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Don't Buy the Sizzle Without Being in the Know


There is an old saying in sales: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." But what happens if the buyer does not understand how to make the sizzle? After all, even a few drops of grease can create a sizzle.

In the contact center sales game, it appears that some are buying the trendy sizzle of the day. It used to be multi-channel, then omnichannel, and now, as analyst Sheila McGee-Smith points out in her recent slideshow on the top contact center stories of the year, the sizzle phrase is "Digital Transformation." But selling the digital transformation sizzle can be tricky since many buyers don't understand what digital transformation is or how to accomplish it.

Some contact center projects include expensive features that go unimplemented or aren't used to the full potential, most often because decision makers don't want to be left behind or fail to purchase a feature that they will eventually want and need. Examples of this can include having multi-channel licensing for voice-only call centers, collecting a large mass of data points that are not fully analyzed or leveraged, paying for multi-language support for English-only designs, unused speech analytics, and more.

We see many clients, for example, that continue using non-integrated point solutions for managing customer contacts via email and Web chat. But getting to a full omnichannel experience -- oops, digital transformation -- takes more than simply adding it to the bill of materials and checking the "on" box during setup. There are some good success stories of organizations that did transform the customer experience (another sizzle phrase!), but it required commitment, planning, implementing new workflows, testing, refining, training, and communications -- not just sizzle marketing.

It is also a mistake to buy the sizzle without knowing the what and why – only then does the "how" become important. In the mid-1980s one of my first consulting clients asked me to help them purchase a voice/data PBX. Asked why, they responded that it was the recommendation from every telephone sales person they met. But the client did not actually know why, and we recommended that they not bother purchasing something they did not need. They saved money by leaving the data transport hardware and software off the order.

In a recent post, I mentioned that our clients are now asking how they can leverage contact center technology. Although that post was more around how the contact center sales promise is hobbled by the pricing and licensing philosophy of most suppliers, it is clear that clients are asking the right initial question. What is often lacking is the follow-up to "make it so." Even when convinced of the benefits of the new contact center vision, adequate experienced guidance is needed to overcome the inertia of the status quo.

With every client engagement having unique challenges, the vendor's implementation team must be able to educate the client and execute on the promises. Client education is also the driver behind my Enterprise Connect 2017 contact center session "Turning Features and Functions into Customer Experience Best Practices."

The digital transformation potential is not the false sizzle of the voice/data PBX sale. However, when customers ask the right questions, the vendors need to be prepared to help them with the details. Collectively, we must extend past the sales phase of painting glorious pictures of the future state and get down to the nuts and bolts of the digital transformation. Otherwise, we may resurrect another phrase from the past: "where's the beef?"

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

Learn more about contact center/customer experience trends and technologies at Enterprise Connect 2017, March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla. View the Contact Center track, and register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event pass or a free Expo Plus pass.