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93. Hospitality, Safety & More Revolutionize Communications through Integrations with Chris Burgy of Ooma

November 1, 2023

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Listen today with Chris Burgy, Vice President of Corporate Development at Ooma as we talk about their specialized integrations. We talk about a common question, which is hospitality, and what their solution is along with all their other benefits for things like fax, alarms, fire panels, and more. We hear this request a ton from our partners, so don’t miss out on what they have to offer as Chris uncovers it all today!

Everybody, welcome back. Today we are talking about CX. We’ve got hospitality, safety and more. More importantly, though, we’re talking about how to revolutionize communications through integrations. Today on with us, we have got Chris Burgy VP of Corporate Development from Ooma Chris, welcome on, my man. Josh, thanks for having me.

Chris, I love to hear we were just joking about good windy paths into how you got to where you’re at. So not Ooma yet. I want to hear about your path. My next question is going to be about Ooma but just tell us about your path, man. I mean, where did you start? How did you get here? Yeah, so I’m a bit of an odd journey and story. So I originally came out of corporate I.T., funny enough, and wound up working for what we would now term a SaaS company, but an ASP company, doing sales for a little bit, and then wound up co-owning a VARMSP with a partner. That’s where I first got exposed to UC back in 2005.

Old school network server engineer had a bunch of Juniper certifications, Cisco certifications, and then wound up going to work for a short-tell and completely different change of path for me. I went down the corporate development path, which is strategy, M&A. And so that ultimately led me toOoma I love the background, too. I think it’s good foundationally, right? You know how the bits and bytes work, so you have such a different, maybe purview into this that I think others don’t see that might step into that role. Really helpful. I mean, I’ve done personal installations of what’s so funny. There’s a major game company, and I designed the data center for them, and Los Angeles implemented all that on Juniper equipment. Totally hands-on in the VAR days, did a bunch of UC deployments with short-tell, and you never forget that. I still tinker around with stuff. Oh, yeah. We can’t. We got to know how it works. We got to take it apart. Exactly. So if I think back, my first iterations of Ooma and what I think the general public might have known as Ooma is it started out as a residential VoIP product. So there might be some of our partners who still don’t know how big and how commercialized Ooma is and the business offering. So help us understand Ooma of 5 to 10 years ago versus Ooma now. Yeah, and it’s kind of spot on there. Most folks who recognize the brand still know us from the residential days, and believe it or not, that’s still a growing business for us. And frequently we run into folks that, “Oh, I have a new Mattello in my house,” or “My parents have a new Mattello,” or “My aunt or uncle.” But we recognize that there eventually would be a long-tail decline, obviously, in home phone service, and we had folks that were taking that little telo product into the micro S&B segments. So think about floor shop, automatic shop. And there’s a bit of an aha moment for the company about 11 years ago. So we wound up building a UCaaS platform focused on S&B, and about five years ago, the focus shifted to the business portfolio, predominantly, and that’s now the majority of our revenue, believe it or not. So a bit of a fascinating transition, but unique too, because we built hardware, which is really unusual for a SaaS company. And also coming from the consumer side, there’s a lot of ethos for us around simplicity and deployment, simplicity and management that’s necessary in the consumer market, but translates well, obviously, to the business space. Well, I think you learned a lot too. And that actually was my first foray years and years ago with Ooma I had a friend that called me. You know how when you’re in tech, people are like, “Oh, I’m going to call you for everything.” It’s like that guy that has a truck. All of a sudden, all your friends are always moving. But he called me and said, “Hey, I got this thing from Costco. Can you help me set it up?” And I’m like, “This is cool. What is this? I didn’t know these were out yet,” you know, kind of thing. So I love that. If you can take what you learn from residential and figure that out to make the individual consumer happy, I think that just makes it so much easier to figure out the business side of lessons learned. It certainly does, certainly does.

