By Ted Haugland, Eventus
Customer experience has become a critical differentiator for virtually every business today, and technology plays an important role in making that experience superior. In the past, companies may have been willing to change certain business processes to accommodate a new technology system that would improve the customer experience. Today, however, your customers are looking for integrated solutions that support their existing operational approach and customer experience.
Technology integrations aren’t new, but vendors have changed their capabilities to provide deeper integrations across more systems. This forces companies purchasing software to take a more thoughtful approach to purchasing and integration in order to provide a better user and customer experience.
Because of this shift in expectations, it will no longer be enough for VARs to sell software based solely on capabilities. Going forward, it will be increasingly important to sell the experience that your customers and your customers’ customers are looking for. This will require VARs to monitor the positioning of software solutions in the growing trend towards convergent technologies.
Where technologies converge
This technological convergence covers solutions that traditionally were only customer-facing or used by back-end operations. An underlying theme is the convergence of big data, advanced voice tools and channel convergence, particularly in voice technology.
For example, customer service operations are seeing a growing trend towards the convergence of voice and digital channels. Customer relationship management (CRM) vendors, AI vendors, and other technology companies are adding native voice capabilities that allow customers to leverage voice recognition in addition to their digital channel capabilities. Consolidating the voice/digital platform becomes easier and much less of a systems integration project than in traditional paradigms. As voice solutions become less specialized and more integrated with other channels, companies can simplify their operations and reduce the cost of their voice channel, which has traditionally been one of the highest costs in contact centers.
On the digital front, customers are moving away from using separate technology platforms to support specific customer channels. Integrated channel management breaks down traditional channel silos to create an improved customer journey, reduce net channel spend, and lower internal management costs across customer voice and digital channels.
While this trend continues to evolve, a case can be made for the provision of customer service functions such as authentication, call scoring, call coaching, and real-time rating by systems other than the CRM, even if for many companies, these functions are the most important. primary purpose of their CRM platforms in the first place. This shift may cause many businesses to rethink their operational approach to find ways to perform functions differently and more efficiently than previous technology stacks allowed. Value Added Resellers can play a key role in helping customers make this change.
A change in business approach
Traditionally, customers have led the search for technology integrations. VARs were expected to provide information on the availability of integrations, but it was up to the customer to purchase a technology solution, connect it, and then determine what capabilities the technology might be missing. To stay competitive, VARs will need to shift from selling a system to selling an experience.
The first step to making this change is to understand the experiences and behaviors of your customers (and, in some cases, your customers’ customers). With one-time investments over time, a client can fill various gaps with many separate systems to manage functions such as finance, HR, e-commerce, supply chain management, customer portals, etc Traditionally, these systems did not work well together. The result is a disjointed and unsatisfying experience for internal employees and external customers.
Today’s software solutions offer a greater ability to consolidate this technology stack for an improved user and customer experience, and at lower cost. As companies consider replacing or modernizing outdated desktop applications, they have an opportunity to do more than replace back-end capabilities. They can improve the overall user experience. Your clients will look to you for advice on the most effective solutions for this purpose.
Ask the right questions
There are a few key areas where VARs can provide information to customers looking for an improved system experience. To sell an enhanced experience, VARs can proactively encourage customers to ask the right questions upfront about technology integration. This means customers are no longer asking “Is there built-in system integration” and instead asking “What is the experience I want my customer to be?” And, based on that, “What does integration actually need to do?”
To help guide customers through the experience of using this software, VARs should be able to advise on what can be combined for an enhanced experience and what features can be leveraged to create better experiences. For example, a certain e-commerce system may not provide a great user experience, but when combined with portal technology through natural integration, it can provide valuable customization capabilities.
Another area where companies are struggling is adopting vendor-supported integrations. What many IT managers don’t realize is that they can’t create integrations once and then forget about them. They become an ongoing cost. Therefore, businesses need to be plugged into more natural integrations supported by vendors that support the customer experience they want to deliver.
With this new approach, VARs may find they can change their role from trusted supplier to trusted partner and build stronger relationships with their customers.
About the Author
Ted leads the CX/CRM delivery practice and brings over twenty years of large-scale IT and business consulting experience to the Eventus team. Prior to joining Eventus, Ted held leadership positions at Accenture, Siebel and SAP, focusing on CRM and CX technologies.