Partner Success Story: How Folkerson Communications was able to solve customer’s challenges with UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES

Introducing UNIVERGE BLUE® Early Adopters Series – NEC Corporation of America (NEC) honors Channel Partners who were early adopters of UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES and are improving customer care, employee engagement, and business operations. Hear the stories of why our early adopters chose the UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program and why partners recommend UNIVERGE BLUE for their customers.

The Background

From the time founder Greg Folkerson began his career as technical writer in 1976, Folkerson Communications was built around providing exemplary service in all facets of communications to customers in the Central Texas and Austin area. Greg’s commitment to customer service and employee training has positioned Folkerson as an industry leader.

The company offers 5 key services — Phone/VoIP, Carrier Services, Network Solutions, Structured Cabling and 24/7 Customer Service — and handles everything from purchasing and deployment to networking and troubleshooting.

Folkerson Communications became an authorized NEC Channel partner almost 25 years ago, and for several decades that meant providing clients with NEC’s on-premises communication servers and IT technology. Around 2015, Folkerson responded to a growing demand for VoIP and non-traditional communications technology.

I recently met with Greg Folkerson to discuss the partnership with NEC and his experience being an early adopter of the New Generation UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES.

The Challenge

As cloud and hosted solutions grew in popularity, Folkerson knew that it needed a rock-solid cloud solution that would provide the reliable and dependable services that his clients had come to associate with Folkerson. Before UNIVERGE BLUE, Folkerson tried other cloud vendors, but finding a highly reliable solution that met Folkerson’s stringent standards, and one that allowed them to own their customer relationships, proved to be nearly impossible. NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Customer Ownership Partner Model was unique in allowing Folkerson to maintain full ownership of billing, bundling, adding services, and supporting a customer’s environment — preserving the customer confidence upon which Folkerson has built its reputation.

Greg Folkerson explains some of the challenges he faced with other cloud providers, “The industry is changing. There are now non-interconnect companies selling voice services, and many of these vendors do not understand that for most of Folkerson Communications existence we were a traditional interconnect company – we have technicians, we roll trucks, we train customers – and we built a reputation around providing this type of hands-on customer service. While selling cloud services has immensely simplified the programming and implementation, the need for human-like customer service has not gone away, and that is what our customers expect from us. NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program has been great for us because it allows us to own our customer relationships, and NEC is always there to provide significant sales, marketing, and service support. NEC always answers our questions and is always there when we need them.”

Greg continues, “Our customers trust us and the relationship we have built with them over the years. It was imperative that we offer a reliable and dependable solution that meets our customers’ needs and one that reinforces our reputation of providing exceptional customer support.”

The Solution

Now Folkerson Communications sells UNIVERGE BLUE® CONNECT – NEC’s Unified Communications As A Service (UCaaS) solution and UNIVERGE BLUE® ENGAGE – NEC’s Contact Center As A Service (CCaaS) solution. Unlike other providers, UNIVERGE BLUE has allowed Folkerson to maintain their customer relationships and expand their service offerings into existing and new areas of their customers’ businesses.

While customers certainly enjoy ENGAGE’s full-featured contact center (CCaaS) capabilities and CONNECT’s (UCaaS) features, which includes a full-featured phone system, video/web conferencing, team chat, file sharing & backup — Greg says the flexibility and simplicity that UNIVERGE BLUE provides is key. “Many of our customers found it challenging to manage the complexities associated with maintaining a phone system in multiple locations – with UNIVERGE BLUE, we were able to solve these challenges by offering our customers a centralized, fully managed, and scalable phone system hosted in the cloud.”

Greg continues, “UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT has reduced complexity for our customers, minimized telecom costs, improved communication and collaboration, and even enabled remote work environments, which would have been difficult to do with a hardware-based solution.”

On Folkerson’s end, the UNIVERGE BLUE Administrative Portal has allowed Folkerson to easily monitor and troubleshoot customers’ voice services and contact center features. Greg was able to retrain his existing staff to handle UNIVERGE BLUE UCaaS and CCaaS implementations.

“Because of the competitive solutions UNIVERGE BLUE offers, the great sales, marketing and service support NEC provides coupled with the ability to set our own margins, we are able to focus more on selling and building relationships with our customers and less on other ancillary activities often associated with hardware that cut into our profits. The margins with BLUE are very attractive, and it didn’t take long to adjust to a monthly recurring revenue model.” Folkerson explains.