So let’s talk about, you know, this is about I think you guys have some very interesting verticals, niches. So I want to get into that a little bit. So talk to me about industries, verticals that Ooma is mostly working with, and what are some of the challenges that you guys are solving over there? Yeah, and we’re horizontal, of course, like everybody is in the space. But what we’ve come to realize is there was some gravitation that occurred initially with the platforms and the certain verticals. There was a bit of an aha moment for us to go build deeper in that. So we found a lot of success in the retail vertical, insurance agents, believe it or not, healthcare, where we’ve built integrations like in the Next Health, which is focused on dentists, and really automating a lot of the workflows for them, and Screen Pop becomes really interesting, to hospitality, which is a really fascinating space, because they’re so far behind on the conversion over to cloud, and it just didn’t make sense for years and years for them. So that’s a burgeoning market, even though we consider UCaaS more generally, fairly mature at this point. And we have our eyes set on some other spaces, there’ll be another integration coming out later this fall. So really strengthening that story. So it’s more than just, hey, here’s a phone system to these customers. But here’s how it really helps with business process flow, customer experience is big. So you think of the case of the dentists, pop up visits and balance due and all that. So there’s a lot of fascinating opportunity here around integrations that really add value, frankly, to customers. Yeah, you know, I think that’s a that hits home for a lot of our partners of that we see a lot of people provider side struggle with hospitality. And so you guys, it’s awesome to see you guys doubling down on that. Can we unpack that for just a second when it comes to hospitality? And you know, the title of this has integrations in it. So I got to go into the integrations a little bit. What are what are some of those integrations that you know, if partners hear this, we do this really well, help us unpack that. Yeah, and so you look at hospitality in particular, and bear in mind for this space, a lot of them are majority of them are still on on prem PBX is my tell systems from years ago, any see some Avaya. And it didn’t make financial sense. It’s a bit of an odd case, because they may be a lot of seats, but most of those are rooms, and nobody really uses the phone in the rooms, but legally, they’re required have phones in there for emergency purposes. And so the, you know, the first bit was a financial model that recognizes that situation for them front office back office reception that’s all normal UCaaS stuff, but you have to deal with the rooms in a really cost effective way, often with lots of analog, for instance. And then the second thing is all of these on prem systems were integrated into property property management systems. So, check in.

And you want to be able to reset voicemail change caller ID on it, the cleaning staff will actually go to the phones and hit codes to indicate room clean so there’s a bunch of specific workflow around this segment that is really critical and expect. And so for us we actually built an integration into jazzware which is a middleware provider that integrates into practically every property management system out there. And so it makes this transition really really easy for property owners in the hospitality space to migrate and they want to move right they recognize we’re really behind the times, and it’s expensive now to have to call somebody out to do moves ads and changes on my on prem PBX and turnover is high so you’re constantly retraining people. There’s a lot of benefit to a cloud consumption model for someone like that. Yeah, is it do you find that jazzware solves most of the PMS integration needs that you that you have or are there any other integrations that you go out we got to get to this one here this one here this one here or is that the one should we just focus on if jazzware integrates into it. Problem can be solved. That that’s the one and it’s it’s frankly why we elected to have the partnership with jazzware because they’ve done this for years with all the PMS vendors. And so it just made it easy instead of having to create into 25 different solutions, you just do it through jazzware and you know the use case on our side is relatively straightforward right you want all the call detail records to flow up so you can build for long distance if they choose to do that, reset caller ID voicemail wake up calls cleaning staff codes etc. So it’s it’s great.

Let’s talk about the evolution of the telco side of the world.

