As enterprises look to further reduce the cost of common sales, service, collections, inquiry and support calls to and from their company, interactive voice response systems are becoming more prevalent. Sloan, director of product development at Enghouse Interactive, offers solution providers tips on what to consider and how to avoid major pitfalls in order to sell self-service better. — Jennifer D. Bosavage
Interactive voice response systems (IVRs), often thought of as customer self-service solutions, are generally a very neat fit for the reseller channel because it has the right mix of pre-defined product and consulting expertise required. However, not every reseller is able to sell IVRs well.
The first hurdle is defining the business parameters. Some solution providers do not spend enough time asking the prospect tough questions at the beginning. Establishing the business parameters and ensuring that you know exactly what the customer thinks they want and need is paramount. Don't smooth over this stage, erroneously believing you are being helpful by not “hassling” the prospect too much or challenging their rationale. Although a prospect may sometimes feel too busy to evaluate and answer all your in-depth questions at this first stage, they undoubtedly understand the value of them. If those tough questions are not being asked or answered, nine times out of 10, you will most certainly be on the slippery slope to a stalled or lost sale.
At this first stage, ask the prospect pointed questions about the challenges they face, the business processes they already have in place, and their hoped-for outcomes. Just as importantly, make sure that this feels like a well thought-out process to the customer. To ensure the prospect has confidence in your ability to understand their needs and deliver the right solution, they will expect your information-gathering to look and feel like a standard process. Even if you are responding to an RFP, it does not mean you have all the information you need. Feel free to interrogate the RFP and the company that issues it to gather all the information you could need to potentially build the right solution.
The second area where many resellers falter is working out what the solution will need to look like. Inevitably, that can only be done when the business parameters and expectations are clear. You need to understand what different components will need to be in place and how the different components will need to work together. Also, know how these different components may need to evolve over time. Getting that information straight from the beginning will avoid problems down the road: You'll know what product and personnel you'll need, how to price the deal and you'll have an idea of potential future roadblocks.
The third area where resellers fall down is expertise. At the most basic level, IVR, like any other technology solution, has its own language and you need to be able to talk the talk. The expertise question also affects the first and second areas noted above. If you do not have the expertise to ask all the right business questions, you can run into trouble. If you do not have the technical expertise to visualize the final solution and understand the different technologies and vendors you need to bring in, you will also run into trouble.
If you think you may lack the expertise needed to close the sale, bring in your vendor or partner as early as possible, so that they can help guide you to a more successful outcome. If there's a doubt as to whether you have all the right expertise, bring in a friendly third party immediately.
IVR and self-service in general is here to stay. The systems are incredibly important for companies and their customers. The reseller channel is perfectly adapted to fulfill this market need, as long as it is done right—right from the start.