The market for connected products and services is fiercely competitive. Regardless of geography or product, competitors are everywhere and there is a growing need for operators to align themselves with retail and consumer business partners. That translates to sales channels. Retail outlets, contact centers, and web stores are run by the operator while the corner store, partner outlets, and any number of on-line retailers are willing and able to sell connected products offered by service providers. And all of these channels require the same things – access to a product catalog, order management, fulfillment, and payments.
Many customers use a combination of store visits – to see and try out devices; on-line research – to understand offers and pricing plans available through various channels; and then ultimately end up on the phone with the contact center to finish the deal. The most common sales channel remains the call center. Would-be customers want to talk to a knowledgeable sales person that can answer questions and provide assistance. The ability to move from one channel to another without having to start over each time saves the customer valuable time, reduces frustration, and benefits the operator as each customer experience is captured and analyzed to improve business processes, sales training, and service quality.
So, it would follow that it is more efficient for operators to implement a single BSS solution with the flexibility to support any type of on-line or physical sales channel – but they don’t. Granted, most large retailers have their own catalogs (often separate for on-line and physical locations) and connected products from any service provider become additional product codes. But for the operator that has BSS with open interfaces, interoperability is not a problem. There is no need for yet another instance of a product catalog whether supporting Joe’s Corner Store or Harrod’s of London.
Next, partners and employees alike need the support of an agile product catalog and integrated order management to offer and deliver the products and support that customers desire when they hit ‘enter’ or before they leave the store. Offers that are “today only” or “only available on-line” must be accurately represented and activated without delay. If an order is tossed over the wall to the operator for fulfillment; validation and activation must be rapid, automated, and secure.
And everybody needs to get paid. Accurate calculation of commissions, premium payments, sales tracking, and performance are all necessary components for settlement. Management of on-site personnel, training, promotions, and performance reporting are necessary; as are the distribution of on-site materials and logistics associated with maintaining physical inventory.
Last, but hardly least, it matters what the customers think. Questions require thorough and accurate answers. Complaints require follow-up and evaluation to improve the quality of service regardless of sales channel. Surveys, follow-up emails, promoter scoring, along with basic statistics like wait times and response times all contribute to the customer experience and isn’t that what it’s all about?