You know we we pots lines are still around they are still cranking and look at just honestly I mean it. We see what we want to happen in this space and the time we wish it would happen in modernization and we realize it just takes a lot longer than we’re expecting things are going to take. So this is created this huge drive for pots replacement right which you guys have a great offering at so talk to me about what are you seeing in the market because you know obviously just generally but then when your niche in hospitality you see a lot. And how do you guys help with that was what’s the product what’s the strategy. Yeah, it’s it’s a fascinating space and we first became aware of it, three and a half years ago, and it was in discussions with some retailers in the northeast and Verizon was going through deprecation of copper at that time converting over to fiber folks were paying 40 to $60 a month for a copper line, and started to run into issues with certain specialty devices and prices were starting to inch up so it’s a bit of an aha moment for us because we have all the pieces in the portfolio. We’ve been doing cellular connectivity as well. So we cobbled all that together into a unified solution called air dial, and you fast forward and some interesting things have happened since then. Most importantly, two things in 2019. The first is the FCC allowed the incumbent carriers to deprecate the old copper network at their base, there’s no mandate on time frame. So it’s totally up to what they want to do. More importantly, they gave them what’s called forbearance. So previously the lines were regulated into the C like competitive local exchange market, all that went away. And so now the incumbent likes are going pretty crazy on price increases, and they’re doing it for two reasons one to get revenue back from churn, frankly into is a forcing function for customers. So it’s not uncommon for us to run into customer accounts that are paying 400 to $600 a month for a pot line, and it’s just going to continue to go up. It’s really crazy and we have some extreme examples that are $1,000. And so the problem here is a lot of the easy situations to migrate have moved over to VoIP. I mean, they have been doing that for years. And so you’re left with millions of lines and businesses that are a lot of specialty devices out there, things that are space historically said, we’ll just go put those on a pot slide. We don’t have anything to do with it. And so it’s things like commercial burglar, fire panels, elevators, blue light safety phones, there’s a whole bunch of gate entry building entry systems, SCADA systems, we see sensors, CO2 sensors, so it’s pretty wild. And the issue now is there’s a risk factor for a lot of organizations.

If your pots line stops working, for instance, fire inspector comes in and it’s your fire panel or elevator, you can have your certificate of occupancy revoked on that building. And then secondly, there’s a really compelling ROI story now. It’s a bit of a slam dunk if they’re paying that much for their lines and they know that it’s only going to continue to increase. So in the last six months, we’ve seen a real shift in awakening, frankly, in the market, in particular with much larger organizations. So you get into companies that have thousands of lines. They recognize we don’t want to be the last one standing here trying to solve for this. The risk is unacceptable. So we need to get ahead of this and plan that migration for all of these devices. So it’s a really great time to jump in the space. And frankly, you can look like a hero because you’re saving them so much with a solution. So it’s really fascinating. And there’s a lot of great values. Our solution is fully cloud managed. There’s an SD-WAN technology that’s coming in shortly, cellular and wireline connectivity. You can get notifications via SMS and email, which you couldn’t get on POTS lines. So there’s a whole bunch of really neat additions for folks as they make this migration. And it’s different than you guys, too. This is a set it and forget it situation. You’re not going and mucking with settings after you’re in. It’s a device that needs a POTS line and that’s it. So you get the project in. They’re going to keep it for a really long time because they don’t touch these devices. It doesn’t make sense. I mean, I hope what everybody’s seeing out of this and hearing out of this is that you guys really do have a well-rounded product suite and you’re continuing to expand it. I mean, yes, it is. It is not just UCaaS There is a lot more here to unpack than that. I mean, it’s funny the things that you mentioned that this solves for. You know, when you talk about blue light phones, you talk about just analog lines, you talk about elevators, you talk about alarms, all these things and lack of notifications. We get requests for these things, very a la carte and very random. So it’s awesome to see all of these things kind of come together. And then, oh, by the way, we have killer hospitality integrations and financial modeling. Oh, by the way, if we do all of the traditional UCaaS things that you would expect as well. So really well, I think really well rounded out portfolio. So good stuff there. Yeah. And really meaty opportunity. And here’s kind of a good example.

Folks, companies are looking at the standalone, of course, but as they’re going through migrations, it’s been curious for us. A Fortune 100 company brought in through one of our partners and they’re going through a conversion from Avaya Teams.

