33] There’s a few people offering UCaaS and collaboration tools and contact center at this point… Why 8×8? What makes 8×8 better at this than other people in the space?
Jason: [08.42] Yeah so it goes back to kind of what we had talked about, right, the first question I would say. One of the things that we’ve focused on is we were an engineering company first. We were a company that built out our platform, we believed in a single pane of glass, and that has continued on as we’ve acquired companies, we’ve brought them in, redeveloped their code, et cetera, to have it being one system of intelligence, and the reason that’s important… As you look at this from an at-home environment, as IT and security is all being looked at, and trying to be tracked in terms of what that engagement process looks like, there’s an element that allows you to be able to get data from an output of that standpoint. And so, having that one system of intelligence and being able to transition seamlessly from the UC to the CC, get access to subject matter experts that you may not be in-communication with, or may not have access to right next to your cubicle, that’s critical to business and in that speed to market. So, it helps with the employee experience, which in turn helps customer experience, and ultimately that’s the end goal, is to drive the overall experience of each end user, and their consumer or customer.
Max: [09.55] Otherwise, make sure your employees are happy and productive, and your customers will be happy and satisfied, right? I mean, that’s the grail.
Jason: [10.01] That is very critical in our mind, absolutely.
Max: [10.06] So I mean, can you give me an idea of who your customers are, what this looks like? I mean, are you focused on specific industries or verticals, or places in the planet, or sizes? I mean, how does that work for 8×8?
Jason: [10.15] Yeah, I mean we’ve got – the way that we kind of have our business structured is we’ve got two routes to market from a commercial standpoint and from an enterprise, so we run the gambit from single users on up to, you know, a hundred thousand-plus implementation. It’s a… I don’t want to say that we segment ourselves in terms of specific industries, I will say where we’ve seen a lot of success is retail, that’s been very popular. We’ve also seen a significant amount of success from the telemedicine side, or healthcare; banking is another very large vertical – if you will – that we’ve seen significant successes. So, we don’t play in one specific vertical, we kind of run the gambit of all of them, and span the customer, so then depending where the customer lines up helps with the go to market strategy of how we tailor the process to make sure that they’re receiving the best experience from 8×8.
Max: [11.11] And 8×8, I mean you guys have a global footprint, global platform… I mean, there’s very large enterprises, planet-wide, with 8×8.
Jason: [11.19] Yeah – absolutely! You know, we’ve got some patents out there that are critical in order to enable the routing from a geography standpoint. So we’ve got the ability to look at where a call is originating and where it’s terminating, and defining what the best traffic – the route to traffic is, or the best way – excuse me – to route that traffic. In addition to that, we also have the ability to minimize the latency, which as we know, that’s a big concern as companies try to make the shift from a prem-base, to a cloud-base. Generally speaking, there’s two concerns that come in: the quality of service, and the security, and so by leveraging that quality of service to be able to have the georouting that we have, it absolutely minimizes that, and it helps with the MOS score to ensure that the call quality is there.
Max: [12.09] So I mean, if I had an office in – I mean, there are several countries that are difficult with telephony and VoiP, so let’s say I was… I had an office in Israel, and we had a PRI line, is that something that we could integrate and bring into an 8×8 environment and have a single system with you?
Jason: [12.21] Yeah, we would want to look at it. We’ve got folks with the ANR company that looks specifically at porting, they look at the network dynamics, so that’s all part of the pre-sales process. There’s not companies now – that I’ll say – that we absolutely won’t do business, but there are some – I shouldn’t say companies excuse me, I’ll back up and say countries that we won’t do business in… However, there are some countries that are harder to do business in, and so depending what that routing of the telephony looks like, we may or may not say, “Hey, we’ve got to do it a different way,” but we’ll leverage our network engineering team – at no charge to the customer, to say, “Hey, this is how we could make it happen, does this work, here’s what we’re going to offer from an SLA standpoint,” et cetera.
Max: [13.02] So I mean, who becomes an ideal customer for 8×8? What’s the no brainer, you know? Is it, “I have multiple countries and continents, a footprint, or certain locations or certain verticals or a certain application or a certain size,” like what is the… “Oh, you guys fit this profile?” Like, it’s a slam dunk?
Jason: [13.18] So from our standpoint again, it goes kind of back to that; we don’t play in a specific vertical standpoint. I will say that retail – from our perspective – is a slam dunk on our side. We do very, very well on the retail side of the house. In addition to that, when you’re looking at it from an SB, when you’re looking at it from a velocity standpoint, you want quick… It’s got the security, et cetera, it’s a very good option to be able to spin this up in a very quick manner, and then as you go to the enterprise – again if you’re looking from a global standpoint, that is absolutely a strong suit of ours, in a place that we win very frequently.
Max: [13.54] So if I’m considering 8×8, you know, how would I get an idea of how much this costs? Do you have a pricing range, can you give me an idea, what is… You know, is this based on extensions, or seat, or feature set? How does this break down?
Jason: [14.07] Yeah so, we look at it from – there’s a couple different routes to market that we can look at it as. We have one, I mentioned a little earlier during the conversation, where we have the freemium meetings, if you will, where you get a little bit more API connections and things along those lines, that’s $12.99 a month for instance. Month to month, you can turn it off as needed. But if you’re looking at it from an overarching communications platform, it can range anywhere from about twelve dollars – ten to twelve dollars on the low-end side if you’re just wanting phone lines – on up to the contact center side of the house can be a hundred and fifteen, a hundred and twenty plus dollars.
