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Contact centre resellers: Evolving to add extra value?

3rd Sep 2012
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Jeremy Payne explores how contact centre resellers are adding value to a solutions sale rather than just acting as the ‘middle man’ for a solution.

Most large contact centre vendors today drive much of their product to market through the channel but also retain professional services, customer support, product management and development teams. However, in the current downturn, they are concentrating more and more on cutting costs and protecting their own service skills by carrying out more professional services work in-house and putting less through the channel.
This presents challenges but also opportunities to resellers who increasingly realise that to retain market share they need to do much more than just ‘shift boxes’ and grow margins through consumable sales.
Today, many of the end customer organisations with which these channel partners engage are structured to buy globally. There is much greater availability of and access to pricing and how to buy products at best price. As a result, resellers need to have a greater focus on adding value to a solutions sale rather than just acting as the ‘middle man’ for a solution that can either be bought directly or more cheaply from a larger channel partner.
To achieve this value-add and take advantage of growing opportunities available to them, contact centre resellers are increasingly concentrating on bundling solutions and products into packaged solutions; building up domain and vertical expertise in specific ‘sweet spots’ and adding consultancy services to solution sales. They need to concentrate on delivering the optimum service possible in areas where they have domain expertise. If they have a strong footprint in a particular vertical they can build stronger, more lasting customer relationships by providing not just the requisite software, first line support and end solution but also the necessary level of consultancy and domain understanding to back this offering up.
Vertical opportunities
Building domain expertise will enable them to tap into a rich seam of repeatable business opportunities. Most councils or local government departments across the country have similar problems. Therefore, once the reseller has developed a strong proposition and started to generate a good sales pipeline, it can begin focusing on pushing its offering out across the whole marketplace.
Today, in the contact centre space, we are beginning to see the emergence of community Clouds where different organisations with broadly similar business models can pool resources to offer customer service, generally over a shared infrastructure platform. By sharing costs, organisations can not only drive efficiencies but also start tapping into some significant operational benefits.
The emergency services are a good example. Typically, they all answer the phone in the same manner, they all route the calls to fire engine, police station or ambulance station in similar ways – but there are hundreds of them across the country. It therefore makes sense for them to collaborate and develop a multi-tenanted community cloud contact centre where all the services are working off the same platform with essentially the same technology and processes in place.
Therefore, rather than having to invest in hundreds of separate small call centres, each service makes a single investment in one platform enabling them to make faster returns while continuing to offer optimum levels of service.
The other area that contact centre partners are increasingly focused on is the business model. We are seeing vendors across the space increasingly migrating away from the traditional capex business models towards more of a subscription-based opex approach, where customers ‘try before they buy’ and typically pay only for what they actually use.  
In the future, resellers are likely to look more aggressively at white label opportunities where they can potentially set themselves up as a brand and a go-to-market offering in their own right, albeit with a white label product underneath. From now on some of these companies will look to move up ‘the food chain’ by setting themselves up as service providers, assimilating technology products from a range of software vendors and integrating them to create a total package for the end customer.
This focus on value added services will also help the channel to drive customer loyalty, reduce churn and build longer more sustainable business partnerships focused on trust. And this investment in the customer relationship may well bring further rewards over the years in the shape of repeat business.
The emergence of Cloud contact centres can be much more of an opportunity than a threat to resellers. To take full advantage, they need to be looking for opportunities to add value; openings where they can offer managed services and consultancy, not just products, and to focus on developing sustainable long-term business relationships. The reward typically will be the chance to safely navigate the recession, drive profitability and deliver competitive edge.
Jeremy Payne is international group VP marketing at Enghouse Interactive.

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