And through that project, they suddenly realized we have about 10,000 pot slides across all of our facilities. Teams isn’t going to solve for that. We have to do something at the same time to fully shut down everything else. So it’s a great attachment when you’re going in and talking about UCaaS to have the same conversation around what are you going to do with all these pot slides? Some may be running through your on-prem PBX or still have one. Yeah. I mean, is there anything I do want to go into to kind of the meat of a deal or an opportunity? Is there anything that you see or kind of you’ve uncovered as you go into one of these? Let’s maybe talk a little bit about a typical deal that you help with. What I like to hear here in this part is things don’t always end the way they start. And it might be, “Hey, Chris, I’ve got this one thing.” And then you get into it and you go, “My gosh, you’ve got 25 problems that we probably could help you solve.” And so the hard part becomes, “Oh my gosh, how do we deal with that? How do we phase in the implementation of this?” So maybe just walk us through a deal that you got brought into. What was the problem? And then kind of how did that come to fruition on the outcome?

Yeah, absolutely. So here’s a good one that’s in the retail space on pots. And we should talk about hospitality too, because that’s obviously different. But company has fire, commercial burglar, and then either elevator or fax, believe it or not, is still a big use case here too. And prices were going up. They had some locations where the lines were being decommissioned out there. So it’s a competitive local exchange carrier that’s just shutting it off. And they just couldn’t run the risk. And they’re paying a fair amount for the lines in that particular case. And what’s interesting is, one, a lot of folks don’t recognize the compliance requirements around life safety systems like fire. There are very specific rules around fire panels and how those can operate over devices like ours.

And 70% of the panels are, what I’d like to say, more modern. They can use a standard called contact ID. But inevitably, in every environment, they have old panels that operate like modems. And that’s particularly challenging that a lot of customers don’t recognize. The other piece is inventory. So oftentimes, they haven’t looked at this stuff in years and years, or the person who handled it retired. And they just kept paying the bills. So getting your arms around a full inventory, including lines that aren’t in use. And we run into that often too. And this is a great opportunity for the channel to come in and do some coaching, kind of, Tim on the whole thing. But, you know, save them money on lines that they’re not paying for. And then the last is, there’s a bit of fear around it because you’ve wound up with IT kind of owning these types of systems where it typically was telephony, voice team or facilities even. So, you know, they think that it’s more complicated and complex than it is. And again, it’s not like a UCaaS deployment, we’re doing all these call routing rules, handling contact center, for instance, it’s just physical wiring. You know, you’re having to touch 66 blocks or 110 blocks, for instance, but it’s all very pragmatic and easy to plan out. And when you’re touching thousands of locations, it does take time. It’s the other thing that folks don’t realize you’re not going to do this in two months. But once it’s all said and done, then they can just move on to the next project.

On the hospitality side, it’s interesting for them, often we come in because they’re concerned about the cost of that on-prem PBX their PRIs, believe it or not, are going up and they just don’t want to band-aid a PBX anymore with SIP, if support SIP. And again, the cost structure was important for the room. So having a really attractive model for handling the rooms is critical. And then again, maintaining that property management system integration and making it turnkey and easy. So, you know, high density analog gateways, which are two really important in that sort of setting.

They want to be more modern. And it’s easier with smaller properties too. You get into big corporate-owned chains, longer decision-making cycle there, of course, but you’ve got a smaller group that owns 50 hotels, 100 hotels. They can move much more rapidly. But great, great story for them. Yeah. Are you just curious, are you finding out with some of those high density analog situations? Are you finding out that you can still just leverage the inside wiring and tie it into your platform and all as well? Yeah, yeah. In many cases. And also, funny thing, so years ago, I remember these guys from Shorto, this company called Firebridge, that would allow you to leverage existing copper wiring, three wiring, and run IP phones over. We run into that too, where they just don’t have Cat5 or Cat6 into some areas and they want to put an IP phone in. So they’re just fascinating environments. It’s like looking back in time, 20 to 30 years ago, nothing’s really changed.