The Result

Folkerson Communications is now an exclusive NEC dealer, “Becoming an exclusive NEC dealer was a no-brainer decision based on the success we have seen with NEC’s hardware solutions and now with the business growth we are seeing with UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES.”

Folkerson Communications is embracing a new role – a complete cloud technology provider who offers end-to-end cloud solutions, committed to being a trusted advisor, adding value across every customers’ lifecycle. Greg notes, “The UNIVERGE BLUE Cloud partnership has allowed us to keep pace with the external marketplace and everchanging demands of our customers. We are starting to see significant growth in our cloud-business and do not see it slowing down any time soon.”

NEC and Folkerson will continue to partner together to provide solutions to customers’ unique needs. The future of Folkerson’s business includes a combination of both cloud-based and on-premises solutions, creating a hybrid IT and UC portfolio that balances the scalability and flexibility associated with cloud and the security associated with hardware. NEC will continue to be an integral part of what Folkerson does in the IT and Communications space.

NEC is committed to providing Channel Partners the opportunity to expand their offerings with customers and profit from delivering cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions. If you are a technology provider who is interested in partnering with a market leader who helps build on capabilities to drive sustainable and profitable growth, reach out to an NEC representative today or visit www.univergeblue.com/partners.

For any questions about the program or to meet with a UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program Representative, submit your information and we will get back to you shortly.

MDCOM Discusses the UNIVERGE BLUE Partnership and Explains How Selling Cloud Services Benefits Business

Introducing UNIVERGE BLUE® Early Adopters Series – Where NEC Corporation of America (NEC) honors Channel Partners who were early adopters of UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES and are improving customer care, employee engagement, and business operations. Hear the stories of why our early adopters chose UNIVERGE BLUE for their customers.

MDCOM was first incorporated in 1979 and currently employs staff with over two centuries experience in business communications and technologies.

I recently met with Eric Lutz, President and CEO of MDCOM to discuss the partnership with NEC and his experience being an early adopter of the New Generation of UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES, which is NEC’s portfolio of cloud services.

MDCOM has a long and rich history of offering NEC’s on-premises communications platforms and systems including NEC’s UNIVERGE® SV9000 and the SL2100 Communications Systems. As a long-standing NEC Channel Partner, the decision to be an early adopter of the New Generation of UNIVERGE BLUE was an easy one. Eric explained, “Based on the level of attention we have received over the years and the success our business has seen from selling NEC’s hardware solutions, expanding our relationship with NEC was an easy decision – so we adopted UNIVERGE BLUE as soon as it was released – we came on right out of the gate”.

The Challenge

MDCOM had previously offered hosted telephony to their customers but realized that there were some significant disadvantages to the vendor they chose. Eric described, “The problem that we ran into is that there was way too much heavy lifting based off our infrastructure. We also noticed that we were gaining customers very easily, but we would lose those customers just as easily”. MDCOM wanted to own more of the customer relationship and maintain a strong and close bond with customers, like the way they do with their hardware customers. They wanted to do so without being overwhelmed with backend IT management and implementations.

The Solution: NEC’S UNIVERGE BLUE COUD SERVICES Partner Program

  1. The Ability to Choose a Revenue Model
    Eric appreciated the three options of partner models that NEC allowed him to choose from, but ultimately decided to go with the Revenue Share partner model which allows Channel Partners to stay involved with the customer and even set the sell prices for each customer. “As you know it doesn’t matter if you are selling hardware, software, or services, the technology industry is competitive, so you really have to be aware of your market and your price points. We’re able to adjust our price points based on the market demands with the Revenue Share Model. I think that is number 1 in terms of advantages,” Eric explained. By being able to adjust the margin on the monthly revenue, UNIVERGE BLUE has provided MDCOM’s sellers with more attractive margins and better commissions.
  2. Easily Integrated into all Business Environments
    Trying to integrate hardware into customer environments has become increasingly more complex and challenging. According to Eric, “When you talk about IP Communications and networking multiple systems, there is a great deal of complexity which forces you to continually upgrade your technician skills- but as much as you do- you are always turning the corner to a new issue”.

    After explaining some of the challenges MDCOM faced with being a hardware provider, Eric went on to highlight ease-of-use and simplified management that UNIVERGE BLUE has to offer. Eric expressed, “[UNIVERGE BLUE] CLOUD has been a breath of fresh air from the technical and implementation perspective. We now have insight down to the button level of a customer’s end points. We can control the users, passwords, automated attendants, time zones, and call recording. We log in from anywhere and we have insight into every single customer and user device, and we can make changes or add services for a customer at any time.”

