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.

NEC Welcomes Mike Lesko as Sr. Director of Government Technology & Services

Mike brings with him a diverse and prestigious work history and background within the public safety industry space, including service on numerous national policy boards, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board (APB), the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council as well as SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics.

Mike LeskoNECAM is proud to announce that Mike Lesko has joined our team as Senior Director of Government Technology and Services. Mike comes to us from the Texas Department of Public Safety, where he served as Division Director, overseeing the Law Enforcement Support Division (LESD).

His familiarity with NEC is unmatched. He has served as Chair of the AFIS Internet Board (recently renamed to International Biometrics Association—an annual conference of NEC AFIS/MBIS users), as well as being well known among our user community. We are excited to share that his role within NEC will concentrate on three strategic objectives:

  1. Strengthening our public safety and law enforcement product roadmap
  2. Enhancing ARS’ strategic direction of extending our services beyond identification bureaus.
  3. Representing NEC in key national and Federal policy boards.

Mike and his family live in Austin, Texas, where he enjoys cooking Texas barbeque, the occasional round of golf, and cheering on the Texas Longhorns.

Join us in welcoming Mike Lesko to the NEC team!

Leidos Rolls Out NEC Face Recognition at Alabama Army Post

Starting today, when drivers approach the gates of the secure Redstone Arsenal military base in Huntsville, AL., registered users will be able to pull up slowly, then pass right on through with virtually no stopping.

With the window rolled down, facial recognition technology will verify they are a registered user in the system and can access the probable future home of the U.S. Space Command.

The new access control system rolled out today, for more than 44,000 workers and guests who use the facility.

Special facial recognition lanes for single-occupancy vehicles, will be clearly marked and available to those who opt into Redstone’s automatic installation entry program in advance.

Once users are registered and authorized to use the facial recognition lanes to enter the base, they’ll be able to "buzz into" work, simply by approaching the gate at 3-5 mph with two car lengths between themselves and the vehicle in front, showing their face until the light turns green.

Redstone Arsenal is a key United States Army post, which serves as a critical military base for those across various government agencies including, the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and NASA. 

Like most federal facilities of this type, Redstone houses some of the most sensitive information and materials, including the nation’s missile and rocket programs and technology. As many personnel already have secret-level clearances, access control ends up being a regular task they must perform several times per day.

The new biometrics system allows them to minimize the time-consuming checks and gives security personnel an added tool to verify identity with greater assurances. Guards will still be in the loop to perform visual checks and verify vehicle occupancy.

Implemented at Redstone by NEC’s prime partner, Leidos, NEC’s biometric face recognition technology is used by organizations worldwide to help prevent fraud, secure public safety, and improve customer experience across a vast range of industries. NEC’s product quality is highly tested and recognized far and wide. Independent testing from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology repeatedly confirms NEC’s NeoFace recognition and matching capability as the world’s fastest and most accurate across all benchmarks and conditions, including on demographic differences like race and gender.

Test results from the recent Department of Homeland Security Biometric Technology Rally confirm that the system is able to achieve accuracy matching rates of 99.9 percent or higher.

The speed and reliability of facial recognition that NEC is known for comes from their ability to combine both real-time identification with verification and situation analysis resulting in faster decision making, preemptive security, and smoother delivery of services.

NEC is honored to leverage its technology to serve the hardworking servicemen and women who call Redstone Arsenal home. To read more about Redstone’s automatic installation entry program, you can visit Team Redstone’s Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @TeamRedstone.

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How Can a Visitor and Employee Management System Redefine Safety and Productivity as Your People Return to the Workplace?

In today’s security and highly health-conscious environment, businesses must offer a safe and comfortable experience for employees returning to work and visitors who will soon be entering on-site offices. In some areas, organizations are legally required to implement workplace policies to limit transmission of viruses to maintain healthy business operations and work environments.

While many businesses remain remote, those who decide to reopen do so with the health and safety of their staff and customers as their highest priority. Enabling contactless processes in your lobby can go a long way toward reducing the spread of infectious diseases and making your visitors and employees feel more comfortable as they enter your office building and check in.

NEC’s Robust Visitor and Employee Management System

NEC Front Desk Assistant (FDA) employee and visitor management system is an easy to use solution that manages the flow of on-site visitors and employees, from check-in to check-out, helping to create a safe and health-conscious environment for employees and visitors in your building.

Read on to learn how FDA is taking on a new role in safety and productivity at the workplace.

Thermal Scanning for Elevated Body Temperature

Many businesses are screening the temperature of employees and visitors to help detect and identify those that have fevers and may be sick – a high-contact and labor-intensive task. With Front Desk Assistant’s thermal tablet, this can now be automated, private and touch free.

FDA’s optional thermal tablets include a built-in thermal imaging camera to identify individuals with elevated temperatures. When the Front Desk Assistant application is loaded onto a thermal tablet, the application integrates with the tablet’s thermal imaging capabilities resulting in touch-free screening and temperature monitoring.

Pre-Registration

Allowing visitors to pre-register their visit helps prevent congestion of people in lobby areas, reduces unnecessary human interaction, and speeds up the overall check-in/out process for visitors and employees.

FDA offers pre-registration QR access codes for visitors, employees and other individuals who plan to enter your building. Visitor codes are valid for a single visit while employee and others can be set to never expire for touch-free single or repeat visits. Bulk invite preregistration can be sent to up to 500 people for large meetings and events.

Contactless Check-in and Check-Out

FDA utilizes NEC’s leading biometric facial recognition technology or QR codes along with thermal screening to provide safe, touchless and fast identification of employees, visitors, guests, patients and/or students entering an organization or event.

Those employees or visitors who have preregistered simply display their code or face to the tablet’s camera upon arriving at your building. Once the person is checked in, a notification is automatically sent to the person that they have come to meet with. Facial recognition and QR codes eliminate manual processes during check-in and out for a truly contactless check-in method.

Capacity Limits

Keeping track of how many individuals are in your facility is just as important as knowing who is in your facility. The Front Desk Assistant (FDA) allows you to input a maximum occupancy rate and keeps count of check-in activity. When the occupancy rate reaches the maximum number, alerts are immediately sent via Email and/or SMS. Additionally, at maximum occupancy no additional check-ins are permissible.

Activity Logs

Creating a more health-conscious environment in your organization includes defining the number of allowed individuals into the facility, capturing individuals’ temperatures, presenting company compliance agreements, tracking and monitoring access to a facility and keeping records of visitor’s and employees time spent on the premises. However, tracking all of these processes manually can be very time consuming and negatively affect your receptionist’s productivity.

NEC’s Front Desk Assistant records all visitor and employee entries and can easily be downloaded in a detailed report in Excel. This information is easily retrievable for occupancy compliance confirmation, employee management, and verification of visitor status. Easy to read dashboards delivers information instantly and accurately, helping to improve workplace productivity and safety.

Front Desk Assistant is the ideal solution for organizations with employees returning to the workplace that are committed to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the health and welfare of employees and visitors. With NEC’s Front Desk Assistant, you can offer peace of mind for your employees and visitors at your workplace.

If you would like more information about NEC’s Front Desk Assistant and how it can help your organization, reach out to your NEC representative today or visit NEC’s Front Desk Assistant website.

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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.