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Sales and service strategies are shaping IT buying considerations

  • Posted on July 12, 2016

IT buying

The following blog post was originally published on CIO Review and written by Avanade alum, Dave Nelson.

As many leading enterprises begin–or continue–their digital journey, two focus areas tend to emerge on the priority list: customer sales and service.

Industry analysts, consultants and companies themselves continue to identify customer experience and engagement as a key competitive differentiator and revenue generator for businesses and we fully agree. This has led business executives and IT decision-makers to prioritize the building of capabilities that meet the distinct demands of digitally focused customers. With this new emphasis on the digital customer, expectations are higher than ever and it’s up to the digital sales and service teams to deliver relevant and personalized engagements to cultivate relationships that lead to lifelong loyalty.

So, How Do we Do it?

To satisfy the needs of the digital customer, technology must be an integral part of every customer engagement. Digital sales and service systems must be built to help employees sell and resolve customer issues in a manner that fits their varying expectations and value. It is no longer acceptable to have disjointed applications and processes or to assume a one-size-fits-all approach will work. Simply collecting and presenting data, no matter how comprehensive, is insufficient without some intelligent interpretation of what that data means.

The most successful companies to develop strong relationships with customers are those that empower their workforce with solutions that can be tailored with the right information readily available for employees at the point of sale/ transaction. Sales and services teams need a ‘one stop shop’ that provides relevant information, application, workflow and collaboration tools in order to be effective.

This shift requires a substantial re-evaluation of traditional IT buying behavior.

Shifting from a ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ to a Tailored Approach

While it may have been commonly acceptable to say ‘yes’ to software and cloud solution providers pushing individual products or suites as the answer to any scenario, this is no longer the case.

Instead of trying to force-fit a set of often disparate requirements into a single software platform, such as a CRM or digital commerce tool, the IT buying process must include thoughtful examination of the desired tasks they want customers and employees to conduct during each sales and service interaction. We’ve seen successful companies empower their workforce with robust solutions that can be tailored to meet differing needs by looking at process, behavior, prediction, and adaptation as an intersecting set of scenarios.

For example, consider the differing needs among various industries to support sales activities. A large beverage manufacturer we work with needed a sales engagement tool that it could easily implement globally, but that also meets some of the unique the needs of individual local markets. Built upon Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM Online platform, we helped them deploy a state-of-the-art mobile sales force solution to streamline selling, merchandising and quality monitoring activities among their various B2B channel outlets. However, this tool didn’t exactly meet the needs of a global motorcycle manufacturer, whose sales teams needed to provide highly personalized B2B customer experiences within individual retail stores. For the motorcycle manufacturer, we leveraged user design to craft workflows and interfaces atop Microsoft Dynamics CRM that would solicit the highest use among sales, service and other teams. Both solutions leveraged the same core CRM platform but also utilized other Microsoft and third party hardware and software solution to build differentiated capabilities.

Considering a Portfolio of Interoperable Tools is Key

Having the various tools at hand to help your employees provide customers with a tailored, personally relevant experience is great, but only if the tools work well together.

Enterprises are learning that the appropriate solution to their needs will likely require integrating multiple hardware and software components into a smooth, seamless process flow across customer touch points. We’ve seen companies that leverage an ever-increasing amount of data, analytic processing and the resulting activity orchestration throughout sales and service interactions ultimately develop strong loyalty from the customers. The solutions are anchored by traditional software components such as CRM or ERP while other elements leverage hardware device capabilities such as cameras/scanners on tablets or phones, Internet-enabled sensors, smart consumer devices and even hardware robots and intelligent software “bots.” Additional solution components help gather, store and analyze all of the internal and external, structured and unstructured data and other content that make each sales or service action different from any other.

This is where interoperability comes into play. When considering digital tools for sales and customer service, IT buyers must consider options that are interoperable, not only with each other, but with the company’s larger IT portfolio and overall direction. An array of tools is only valuable if they integrate seamlessly for the end users.

In summary, the future of IT buying is about rapid integration of multiple hardware and software components to meet the ever-changing expectations and competitive actions of the digital customer. The best solutions providers possess a comprehensive, ever-expanding portfolio of offerings that offer flexibility, interoperability and comparative cost advantages. At the heart of any IT purchase decision should be an understanding of the business goals and tasks to be accomplished, coupled with a search for a connected ecosystem that maximizes business value by integrating all the relevant pieces at the right time.

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