  3. A Better Bond with Customers
    Eric compared the relationship that he now has with his UNIVERGE BLUE customers to the relationship that he has with his hardware customers. When you provide hardware to a customer, you are with them for a very long time due to the long lifespan of on-premises systems, NEC’s in particular. With UNIVERGE BLUE, MDCOM was able to maintain a strong bond with their customers, like the bond they have as a hardware provider. Being able to provide the first line of support and continue to manage the relationship with the customer has created a “stickier” long-term relationship with customers, according to Eric.
  4. Feature Capabilities and Easy Implementation
    Another aspect of UNIVERGE BLUE that has benefitted MDCOM and their customers is the ease of implementation when it comes to feature enhancements. With on-premises hardware, if a customer wanted to add a feature or update endpoints, the process could be highly labor intensive and expensive. With cloud services, Eric can simply go into the UNIVERGE BLUE management portal to add any specific feature to every endpoint in a customer location as well as scale up or down as needed. “That type of feature invigoration has really been a huge plus. The deployment could not have been simpler,” Eric said.

    MDCOM launched UNIVERGE BLUE in April 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic lock downs. During this time, MDCOM did not have their normal complement of field technicians out on the road, but according to Eric, they were still able to deploy systems. “Phones were getting drop shipped to customer locations and it was very easy for them to plug in the instruments; we did everything in the back office. Being able to install over a dozen systems without having a technician cross a customer’s doorway was a huge benefit to us,” Eric explained.

  5. Quick and Painless Quoting
    With the BLUE quoting tool, the ability to provide a customer with a very professional looking proposal with accurate pricing is seamless according to Eric. Adding one-time services and/or monthly services is as easy as a click of a button. Once you create and confirm the quote, the tool will automatically send your customer proposal via e-doc, the customer signs the doc, which then allows the sales rep to immediately create and provision the account. “It’s just been one of the most seamless deployments that we’ve been able to be a part of,” according to Eric.

The Result

MDCOM has found that selling UNIVERGE BLUE is very easy. It’s robust feature and solution capabilities make NEC a one-stop-shop for fully integrated cloud services. “Customers appreciate having everything integrated into one single application. UNIVERGE BLUE has solved much of the application fatigue that customers are facing as they switch back from countless different applications daily”. In addition to this, “People know that NEC offers the most reliable and secure communications and IT solutions, they trust the name brand, and they trust that they will be taken care of with NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES. When I walk into a customer account that has used NEC in the past, they are excited to have a conversation about NEC”. Overall, NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES has allowed MDCOM to improve their revenue stream, expand their solution offering into customer accounts, and control their customer relationships.

“The UNIVERGE BLUE launch has been the best rollout that I have been a part of as an NEC partner for well over 10 years now. NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE has been our easiest adoption of any new program, product, or solution by far.”
– Eric Lutz, President of MDCOM.

What Will the Future Bring for NEC UNIVERGE BLUE and MDCOM?

MDCOM will continue to sell UNVERGE BLUE CLOUD SERVICES while owning their customer relationship in addition to offering NEC’s on-premises portfolio as they adjust to a Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) model with cloud. MDCOM is excited to see what other features and solutions are released within the UNIVERGE BLUE CLOUD Portfolio down the road.

For more information on how you can become a UNIVERGE BLUE Channel Partner and begin realizing the unlimited benefits and high-margins that come with being a cloud provider, visit https://www.univergeblue.com/partners today. For any questions about the program or to meet with a UNIVERGE BLUE Partner Program Representative, submit your information to us and we will get back to you shortly.

2020 Disruptions Propel NEC’s Digital Transformations

NEC’s 2020 Innovations Increase Safety, Business Continuity and Digital Transformations

Challenging and chaotic are choice words to describe 2020. But during the healthcare crisis and weather emergencies, everyday heroes emerged.

We applaud the frontline workers, healthcare providers and first responders. We also recognize IT and telecommunications professionals, network administrators and data managers who supported critical technology infrastructures.

The immense disruptions in 2020 propelled innovations in the way we live and work. While NEC is continuously advancing in the areas of communications, security, collaboration platforms and customer experience, we redoubled our efforts last year.

Safer, secure contactless touchpoints
As we move forward, public health and safety remain top priorities. For individuals and organizations, technologies that support both frictionless access and social distancing measures are now more important than ever.

That’s the reason we prioritized development of “touchless” touchpoints to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Our revolutionary approach to Digital Transformation (DX), NEC I:Delight, includes an advanced, secure and scalable platform to support contactless, yet robust customer experiences.

