By Ted Haugland, Eventus
Customer experience has become a critical differentiator for virtually all businesses today, and technology is playing a large role in making that experience superior. In the past, companies may have been willing to change some business processes to accommodate a new technology system that would improve the customer experience. Now, however, your customers are looking for integrated solutions that support their existing operational approach and customer experience.
Technology integrations are nothing new, but vendors have changed their capabilities to provide deeper integrations across more systems. This requires companies that procure software to take a more thoughtful approach to purchasing and integration to drive a better user and customer experience.
As a result of this shift in expectations, it will no longer be enough for VARs to sell software based on capabilities alone. Going forward, it will be increasingly important to sell the experience that your customers—and your customers’ customers—are seeking. This will require that VARs watch how software solutions are positioned within the growing trend toward convergent technologies.
Where Technologies Are Converging
This technology convergence is spanning solutions that traditionally have been solely 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.
As a case in point, customer service operations are seeing a growing trend toward convergence of voice and digital channels. Customer relationship management (CRM) suppliers, AI vendors, and other technology companies are adding native voice capabilities that allow customers to leverage voice recognition alongside their digital channel capabilities. Voice/digital platform consolidation is becoming 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 operations and lower the cost of their voice channel, which has traditionally been one of the highest contact center costs.
On the digital front, customers are moving away from the use of separate technology platforms to support specific customer channels. Integrated channel management is eliminating traditional channel silos to create an improved customer journey, reduced net channel spend, and lower internal management costs across customer voice and digital channels.
While this trend will continue to evolve, a case can be made for having customer service functions such as authentication, call notation, call coaching, and real-time evaluation be provided by systems other than CRM—even though for many companies these functions are the primary purpose of their CRM platforms in the first place. This shift may cause many companies to rethink their operational approach for ways to perform functions differently and more efficiently than previous technology stacks allowed. VARs can play a key role in helping customers make this shift.
A Shift In Sales Approach
Traditionally, customers have led the search for technology integrations. VARs have been expected to provide information about whether integrations are available, but it remained up to the customer to purchase a technology solution, connect it, and then determine what capabilities the technology might be lacking. To remain competitive, VARs will have to shift their focus from selling a system to selling an experience.
The first step in making this shift is understanding your customers (and, in some cases, your customer’s customers) experiences and behaviors. Through piecemeal investments over time, a customer may be plugging various gaps with numerous separate systems to manage functions including financials, HR, e-commerce, supply chain management, customer portals, and so on. Traditionally, these systems have not worked well together. The result is a disjointed and dissatisfying 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 a lower cost. As companies consider replacing or modernizing dated desktop applications, they have an opportunity to do more than replace back-end capabilities. They can enhance the overall user experience. Your customers will be turning to you to advise them on the most effective solutions to this end.
Asking The Right Questions
There are a few key areas where VARs can provide insight to customers looking for an improved system experience. To sell an improved experience, VARs can proactively encourage customers to ask the right questions up front about technology integration. This means moving customers away from asking “Is there a built-in system integration” to instead asking “What do I want my customer experience to be? And, based on that,” What does the integration actually need to do?”
To help guide customers toward viewing the experience of using this software, VARs should be able to advise on what can be combined for an improved 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 a natural integration, it might provide valuable customization capabilities.
Another area with which companies struggle is adopting vendor-supported integrations. What many IT leaders don’t realize is that they can’t just build integrations once and then forget about them. They become a continued cost. As a result, companies must be connected with more natural vendor-supported integrations that support the customer experience they want to provide.
Through this new approach, VARs may find they can change their role from trusted supplier to trusted partner and build stronger customer relationships.
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 senior delivery positions with Accenture, Siebel, and SAP focusing on CRM and CX technologies.