Max: [14.46] Let’s talk about contact center for a second, since you brought it up. A lot of companies might say, “We’re not running a contact center, we’re not a reservations system, or a big airline that you call into.” But that line becomes really blurry in a lot of cases, because a lot of people actually do have contact centers, so how would you describe your contact center, where you actually fit, where somebody should know… If this is something they should be thinking about.
Jason: [15.09] Yeah, so – from a contact center standpoint, one could make the argument that if you’re getting incoming calls, you’re a contact center at the end of the day. And I think it’s important to look at how your business is set up, in terms of what that routing is. So, the way that we kind of have our system set up, it’s called the X-Series platform. You can scale throughout those licensing, depending on what additional needs you may or may not have. And so from a contact centre standpoint, as you start to grow and potentially want to get into different spots of the business, and/or have different integrations, be able to leverage analytics and those sorts of things, that’s what dictates kind of where it’s at… But you can have a contact center on the very low side, and be able to still, you know, leverage just a basic call transfer, because that’s ultimately a very basic – if we will – contact centre. But if you want to have that kind… The IVRs on the forefront, and you want to be able to have speech analytics, and those additional items that you get with some of the larger contact centers, so to speak, that’s certainly a function and – you don’t need to have a hundred, three hundred, five hundred employees on that, you can have you know… Five employees on that, and just have that routing to offset some of those calls that you may be getting in on a frequent basis. Things like hours of service, you know, what are your holidays, etc – that stuff can all be offloaded for a lot lower cost than having an employee shield those calls.
Max: [16.33] And your interactions with the contact center are more than just voice, I mean there’s other channels and ways for customers to interact at that point.
Jason: [16.39] Absolutely, you’ve got the voice side of things, you’ve got messaging, you’ve got integration with some of the social platforms… So, there’s various different ways that you can absolutely interact from a contact center side of the house as well, and that’s important as you’re starting to have those conversations, that we understand that, and we understand what it is that – how you want to facilitate those coming into your business environment, to help that customer experience.
Max: [17.05] So Jason, can you run me through what the actual trial and demo process is with 8×8, as it relates to somebody looking at you for video or voice, you know, communication, collaboration, contact center? I mean right now we’re in a condensed cycle, so how would they look at this?
Jason: [17.22] Yeah so, from the condensed cycle it’s interesting, because it’s kind of changed the ways that businesses have historically looked to acquire a unified communications platform. So, I’ll speak to it in terms of the way it’s working right now, or what we’re seeing right now, and then I’ll highlight some of the changes – or some of the legacy ways, I should say – that we’ve done the business model, or facilitated working with us. So from a standpoint of right now, how COVID has impacted it, one of the changes that we’ve seen is on the small business side of the house, and I get that for small and mid-size business if you will, we’ve seen a lot more velocity. There are deals that have come in and they call us and they say, “Hey, we need this because our state has shut down, they’re leveraging safer at home… How quickly can you turn this up, can you give us a demo?” We can give a demo that, within an hour, two hours, depending on the resource that’s available, and we can have a system up within a day, and if I look at it from an enterprise standpoint – there’s actually a pretty neat case study on our website – WeSchool in Italy, when the country shut down, they actually called on a Friday night – it was after business hours, they said “Hey, the country is shutting down, we need to have a solution,” and by the tuesday, we had the entire country set-up to be able to leverage the video communications platform. Right now – last I heard – it was like thirty percent of all secondary schools in Italy are leveraging our video communications platform to be able to interact with their teachers and still get their school work. So, it’s been a very big pivot, I’ll say, from what historically the process is, because anybody I feel like that’s been in this industry for a while, knows that the sales lifecycle, or the vetting process from a business side, is pretty extensive, as they look at this. So, going back to what it was, you know, prior to COVID, and where I think it’ll eventually even back out to… We have some really cool things that we do in that sales process to be able to assist the customer in looking at this. You know, we do offer demos of course, we’ll do live demos, walk them through, but the biggest differentiator from my mind, that we do compared to our competitors, is we have what’s called our Center of Excellence team. And this is a team that – internally – we can take opportunities to and say, “Hey, this is an opportunity for a five hundred seat customer, and they want these specific integrations, and to migrate off of their prem environment, they need to see this and see how it flows.” And so this team will actually go on-site, they’ll build out the integrations, they’ll let them trial with specific success criteria that was created from 8×8’s side and the customer’s side, and let them trial that for forty five or sixty days, et cetera, to ensure that it works as needed. And it’s a two-way form of communication – there may be a little tweak over here that needs to happen from our side, the customer may want something routed a little differently because they don’t want to like for like anymore, and during that time, that’s a no-charge service that we provide to ensure that customers feel confident making the shift from their premise or current cloud environment over to 8×8’s.
Max: [20.34] That’s awesome. Jason, thank you so much for your time.
Jason: [20.38] Thank you very much, Max, I really appreciate it.
OUTRO: [20.43] Thanks for joining the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast. At Clarksys, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before. We can help you buy the right tech for your business, visit us at Clarksys.com to schedule an intro call.