Although we began our journey toward touchless technology long before the current crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces our commitment to continue advancing our biometric and AI solutions for aviation, immigration, retail and hospitality industries, healthcare, education and more.

Screening travelers to ensure health and security
A highlight of 2020 is the Hawaii Department of Transportation selecting an NEC-led team for deployment of a thermal screening solution at all five state-run airports.

NEC NeoFace® Thermal Express leverages thermal sensing and facial recognition technologies to detect elevated body temperature (EBT) and alert screeners to anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or greater.

In addition, we introduced a partnership with SITA, a global provider of IT and communications infrastructure for 80% of the world’s airports. NEC’s Advanced Identity Matcher – Edge Source (AIM-ES) technology uses the most accurate face matching algorithms as validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In combination with our NeoFace algorithm, we deliver an all-in-one solution capable of creating recognition galleries and templates as well as providing identity matching and scoring. It easily integrates with the SITA Smart Path whole-journey identity management solution, which creates a specialized application for airport travelers. Because NEC’s I:Delight uses an individual’s unique ID, it is more secure than other online money transfer services.

New generation cloud communications and collaborations
The way businesses work has changed. Corporations must be flexible and ready to adapt to teleworking at a moment’s notice.

For 120 years, NEC has pioneered Information and Communications Technologies, including Smart Enterprise cloud computing and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). As the current global market share leader in on-premises business phone systems, we were pleased to announce a global partnership with Intermedia, a leading provider of cloud-based communications solutions.

Our collaborations with Intermedia launched a new generation of our UNIVERGE BLUE® cloud communications portfolio. The new UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT and UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE solutions are reliable and easy to deploy, while remaining highly scalable and extremely cost-effective.

In addition to advancing business continuity, more employees will be able to work safely from home while increasing their productivity. The new UNIVERGE BLUE is also easy for channel partners to sell, install and support.

Resellers, check out 8 Great Reasons to Become a UNVERGE BLUE Channel Partner.

Reduce telecommunications costs
With the surge in network connectivity requirements, businesses are looking for ways to control costs while maintaining reliability and security.

We launched Network Connect to help cut enterprise telecommunications costs up to 30% or more annually. The intelligent call routing solution uses AI and machine learning to establish the most optimal call path from hundreds of global carriers.

You don’t need to invest in additional infrastructure or change anything about your business operations. NEC’s Network Connect is the first call-routing solution that gives enterprise access to the wholesale telecom market.

NEC Visionary Week
Another area that we reimagined in 2020 is NEC’s iEXPO. NEC Visionary Week was a virtual event packed with powerful insights to fuel future decisions. Featuring global problem solvers and tech influencers, the agenda included ideas for conquering COVID-19 and carving out a new normal, harnessing AI, 5G and digital transformations to improve economies, business operations and our societies.

If you missed Visionary Week in December, you can still watch the enlightening content on-demand until January 30th. Click here to sign-up now.

As we look forward to 2021 and beyond, we thank you for your partnership. Our commitment to innovations, digital transformation, safety, security and business continuity remains steadfast. Working together, we can build greater agility and resilience in enterprise systems to create a healthier future. Happy New Year!

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NEC Visionary Week: Insights from Global Problem Solvers and Tech Influencers

For 20 years, NEC’s iEXPO showcased solutions for society, attracting more than 30,000 attendees from around the globe.

This year, NEC is reimagining the iEXPO and introducing NEC Visionary Week as a virtual event, Tuesday, December 1 – Friday, December 4, 2020. In addition, NEC is making the highly relevant conference free to attend as a gift to clients and industry colleagues. With greater access, safety and convenience, the flagship forum is expected to draw a record number of attendees worldwide.

Agenda Highlights: December 1 and 4, 2020
Packed with powerful insights that will fuel future decisions, registration is open now for NEC Visionary Week. Be inspired by ideas for conquering COVID-19 and carving out a new normal, harnessing AI, 5G and digital transformation to improve economies, business operations and our societies.

Key sessions featuring solutions from NEC Corporation of America, include:

How Star Alliance Biometrics Will Significantly Improve the Travel Experience
December 1, 4:50 – 5:25 p.m. CST
This fireside chat spotlights the newest technologies elevating customer experience, while focusing on safety and security to rekindle the love of travel and restore travelers’ confidence in the post-COVID 19 world. Learn how Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance, and NEC are working together to speed airport transit touchpoints, including seamless, touchless airline check-ins.

Join an enlightening discussion about the latest facial recognition technology and encrypted personal identification. Find out how the biometrics solutions protect personal data and maintain compliance as the customer journey becomes more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Speakers:
Jeffrey Goh, Chief Executive Officer, Star Alliance
Raffie Beroukhim, SVP & Chief Experience Officer, NEC Corporation of America
Jason Van Sice, Vice President, NEC Corporation of America

Cloud Communications Helps U.S. Major League Soccer Club Bring Fans Back to the Stands- VIRTUALLY
December 4, 12:40 – 1:15 p.m. CST

Despite the pandemic, one Major League Soccer team has been able to stay connected with fans. How? Using advanced cloud communications solutions.

NEC and Intermedia Cloud Communications have partnered to bring cloud communications and collaboration solutions. From business phone and chat to video conferencing and file management, the solutions are flexible and scalable in bringing teams and people together.

Join the lively panel discussion about keeping fans engaged and excited! Experience the cloud services and how the tools empower communications and remote collaborations.

Speakers:
Michael Gold, Chief Executive Officer, Intermedia Cloud Communications
Ram Menghani, President, NEC Enterprise Communication Technologies Inc.

The robust speaker lineup also includes:

How Artificial Intelligence Will Conquer the Coronavirus, And Beyond
December 1, 11:35 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. CST

Keynote speaker, Dr. Michi Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics at City College of New York, says AI will conquer the coronavirus. Analyzing vast quantities of raw data from social media, cell phones, drones and search engines, AI will detect super-spreaders and stop the virus in its tracks. Dr. Kaku will describe the Fourth Stage in technology with artificial intelligence and biotechnology. Join us to find out why Dr. Kaku is promising a brighter and more prosperous economy and way of life!

5G Open vRAN: Delivering Innovative Digital Services & Sustainable Social Life
December 1, 3:30 – 4:20 p.m. CST

As 5G networks become more widely deployed, operators are looking at the Open & Virtualized RAN architecture to better support next-generation networks. Learn how Telefónica is creating social values based on Open RAN that will increase automation, bring services to market faster, improve security and enable business efficiencies.

Speakers:
Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology & Information Officer, Telefónica
Akihiko (Kiko) Kumagai, Senior Executive Vice President, NEC Corporation
Nozomu Watanabe, Senior Vice President, NEC Corporation
Mayuko Tatewaki, Service Provider Solutions General Manager, NEC Corporation

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NEC Future Creation Forum: New Commons – New Values Towards a Sustainable Future
December 1, 5:30 – 6:25 p.m. CST

Mr. Jeremy Rifkin, American economic and social theorist and author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, presents the “NEC Future Creation Forum.” Join an eye-opening discussion on the new value standards. Envision a future that achieves a prosperous human society, while maintaining a sustainable planet—beyond the next normal.

NEC Visionary Week will offer insights from global problem solvers, technology innovators and thought leaders. Join us to propel our world and industries forward!

For more information and to register, visit https://global-event.nec.com/nvw2020

A Message from the Office of Mark Ikeno, President and CEO of NEC Corporation of America

As events have unfolded this past week, many of us have gone through a spectrum of emotions. Sadness, anger, grief, frustration, and a strong desire for change all come to mind.

George Floyd’s death is unfortunately just one recent event in a long history of similarly tragic incidents across the country, and we recognize that the current increased focus on systemic racial justice issues is long overdue. We stand with those who are grieving and hurting and support those working to eradicate racial injustice in our society.

We understand that the brighter world we strive to orchestrate will never exist while systemic racism and other forms of social injustice continue to oppress the Black and other marginalized communities.

To those of you powerfully explicating and combatting these complex problems, we appreciate your work, we are paying attention, and we are committed to being part of the solutions.  Although we do not yet know exactly what those solutions will entail, we are listening, we are watching, and we are broadening and deepening our ongoing dialogue about the multifaceted issues at the intersection of racial justice, human rights, and technology.

To our law enforcement, first responder, and public safety customers who are dedicated to protecting and serving individuals of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations, we recognize the challenges you face and how difficult it must be to see so many of our communities so divided. We are committed to continuing to partner with you and the communities you serve to cooperatively ensure that our efforts to make society safer equally make society more just and inclusive.

We are here to support our employees, our customers, and all those taking a stand against injustice as we all band together, the way we must, to employ our individual and collective skills and resources to shape a better future for the world.

Sincerely,
Mark Ikeno
President & CEO
NEC Corporation of America