Network service providers historically have mostly operated in the connectivity business. But as cloud-based solutions continue to proliferate, new opportunities are forcing them to reconsider their business model. The contact center is one such opportunity, and there are two, very compelling reasons why NSPs should take note.
First is the fact that today’s contact center-as-a-service platforms can be offered on a turnkey basis, meaning that enterprises now have options beyond the conventional, legacy contact center vendors that still primarily sell technology mostly deployed on premises. CCaaS brings innovation that is badly needed, as businesses struggle to keep pace with their customers’ evolving, and increasingly demanding expectations. Until recently, contact center has not been a native market for NSPs; CCaaS provides a new way to build on your trusted relationships with avenues for growth.
The second reason relates to how the cloud is affecting the broader service provider space. While the domain of NSPs has long been well understood, the range of offerings is more fluid now, and it’s getting harder to distinguish among the types of service providers. As the lines blur, what enterprises want and need to know is that their service provider is their solution provider – the firm they do business with for a variety of services based solutions, connectivity and as-a-service applications. With low barriers to entry, any cloud-based provider can quickly find adjacencies to your core market, giving rise to new competitors. Not only must network service providers differentiate to remain competitive, but as other service providers look to CCaaS, failure to embrace this trend makes them vulnerable to customer churn.
Developing a game plan
Service providers must garner a greater understanding of customer needs, as well as the inherent nuances of the contact center market. Since NSPs are already selling cloud-based services, you may be surprised at how well positioned you will be for offering CCaaS once you put requisite knowledge in place.
Embracing this model begins with the recognition that contact center has different buyers and distinct needs from more traditional connectivity or communication solutions. It will take some time to learn all the dynamics that are contact center-specific.
Understanding the sales cycle is a good starting point. Recent research from DMG Consulting examines this process, and below is a brief outline of how you need to be thinking. The analysis maps a course of action that begins with customer activities that define their needs and how they look to the cloud contact center to fill those needs. Once the prospect starts looking for contact center solutions, you, the provider, need to be ready to demonstrate your value as a partner.
Prospects Get it Started By
- Identifying a need for a new contact center solution
- Even at this stage, resources, like a white paper that describes how contact center solutions have changed and how cloud makes the move to a new solution easy, will help them formalize their need.
- Conducting web research on cloud contact center vendors and offers
- Be sure you’re web presence makes it easy to find you and easy for them to see what you offer!
- Reaching out to potential partners for more information
- Clear, concise content that provides a solution overview and why they should consider you and your services should be proactively offered to them. Consider offering web-based demonstrations of your solution either via video or weekly online demos you give that they can attend.
Your Activities with the Prospect
- Qualify them for overall fit.
- Can you meet their needs? Is this prospect a good fit for you and your cloud contact center solution?
- Demonstrate an understanding of the requirements.
- Contact center expertise is needed. You need to speak the customer’s and contact center language! Your response and demonstration of the product should show the prospect your understanding of their business and their contact center requirements.
- Explain how your services are distinct.
- The space is crowded, but you can differentiate yourself – and it’s usually not just the technology of the solution. It’s the extra expertise you offer that’s the real value you add above selling just software.
- Provide a clear quote and statement of work.
- Quotes should be detailed enough that they understand what they need to pay for but simple to understand (without a glossary or reference guide). Make sure service components, implementation, integrations, and service level agreements are spelled out here in clear language and deliverables for both sides.
- Close the deal and get the contract signed.
- A common complaint of cloud contact center purchasers is when they get the contract it’s an extremely long and involved document that takes weeks or longer to redline and exchange. Cloud prospects want the buying process simplified, and the terms and conditions of the solution streamlined. A 50-page contract isn’t what they are wanting or expecting.
And don’t forget cloud contact center prospects are looking for a business partner as well as a technology solution provider. Engaging with them to provide contact center expertise and best practices will allow you to identify new needs once the solution is implemented, and extend your footprint and your value to the account.
Network service providers that develop a sharp focus on how contact center buying decisions are made, and work to simplify and streamline the buying process, are likely to see increased success.
Put Yourself in the Buyer’s Shoes
Getting up to speed on the above subject matter is essential for network service providers to have any degree of success with CCaaS, but the attraction becomes even stronger when an empathy to the challenges faced by internal IT and contact center decision makers is conveyed. Network service providers that develop a sharp focus on how contact center buying decisions are made and work to simplify and streamline the buying process are likely to see increased success.
Once in position to have the initial CCaaS conversations, service providers can establish credibility by talking about the challenges that have been overcome over the years, which is a distinct advantage over competitors. Knowledge of their pain points, needs, and priorities, and given how fundamental connectivity is for any cloud-based business application today – including contact center – places network service providers in a great position to leverage their trusted partner status.
From a customer’s perspective, it is much easier to add CCaaS on to other cloud services consumed through their network service provider. Having fewer partners to manage is a strong selling point, and if the relationship is strong, doing business with a familiar partner for CCaaS is far more appealing than beginning anew with a vendor with which they have never worked.
Being able to relate to the buyer’s point of view truly puts network service providers in a position of strength for selling CCaaS, which requires acceptance and visualization of the add-on opportunity to current lines of business. The biggest obstacle, in my opinion, is unfamiliarity with the contact center space, but that may be a shorter bridge to cross than one might think.
Jacki Tessmer is vice president of cloud and service provider strategy for Enghouse Interactive.
Edited by Alicia Young