8x8, a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider based in San Jose, Calif., is moving forward on several fronts, with a focus on the needs and requirements of a growing base of mid-market business customers. This “mid-market focus” is driving the introduction of new capabilities that solve particular pain points for distributed businesses such as the new 8x8 Branch Office feature and more sophisticated contact center services (more on these below). It is also the impetus behind the company’s expansion into other world regions as more and more 8x8 customers, most of which are currently based in the U.S. and Canada, have multi-national operations that they need to tie into the corporate communications network, particularly customers with global call center operations.
In 2002, 8x8 entered the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) market as a service provider, offering residential Internet phone service under the Packet8 brand name. In 2004, the company introduced the Virtual Office hosted phone service to U.S. small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). By 2007, 8x8 was reporting rapid growth in the number and size of its business subscribers, a trend that has continued.
With its base of mid-market and distributed enterprise customers on the rise, 8x8 has begun expanding its coverage to other world regions, including Canada (January 2013) and then EMEA (October 2013) upon signing an agreement with European data center operator Interxion that operates 34 data centers across 11 European countries. In December 2013, 8x8 completed the acquisition of Voicenet Solutions, a hosted business VoIP phone service provider in the UK with an established based of more than 1,000 business customers and 30 white label partners. Just recently (March 2014), 8x8 gained a presence in the Asia Pacific region, launching its services platform at a new Hong Kong data center facility and bringing the number of data centers to five (including three U.S. locations). Additional facilities, including in Australia and South America, are planned for later in 2014.
Hosted/cloud services continue to gain in popularity as an alternative to purchasing an on-premises telephony system and 8x8 has already earned some important industry recognition as a top UCaaS provider. Market research firm Gartner positioned 8x8 as a market leader in its 2013 “Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) in North America” (for the second year in a row). Infonetics’ annual North America Business VoIP Service Leadership Scorecard (2013) ranked 8x8 as one of the top hosted VoIP providers in North America. Data from Synergy Research Group cites 8x8 as the clear leader in the Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) segment between Q1 2010 and Q1 2013, with 19 percent of the total cloud UC subscribers.
8x8 was also named to Forbes 2013 List of 100 Best Small Companies in America for strong sales and earnings growth, and 8x8 continues to report impressive financials. In the company’s third quarter of fiscal 2014 report (ended December 31, 2013), 8x8 indicated that revenue from business customers had increased 26 percent year-over-year, and the average number of subscribed services per new customer was up 20 percent. To date, 8x8 has 36,753 business customers.
8x8 Virtual Office Cloud-based UC Service
The 8x8 Virtual Office business phone and unified communications service targets businesses with 10-1,000 users in multiple locations, though it is possible to scale to even higher capacities. Customers choose from three user packages with varying features and functionality to suite different user requirements; seats can be mixed and matched as needed.
- Virtual Office, the standard user package, enables all popular business features such as call transfer and forwarding, 3-way audio conferencing, music-on-hold and ring groups to name just a few, but also includes more advanced features at no extra cost like voicemail-to-email notification, a meet-me conference bridge (15 participants) and the Virtual Office Mobile application for Android and iOS mobile devices.
- Virtual Office Pro extends the service with more collaborative functionality, adding support for online meetings, call recording and Internet Fax. The company’s Virtual Meeting Web conferencing service allows up to 15 users to participate in an audio/Web meeting and share desktop content. Customers can also use a webcam to add video and can upgrade to include 50 participants. As an option, 8x8 offers a room video conferencing solution for a flat monthly fee; participants can join using a computer with a webcam, a video phone, a telepresence system or a desk or cell phone (audio only).
- Virtual Contact Center is an add-on cloud-based contact center solution available to agents and supervisors through a Web browser. Key features include skills-based routing, multi-media interactions (telephone, email or Web chat), real-time monitoring and reporting, customer relationship management (CRM) and Workforce Management (WFM) integration, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), call recording, Web callback and more.
There has been no shortage of innovations and new capabilities coming out of 8x8. In just the last year, 8x8 made over 20 announcements, including a desktop softphone application, HIPAA/HITECH Compliance, a new Android-based UC client and significant updates to its contact center solution with additional CRM integrations, a virtual queuing capability and integration with Zendesk cloud customer service platform. The company also issued a number of new technology patents (now 92 patents total).
At the recent Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando, the UCaaS provider made several announcements, including the introduction of services in the Asia Pacific region, new features for multi-site businesses and a Workforce Management solution from partner Teleopti.
- 8x8’s cloud UC services now extend into the Asia Pacific (APAC) region in order to provide services to 8x8's growing mid-market, multi-national customers that have operations in the APAC region. 8x8’s Geo Routing technology dynamically routes calls to the nearest data center using location information such as a public IP address which results in the shortest/best media path for better reliability and call quality. The company is utilizing a Hong Kong data center facility owned by Pacnet, a leading managed services provider in APAC.
- 8x8 introduced two new Virtual Office enhancements aimed at enterprise customers with distributed office locations. The new 8x8 Branch Office feature allows an organization to utilize a single cloud UC platform, while segmenting and defining unique branch office instances for specific capabilities. For example, an auto attendant menu can be defined for each branch office for optimal call flow and routing. Also, the new Virtual Office Switchboard Pro is a Web-based receptionist application for managing incoming calls with simple mouse clicks to access phone features like call park, hold or transfer. Receptionists can view presence status information for each user in real-time and handle multiple active calls simultaneously.
- 8x8 continues to build its contact center services, now partnering with Teleopti to offer the Teleopti WFM solution as an add-on service to 8x8’s Virtual Contact Center. The application uses 8x8 Virtual Contact Center's call history data to drive staffing models and design schedules that optimize staff resources in order to improve operations, performance and customer service. Customers can choose from two levels, depending on their requirements: the Base subscription includes demand forecasting and scheduling, while the Advanced subscription adds a Real-Time Adherence feature for live visibility to agents.
On the Roadmap
8x8 will continue its forward momentum in 2014, with an eye on the needs of a growing mid-market customer base, as well as on the contact center as more and more businesses consider the benefits of adopting a cloud-based contact center service. 8x8 will also continue its international expansion by opening additional facilities, including in Australia and South America, in 2014.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi