ChannelVision Sept-Oct 2017

at your service: Xaas The flurry of activity is all part of the company’s mission of continued innovation and channel friendliness. “We want to be innovators with our hybrid approach and dedication to of- fering full-spectrum communications enablement,” said David Portnowitz, CMO at Star2Star, which has a 99.85 percent customer retention rate. “Our goal is to be thought leaders but also to be easy to work with for our part- ners – if we get those things right, ev- erything else takes care of itself.” As far as the pricing model, the company can now roll up all aspects of a unified communications deployment – including all hardware and software – into one monthly fee, “so there’s no capex expense,” Portnowitz said. “It gives partners recurring income they can count on, plus end users appreci- ate all-inclusive pricing for our StarBox Cloud Connection Manager appliance, the phones and the ongoing service.” Other portfolio changes include new softphone options, enhanced contact center features and new dial plans. The company also is prep- ping a fully hosted solution for global availability, integration with SD-WAN and the debut of a communications enablement platform that supports business software integration. “The hosted offering is great for a small business with less than 15 seats, but it’s also a good solution for the distributed enterprise,” Portnowitz said. “If you have 50 or 100 remote offices, restaurants or retail outlets – or if you’re a multinational – a hosted solution can be an ideal approach to minimize maintenance costs and cen- tralize management.” The SD-WAN offering meanwhile will complement cloud applications and hosted phone systems for com- panies as well. “Our on-premises appliance will be able to prioritize how that WAN traffic is handled,” Portnowitz said. “The StarBox Cloud Connection Man- ager already provides voice prioritiza- tion. So we’re just continuing to add more and more functionality to it.” He added that any other integra- tions can be done through Star- 2Star’s professional services group on a custom basis. Along with market demands, the competitive landscape for advanced office systems and UC is changing, which is driving evolution in the Star- 2Star partner program. “Partners are looking for other providers now that Avaya and Toshi- ba have been having troubles, and since Mitel and ShoreTel decided to merge,” Portnowitz said. “We’ve seen a huge influx of those partners flow- ing into the program – and they’re excited about the opportunity to gen- erate new revenue.” Star2Star also is beginning to see more MSPs joining its channel. “These are partners that may sell security or broadband, but they haven’t sold telecom historically, and their customers are getting that from some- where else,” Portnowitz explained. “That means they’re leaving money on the table. Adding us to the portfolio means they can do everything from security to desktop to phones to software. We fit their mentality of getting into the customer and locking that customer in as well, because the Star2Star solution is the last phone system anyone needs. We have 24/7 parts replacement, and we offer mainte- nance at no cost. It’s easy for them.” To support these and its existing partners, Star2Star is continuing to make investments into its channel community, including the availability of marketing funds and an increase in its ranks of sales engineers and regional account directors. It also launched a new quoting tool with mobile functionality. “We are the only company in the industry that sells 100 percent through the channel, so our commitment to our partners is paramount for everything we do,” said Portnowitz. “We are a chan- nel company. From our technology to our process to our sales and engineer- ing support, we are looking to help the channel do their jobs in an easier way. That means everything from simplify- ing quoting processes to offering better commissions, spiffs and promotions.” The provider also recently conclud- ed 25 roadshows within a month and a half, which hit all major cities across the country. The idea was to take the pulse of its partner ecosystem, to gath- er feedback, find out what’s working, and uncover what changes should be on the radar screen. “We take that feedback and develop new processes aimed at simplifying partner engagement with us,” Portnowitz said. “For instance, from the time an order comes in to when it exits, we now ensure that the partner is talking to one person, not four or five. Everything we do is orient- ed around how we can make it simpler for the partner to do business with us.” o S tar2Star has had a busy 2017 so far, launching a new pricing framework and new support tools for its channel partners, along with a raft of portfolio enhancements. Star2Star Puts Innovation at the Center of Its Channel Strategy By Tara Seals ® Channel Vision | September - October, 2017 78