New Calabrio VP of Strategic Partnerships reworking channel strategy to expand ecosystem presence

While Calabrio has been expanding its cloud presence with new partnerships with Contact Centre-as-a-Service providers, they are also leveraging their strategic platform and reseller partners and looking to expand into new kinds of platform markets.

Ross Daniels, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Calabrio

Last summer, Calabrio, which makes customer engagement software for contact centres, created a new position of VP of Strategic Partnerships and hired long-time Cisco exec Ross Daniels to fill it. Daniels had most recently been Senior Director of Collaboration Marketing for Cisco’s collaboration business. In his new role at Calabrio, where he reports directly to the CEO, he has a clearly defined strategy of expanding the company’s channels and routes to market over where they were selling before.

Calabrio has been in business as a separate company since 2007, when it was spun out of Cisco-focused systems integrator Spanlink Communications to focus on its current business.

“Spanlink had acquired a small Canadian company called Calabrio, and that name was used for the spinoff, but it was basically just a name,” Daniels said.

Today, Calabrio’s core offering is their Workforce Optimization [WFO] Suite, Calabrio ONE.

“It provides workforce management, quality management and analytics, the latter of which takes its knowledge from the voice of the customer,” Daniels said. “It can uncover insights from recordings, and track if agents are working correctly in the right application. The user interface is consistent and all the pieces work together nicely. Customers like the very intuitive nature of the interface and the way it presents information.”

Daniels indicated that Calabrio’s traditional business has been in what would be classified as the midmarket, but that they are trending upwards.

“We are really across the board in terms of segmentation,” he said. “The perception is that our sweet spot is the midmarket, and most of our clusters are in the midmarket, with 200-400 seat contact centres. However, we have some as small as 25-30 seats. Increasingly as well, in the last two to three years, we have been making a play into larger enterprise accounts with over 1000 users, and we have aspirations to go even further upmarket.”

Calabrio already has a broad go-to-market strategy, with many different types of channel relationships. About 80 per cent of their business is channel-driven today, if OEM business is included. One of those OEM relationships, with Cisco, is the single most important part of the business.

“We have a long-term OEM agreement with Cisco around their workforce optimization platform for SMBs,” Daniels said. “It accounts for a large percentage of our 5000 customers worldwide – between 3000 and 3500.”

Calabrio also has a channel program with 166 partners in it.

“They resell the Calabrio-branded product,” Daniels said. “Our two strategic platform vendors here are Cisco and Avaya, and in my role leading our strategic platforms, I make sure that our integrations with Avaya and Cisco around the on-prem contact centre market are correct. Many of our resellers are Cisco resellers or Avaya resellers. This channel is worldwide, but today more than 85 per cent are in North America. We will, however, engage in a big initiative in terms of European expansion.”

Daniels identified two more pieces of Calabrio’s channel strategy.

“We have a channel relationship with Cisco where we are on their price list,” he said. “We also now have a channel of Contact Centre-as-a-service [CCaaS] providers. We have agreements with Amazon Connect, Five9, Broadsoft and Serenova, some of which are OEMs, and some co-selling. It’s an increasing part of the business, as contact centres move from on-prem to cloud.”

Daniels is focused on further expanding Calabrio’s routes to market.

“The lion’s share of my work is making sure we have the right integrations and go-to-market with our strategic partners, but I’ve gotten involved with some of our strategic channel, the traditional VARs, who are becoming technology providers of a sort themselves,” Daniels said.

“We can be on a broader range of strategic platforms than we are today,” he added. “This would include areas like CRM and service management. We have done some things less formally to this point. The plan is to codify and formalize them, and expand our presence across more of the ecosystem.”

More presence in the growing cloud market and the CCaaS space is an obvious priority, but it’s not the only venue for expansion.

“Besides the cloud, the other key trend we want to take advantage of is the interest in the voice of the customer,” Daniels said. “CMOs care more and more about customer experience. We think we have a huge role to play in bringing that voice – literally – into some of those scenarios. We think CMOs will find what we capture and analyze and the insights we can provide outside the contact management centre chain to be incredibly valuable. CIOs and sales heads can all benefit from knowing more about what customers are saying.

“We are feeling very bullish about where the market is going,” Daniels emphasized.