Intuitive Design, the Importance of Voice & Fighting Complexity
Foehn evolves and engages
Historically, the business communications market has been consistently dynamic, innovative and highly competitive. How does an independent communications developer survive and prosper for nearly two decades, delivering uninterrupted organic growth year on year and relentlessly pushing the capabilities of phone and contact centre technology?
Rafael Cortes, Foehn’s Head of Marketing, provides the answers, throwing light on the key market drivers today.
After nearly 20 years, is it more difficult to keep pace with change?
Somewhat more difficult but it hasn’t deterred us.
The past couple of years have been our most successful yet. Our newly-launched Voxivo cloud phone system was judged ‘Best VoIP Software of 2018’ by ITSPA. Genesys awarded our professional services and omni-channel skills with ‘Purecloud Partner of the Year’ and Gold Partner accreditation in the UK. We also ramped up our technical accreditations with ISO/IEC 27001 and Cyber Essentials.
This year, we kicked off with the release of new VoxivoCX cloud contact centre and, last month, we gained G-Cloud 11 listing on the Government’s Digital Marketplace for the sixth consecutive year.
These are exciting times for Foehn customers. We can offer so much more and, this year, we re-branded the business to reflect that. As a company, we’ve grown up. With a team and turnover that have doubled in size since 2016, we’ve come a long way since we started back in 2000.
What do your brand values say about the business?
Our re-brand was an important move. We see it as an obligation to our customers and stakeholders to show who we are, what we stand for, where we’re going and what we’re doing to get there. It was Philip Kotler who said, ‘If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity’ and, amidst the noise and confusion of a market served by some one hundred competing VoIP providers, customers want differentiation and clarity.
At Foehn, differentiation comes naturally. We constantly push ourselves to evolve and engage with changing market conditions and, in turn, that has instilled a culture of innovation and a desire to do things differently. From day one, we’ve never followed convention and we’ve always held on to the truth that innovation is the key to progress. As they say, ‘only dead fish swim with the tide’. We believe in building amazing intuitive products, enabling rapid adoption and delight for the user.
At the same time, one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s our DNA – a double helix where our belief in building software on open source foundations intertwines with an obsession for making communications intuitive to use
How is this impacting your development roadmap?
Our in-house development team has an obsession for removing complexity and making business communications simple to use. This comes together in a development strategy that focuses on customer needs in three areas: giving more control to the customer, getting more value from investment, making deployment painless. This all delivers simpler system management, putting more control in the hands of employees and managers. Our open source architecture allows easier integration with existing infrastructure and our professional services team have a track record of ensuring unified communications and contact centre projects are deployed smoothly.
How is it possible to compete with the big brand vendors?
Agility, customisation and personal service are the three weak spots in the armour of the big vendors. In turn, this can leave wanting more when it comes to responsiveness and additional features. At Foehn, we keep development in-house and build solutions around opensource architecture. Together, these factors help us stay agile and flexible when it comes to requests for integrations. Our roadmap which is driven by our customers allows for new features to be added on a monthly basis
Another advantage is to have access to a complete cloud communications platform, providing all three core systems – phone, UC, collaboration and contact centre. It’s an advantage over many vendors and it offers the end user scope for building communications and a strong working relationship around a single provider.
What is Foehn’s biggest differentiator?
A hallmark of all our systems is ease of use. We hide the complexity and, by making our systems simple to use and simple to manage, we put control where it should be – in the hands of your employees and administrators. This provides the real time control over communications required to maintain customer engagement and meet the changing demands of the modern workplace. Simple system management and configuration also mean a faster and more affordable option to hiring a third-party technician.
Making things simple isn’t easy, though, and the impact of this challenge on information technology is being witnessed today. It first became apparent a few years back when the big IT management consultancies, notably IDC, identified an explosion of IT complexity and its adverse impact on business productivity. The ‘IT Complexity Index’ came into being and the big software vendors, from IBM to SAP, started pushing out solutions to combat the problem. At Foehn, it was one of those ‘that-was-my-idea’ moments. From the beginning, we’ve built our systems and our reputation on the quest for ‘communications without complexity’.
Where do you see complexity being a threat?
‘Feature fatigue’ is an example of complexity where developers are tempted to include as many features into their products as they can in the hope that each new feature will serve as a key point of differentiation. To the contrary, research has shown that customer satisfaction diminishes over time as they struggle to use a product that they find to be overly complex. Usability has become the driver of great product design.
The challenge for systems architects and software developers to hide complexity below a well-designed user interface. This is ‘good complexity’ that contributes to the user experience invisibly. ‘Bad complexity’ comes from bad design, ignoring the true needs of the end user, neglecting the business requirements and how they might change over time. Typically, this arises with legacy systems where overlapping layers of technology are created by adding but not replacing systems.
There are numerous examples of bad complexity but perhaps the most recent concerns ‘collaboration overload’ – the proliferation of collaboration tools on the market today. Many have been deployed in a multi-vendor mix of stand-alone, point solutions, creating problems for interoperability and making life difficult for the user. According to the Harvard Business Review, 86% of businesses report that their decision-making has become so complex it hinders their growth. Complexity kills collaboration and it’s an issue we have prioritised in the design and operation of Unified Communications innovations.
At Foehn, simplification has always provided the strategic foundations for everything we develop. Our clients have always recognised the value of software so slick that it motivates you, admin so simple that your employees can do it, and an interface so intuitive it makes you smile.
Is the same thing happening in contact centre design
There is evidence that complexity is also encroaching on modern contact centre design, though the reasons are different. Feedback from our SME customer base tells us two things. Firstly, they want a system that does the essentials really well. That means getting voice right as a priority and giving the agent the agility to adjust to the twists and turns of the customer journey in real time.
Voice is a big issue. Research by Genesys shows that 76% of consumers want the option to interact with companies via digital channels (webchat, social media, etc.), but 75% say a human voice still provides the most effective customers service. This ‘choice for voice’ underlines that consumers are happy to go digital for transactional engagements but when it comes to issues that are complex, urgent, high value or emotionally-charged, voice is paramount.
Omni-channel is still the future of contact centre design and we see it steadily gaining traction amongst mid-market businesses. Through our partnership with Genesys, we’ve successfully deployed the omni-channel capabilities of Purecloud for many customers, particularly those with a mature customer experience strategy. For those companies that are still building that strategy, voice is critical and that’s where VoxivoCX scores.
What’s the one thing you want your customers to identify with Foehn
We’re different because we make things easy.
We meet so many customers who are confused by a very noisy market where ‘bigger and better’ claims turn out to be much the same. Hopefully, our ‘simpler and smarter’ message resonates with companies that want intuitive design, rapid adoption and quality services.
For essential services, we tick all the boxes. Technical support, professional services, network infrastructure, cloud security and so on are up there with the best and our depth of experience is better than most. But customers want more than that. Our software development capability plus our open source advantage make the difference. They impact the simplicity of our solutions, the value of our pricing and the quality of our support – we developed it, we can fix it. With these skills we’ve built cloud phone and contact centre systems that are intuitive, simple and a joy to use for the modern worker and the busy administrator.
From what I hear from our customers, I think it’s a winning philosophy.