Good stuff. All right. Final couple thoughts here. So again, the audience are out of our partners here. Maybe it’s partners that haven’t tackled this segment or aren’t tackling UCaaS at all and maybe are in something adjacent. So I love, my favorite advice to give is here are the questions to ask. I know they’re not the end all be all, but it is a little bit of a, how do I step in to just uncover if there’s opportunities. And when I get interested information or interested parties, I can say, oh yeah, great. I’ve got people, right? I’ve got engineers at Telerus. I’ve got resources on the Ooma team. I can bring some folks back in to help. So help us out with the front end of that. What are some of the top best three, four questions you can give partners about how to have this conversation and uncover? Yeah, yeah. Again, depends on the solution. So on the Airdial front, great first question is, what are you doing? Are you aware of what’s happening with copper lines? And can I get a copy of your bill to look at? Because they’re going away and you have a real risk factor here and I’d like to help you through the journey of a great ROI on this investment.

And then the second is understanding the risk profile for life safety systems as well. Do you have elevators in your environment? Do you have fire panels? And making sure that you’re not going to get in trouble with the fire inspector. And it’s a pretty easy conversation when you start that way and you know that you’re going to wind up saving the money and keep them in compliance. On the hospitality front, you know, similarly, you can go into the hotel and see but you know what are you doing with your old PBX? How much are your bills going up for PRIs? What’s it like with turnover in your environment? How do you make changes in that environment to the system given that turnover? And when you’d like to be on a more modern cloud solution that keeps us all really simple for you. And so those are all good initial starting points on conversation. And of course, you can reach out to or our channel chief, Kathy Mazza. Obviously, you guys, we’re all here to help people through that journey and make sure you’re asking the right questions and max stop you in it. But again, great opportunity in both of these segments because they’re early days of the conversion cycle. Final question, then let’s let’s look out here. Let’s think about the future and kind of what the opportunity is out there. Help me understand from your perspective. I think you’ve helped us uncover now, right? If I go take your advice and am I running with that for the next 12 months? Do you see any kind of different evolutions coming in that you want partners to consider? Is it just no double down on what I gave you and do that for the next 12 months or, you know, any other innovations that you kind of want to allude to?

Yeah, obviously for these two segments, there’s going to be a long tail conversion cycle on them. So they’re both great to go after. You set those aside and look at our space more broadly. AI obviously is coming into play and there are use cases that will be interesting. In particular, we’ve got a company that’s building with us on our platform in the retail space. It’s called Deflection to remove the cost of front of house staffing, basically, if you think of restaurants. So they’re not answering basic questions on orders, etc. So that’s a great use case for general entities outside of the contact center. And then the other thing I’d leave you with is Microsoft is obviously on everybody’s mind, the space and Teams is a fantastic solution for a knowledge worker environment. They’re doing great in the enterprise. But the reality is for the likes of Teams, it’s just not palatable for smaller organizations. They’re not going to pay a Microsoft partner to come in and do a complex installation. And again, being an old server network guy, I have an Office 365 account, if you go in and attempt to configure voice in Teams, your head will explode the way that they’ve done it. And so it really leaves this nice white space, frankly, down market in the SMB segment. Go get it because they want something turnkey, simple, very easy. That’s all they care about. And that’s not going to change for the foreseeable future. I just don’t see Microsoft simplifying this enough anytime soon. Yeah, yeah, couldn’t agree more. Your head will explode if you do try to go configure it. It’s possible. We think people have done it on their own. We don’t know where they are yet. And we haven’t put them into captivity to study them. But yeah, it’s definitely a little more complex than an admin interface than I expected it to be right out of the gate for sure. Yes, it is. Awesome stuff. All right, Chris, my man, that wraps us up for today. I really appreciate you coming on, dude. Perfect. Thanks for having me, Josh.

All right, everybody, that wraps us up today. Chris Burgy VP of Corporate Development at Ooma I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus And this is Next Level BizTech.