The Telecom Industry’s Newest Buzzword

Rather than walking into a prospect’s business thinking about what products you’re there to sell, put yourself in their executive’s shoes. You’ll have a much more powerful conversation if you’re asking how you can help them with their customer-experience challenges.

Selling to the Customer Experience?

I am at a conference called Channel Connect. The two days involve sitting in multiple educational sessions and panels, including an opening talk on the state of the industry and the state of the company who puts on the event. A theme that has come up repeatedly so far is the concept of Customer Experience (CX). Specifically, how to recognize that your prospects are talking about customer experience so you can insert yourself (and your solutions) into the discussion.

The term Customer Experience (or Customer Journey) has been part of contact-center lexicon for some time. Large, professional customer support and sales centers typically have a Customer Experience team; people dedicated to mapping and understanding the customer’s journey through the contact center, who create processes to manage to the businesses’ key performance indicators. Today, Customer Experience means more to businesses than interactions with their support and sales teams. It’s being looked at across the enterprise.

Businesses need to grow to thrive. They need to compete and win. And the foundation of all business is communication and the way that human communication has evolved (specifically thank to evolving technology) presents challenges to almost all businesses.  

Communications, as it relates to business, used to depend on the fact that the world was ruled by gatekeepers. Brick and mortar retailers controlled access to customers. Distributors controlled access to retailers. Manufacturers controlled access to product. Print and television media controlled perception. To gain access to the market, you earned (or bought) the cooperation of the gatekeeper.

And then the Internet broke the world

The Internet changed everything. It changed how we communicate. It changed how we use applications and services. It changed how we buy products. It changed how we get information. It changed how people publish information. It changed how people share information. It created an ecosystem for individual interaction. Customers now expect to have a one-to-one relationship with the companies they do business with. They want to buy product direct from the source. They want to interact directly with the source. They want to use whatever tool they are most comfortable with (phone, text, social media, whatever) to conduct their interactions and transactions.

Because companies of all sizes are faced with a world where they need to foster direct, one-to-one relationships with customers and compete against agile, nimble competitors, any investment they make in technology has to take into consideration its impact on the customer experience. How do we make our sales conversation align with our prospect’s business goals?

Put Customer Experience at the center of your sales discussion to give yourselves a better chance of engaging upper-level strategic managers. Learn how to talk about the importance of Customer Experience. Become conversant in mapping the customer journey. Educate yourself on how to analyze these flows to spot friction or insertion points for where your technology can make improvements and add efficiencies. You want to walk into a potential sales opportunity with the mindset that you’re not there to sell them your technology, you’re there to understand how the technology you sell can help them with the CX experience.

Where does Customer Experience intersect with the products and services we sell?

Customer Experience, at first pass, means all the ways a customer interacts with a company. For a retailer, it’s their experience walking in the store. It’s the transaction process. It’s the product experience (opening the product, using the product). It’s managing interactions with the customer post sale (for support, for resolution of product issues). It’s their experience with the marketing material the company puts out. Think of these interactions as an experience flow. They can all be mapped from the customer initiating the experience to it’s resolution.

When we’re talking about Customer Experience in the context of our mission to help customers by selling communications and data technology products and services to them, we mean the following:

UCaaS. Customer Experience discussions that lead to UCaaS sales start with questions about how your prospect’s employees communicate with each other (because the employees can be the customer in this CX context). Ask your prospect how their employees *want* to interact with each other. Ask how the business measures the communications effectiveness of its employees. All these discussions will lead to discovery around your ability to deliver solutions that allow employees to work across their devices, to communicate seamlessly when away from the desk phone, to collaborate, to integrate video and screen sharing. It leads to discussions about how management wants to understand how the technology is being used and to provide data (recordings, call reporting, etc.) to manage the technology to suit the business’ goals.

CCaaS. The conversation around Customer Experience when meeting a contact-center prospect is more direct. It is literally a conversation about the prospect’s customer experience. How do customers contact you? How do you wish they would contact you? How do you think, based on the demographic of your customer, they want to communicate with you? What teams within your organization responds to those contacts? How do you measure the effectiveness of those teams? How do you know if your interactions with customers leave them happy? How do you know if they lead to a successful, ongoing relationships? These kinds of conversations lead to discussions about multichannel and omnichannel contact-center systems. They lead to discussions about reporting and analytics. They lead to discussions about AI, consulting services, QA tools, Workforce Management systems, and so on.

AI and Machine Learning. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning come up constantly in discussion with prospects about their business communications systems and services. The first thing to accomplish with a prospect who wants to talk AI is to agree on a definition of what it actually is. Start with the question ‘What does AI and Machine mean to you and what do you believe it could do for you?’ You may hear about chatbots and virtual agents. You may hear about speech analytics or sentiment detection. You may hear about intelligent data analysis across multiple datasets from disparate systems. Whatever the starting place, the CX conversation around Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is a discussion about how you measure the satisfaction and happiness of customers. What questions would you like to know about your customer’s experience that you feel are difficult or impossible to answer? Where in the Customer Experience Flow are there pain points for the customer, or for your business, that you feel AI could have an impact? That discussion should lead you to talk about the AI and Machine Learning applications available across our portfolio of core and peripheral communications systems.

Network. The CX discussions above will likely lead to communications-technology recommendations. In our case, that means cloud-based services and systems. Which means that the design and strength of the underlying transport network for the business will have a major impact on the success or failure of the technology we sell. Asking about challenges with the current customer experience should naturally lead to conversations about protecting call quality, calls, the importance of CRM and VDI systems, or the cost of business delayed by network issues. You should be able to talk about SD-WAN and improved transport options.

Integrations and Managed Services. CX conversations could also lead to discussions about resources. A prospect may want to take advantage of technology to improve their CX, but could be challenged with too few, or a not specialized-enough workforce. IT departments that are born of the requirement to physically manage and maintain company resources and infrastructure are evolving into groups that manage a portfolio of services and resources delivered in a cloud model. CX discussions that lead to the question of ‘how are we going to implement and manage these improvement’ open the door for you to talk about managed services. Managed services to secure and implement the technology growth that will fuel their CX mission. Managed services to properly define, build, and manage the all-important underlying transport network these services will run on. Managed services to integrate the various systems and services so they connect with each other. Maybe even managed services to help your prospect pull together data from all these systems into meaningful metrics for them to run their business on.

Whatever solutions your discussions lead you to present to your customer, start the conversation around the concept of Customer Experience. Tie your proposals back to how your offer impacts CX, and you’ll be seen as someone trying to solve to their greater business goals, rather than a salesperson presenting a catalog of items for purchase.

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