Telecom in Ten | Episode 1 | Quality Connections | Marketing & Product Line Management

Telecom in Ten | By Northland Communications Team

Stephany VanDyke – Product Line Manager | John Fazio – Marketing Manager

Welcome to Telecom in Ten, where we explore the quality connections between our cutting-edge technology, unparalleled service, reliable products, and you, our customer and community, as we continue to transform Telecom here at Northland Communications.

01. Introduction | (00:20)

John: Hey everyone, I’m John Fazio. I’m here at Northland Communications and I have the privilege of launching our Telecom in Ten podcast series—really focusing between what we do with our community, what we do with our technology, and how we engage with our customers. Today I’m here with Stephany VanDyke our Product Line Manager here at Northland Communications…Stephany how are you?

Stephany: I’m good, John how are you?

John: I’m good thank you, I’m really excited. So, let’s jump right into it. Stephany and I are working on a pretty interesting project we have here at Northland—how its going to impact where our technology is going and really what we’re doing competitively to figure out where we’re going to have the right value points and the touch points going forward with our product.

02. Working Anywhere | (01:00)

John: So, as we’re going into this conversation like a lot has changes in the last two years with the pandemic happening things are starting to look a bit more positively as we move forward, but how does that impact our technology?

Stephany: Certainly, the technology landscape has changed significantly over the last two years. I think that the silver lining around that was we had the technology and were offering the platforms in order to enable businesses to be mobile, to work remotely, to leverage that work from anywhere and mobility philosophy already.

03. Our Community | (01:35)

Stephany: Northland got really involved with the community and we had a period of time in the beginning of the pandemic where we actually offered those tools for free to any business, so you didn’t even have to be an existing Northland customer in order to leverage the video conferencing for example. We were giving the platform to any business who was struggling to find a way to continue their operations, and basically gave them the functionality just to support our community and just to stay involved and do our part in making sure that the ‘two-week curve’— we were going to be able to get through that as seamlessly as possible as a community not just as an organization.  

04. UCaaS | (02:20)

John: So that’s a really interesting point because they way Northland Communications has evolved in the past 120+ years or around 120 years in our existence—we were really known for our fiber network and some of the things that we were doing more locally, but we had already made some decisions you know strategically to go more to the cloud-based in what we were trying to do, so for the people who are listening, what does that mean? What does UCaaS mean? What does cloud-based communication mean? So, when these companies were jumping into this remote and we were helping them with the technology, but how we were capable of doing that and what does that communication platform really mean?

Stephany: Yeah, so, that’s a good point John. Historically, Northland had a reputation for being that legacy company and supporting our customers very customer-centric but also at times really like you said, focused on the connectivity, the phone lines, the internet connection into the building. So, within the last five years or so we’ve really dived into that UCaaS platform—that’s Unified Communications as a Service. So that’s essentially taking that connectivity that gives the business the ability to make and receive calls to the outside world.

05. Cloud Communication | (03:40)

Stephany: Basically deploying that functionality from the cloud. I know that’s a coin term, but previous to that, all of that technology was coming from a phone system, you know a premise-based piece of physical hardware that the business would purchase. And we would deploy that phone system within the business and manage it from their premise.

06. Features & Functions | (04:10)

Stephany: So, the beauty of UCaaS and Unified Communications is that we’re taking all of those little pieces—we’re basically bundling them together into a very seamless, hands-off solution for the customer—we’re integrating not only the phone call and traditional phone system functionality like voicemail, hold, transfer, you know all that traditional stuff, but also now allowing for those newer technologies that you mentioned that we’re leveraging through the pandemic—things like video conferencing, internal chat, external SMS messaging, and taking all these different communication ways for a business to communicate with their customers and unifying them.

07. Leading Technology | (04:50)

John: So like from a competitive perspective, and like from an analogy perspective—we’re going to bring some of these into it—when we talk about a Kleenex and asking for a tissue, it’s like you ask for a Kleenex—the brand domination of that brand. When the pandemic hit, everybody started to use Zoom. But I think what we really have to understand is that the technology is kind of the technology and when we developed our Business Unlimited, our UCaaS communication platform, is that the same capability as Zoom or Ring Central and what those competitors are providing?

Stephany: Yeah so with the rapidly changing landscape, it’s almost as if the features and the technology are a commodity right, so most of these platforms can really function the same way—it’s what do you want to get out of it and what do you want to get out of your partnership more importantly?

08. Quality Connections | (05:40)

Stephany: Where Northland has really had the opportunity to shine in that arena against the Ring Central, the Zoom, the 8×8—those bigger more global players, is going back to our previous conversation about historically what we’re known for. Just because we’ve branched into a new technology, doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our level of relationship building and our community, and the level of support that we provide our customers. We’re still a 24/7 support model for our customers, we still offer an on-sight install, professional services where we will come into your business—we will consult with you, and just trying to create a level of connection to our customers and a level of relationship that will really differentiate us from the big players.

John: Yeah that’s the personalization, you’ve hit that, and kind of speaking on that too, we have a dedicated account rep….that’s what’s really great for me when I’m coming into Northland and learning about the people, the third-generation family, and really what the McCarthy Family is doing is the Quality Connections between our customers and our communities. So, as we look at that and how we continue to evolve with the quality connections for our interdepartmental initiatives…so as the Product Line Manager, what does that look like—you’ve got to deal with all of the technicians, all the sales, marketing, management, operations—what does that look like in the product line world for Stephany?

09. Product Roadmap | (07:20)

Stephany: You know keeping them involved in those conversations up front is so important because when it comes time to go live with a product or to launch something out to the market, everyone has a comfort level with it. So the more comfortable we are, and the more confident we are with our product roadmaps and our product decision making—the better we’re going to be when we’re sitting across the table from a company trying to tell them how we can solve a problem for them, and the better we’re going to be when that first call comes in from a customer to support them effectively on that first call. The product roadmap is constantly evolving and it’s interesting because we’ve been in a very reactive position right, so we’re trying to meet a need constantly and trying to stay on top of what the world is doing around us and it’s actually a really cool place to be right now.

10. Looking Ahead | (08:05)

Stephany: Now we’re looking into the future, now we can truly gather strategic research and world and market and customer feedback about what’s next, and we can really come up with strong business cases about how we can stay ahead of the technology at this point. Looking into things for example, exciting next level things like we just launched a product called Teams Direct Routing where we’re able to provide some additional integration into Microsoft Teams. We can provide phone carrier functionality to customers who are already kind of married to that Teams application but just want to be able to leverage that as an actual phone too. So in addition to looking at the future of Microsoft Teams and the future of the Northland Business Unlimited platform and how those two platforms can interact with each other and what type of integration we can have there—I’m just really excited to be a in proactive position, and really discover what’s the problem that businesses in the world are facing today, and where can Northland fit in to help fix it for them.

John: Alright Stephany thank you for your time, this has been fun and hopefully we can continue to have these conversations moving forward. Thank you for watching Telecom in Ten!