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Stanton Smith

Benefits of Partnering with Independent Agents vs Direct Sales Reps

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by Nicole Reeves, Solutions Consultant

An Independent agent’s relationship with clients is based on trust, transparency, and respect, with the goal of evolving strategically in areas that can benefit the IT infrastructure of their business. We build a mutual understanding of the business, listen to client’s specific needs, and create a roadmap of how those two fit together.

But what’s the difference?

Direct reps are solely focused on marketing and selling their products, which may or may not be a good fit for the client’s business. They have a quota to meet, and a defined product list to sell. They are compensated on how much they are selling and how quickly they can get contracts signed. And in many cases, before the proverbial ink is dry, the client is handed off to someone else for support.

Independent agents are your advocates who are focused on long-term relationships with all of our customers. We make recommendations based on tailored needs, with access to multiple providers to ensure the eventual solution meets very specific and detailed requirements. Through our 100+ vendor partnerships, we assure the right solution will be in place, with the right vendor, along with life-cycle management to allow clients to work with the same agent on an ongoing basis.

Here are three key benefits to working with independent agents:

1. Improved Economics

Every customer has a defined budget; therefore, we focus on successful price negotiations across all of our vendors to support a successful outcome. Being educated in each facet of the IT world on a daily basis, we know what pricing is truly market competitive.  We have experts in a broad range of technology disciplines, along with multiple providers in each area.  That allows us to provide options, which results in positive financial and contractual leverage in the selection process.

2. Productivity

One complaint frequently heard is how much time our clients spend managing their vendor’s direct reps, being that they’re constantly changing, or post-sale support falls short of what was promised. The upside to using an independent agent is their longevity and single-point-of-contact in all pillars of our engagement. We have access to all internal resources with every vendor relationship, and have escalation paths when commitments are not being met. Our ongoing management and support allows our clients to focus on what’s core to their business.

3. Life-Cycle Management

Needs are constantly evolving, and no one vendor can solve for every client need, or address all the various technology areas in their respective enterprises. We get educated on our clients’ business in a very deep and broad sense.  An independent agent is focused on keeping clients educated on new products and services, will conduct the proper diligence to determine the right fit, and keep the relationship consistent.  This ensures an efficient and productive long-term partnership, vs. a short-term “buying relationship”.

In summary, utilizing the expertise of an independent agent leaves clients with confidence that their needs are accounted for, and they have the proper level of advocacy through the entire process of discovery, selection, implementation, and ongoing support.

5 Things to Consider When Choosing Cloud Contact Center

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by Adam Rennert, President of PeakView

The cloud contact center has gained momentum among businesses of every size thanks to its demonstrable ROI. The benefits of capex savings, operational streamlining, and support for mobile and remote agents are clearly understood. What’s not so clear, however, is how to choose the right contact center platform for your specific business requirements.

With the interest in cloud contact centers at an all-time high, the options in the market have proliferated. Here are the top five criteria to consider when choosing which one is right for you.

No. 1: What’s Under the Hood?

Plenty of cloud contact centers offer pretty interfaces, bright colors, and cool graphics—but what’s really driving the applications? While an intuitive user experience is important, it’s also critical to remember that contact center functionality can be the lifeblood for your business; what happens if agents can’t access features, or customer histories? What if the whole system has an outage? Is there a strategy for coping with these kinds of failures?

With that in mind, it is important to consider the level of redundancy that’s built into the system, from a network and data center perspective. Questions to ask include whether the network is geographically redundant, so traffic can seamlessly be re-routed in the event of a fiber cut or natural disaster; whether the provider offers a back-up carrier and what the failover thresholds are; and how is the server stack configured—is it modularly redundant with tri-level resiliency? Are there backup servers?

No. 2: A Proven Track Record for Scalability

In addition to under-the-hood configurations for uptime and reliability, it’s also crucial to consider whether the platform is proven and scalable.

A platform that does well supporting 20 customer service representatives in one location may do a great job, but what experience does it have supporting CSRs globally, or in larger numbers? It’s often useful to request case studies or references to gain a clearer understanding of what kind of heavy lifting a company’s technology is able to do. Depending on your enterprise profile, you’ll want to ensure that whatever platform you choose can scale both domestically and globally for your business.

No. 3: Feature Set

Contact centers continue to evolve, and the ways in which they allow CSRs to interact with customers constantly changes with new generations and demographic trends. As a result, it is important to select a contact center that updates its platform on a regular basis, and makes good on its technology roadmap.

Part of this is evaluating the maturity a platform has when it comes to multi- and omnichannel environments. Some options are proverbial “one-trick ponies”; some provide solid voice capabilities, with tracking and analytics. Then there are specialty companies that provide services such as advanced SMS interactions. Some companies like to build a modular, best-of-breed approach to their contact center needs, whereas others want a platform that can provide voice, SMS, video, chat and social media, all in a centralized view of the customer.

Similarly, depending on your needs, you may want to find a platform that integrates easily with third-party software via open API environments, whether that’s with known platforms like Salesforce, or a homegrown system.

In all cases, ease of use—both on the administration and the user side—should be one of the top criteria when selecting a provider. If the features are enabled but too difficult to learn how to use easily, the broadness of the platform becomes a moot point.

No. 4: White-Glove Service

Along with the technical features and functionality offered in a cloud contact center, the kind of customer service and support that backs it up can be just as important when it comes to decision-making. A lot of companies can spin up a compelling technology, but if there’s an issue, you’ll want to rest easy that they have your back.

White-glove service starts with implementation—the system should be implemented properly and in a timely fashion, and any issues that come up, especially in the first 60 days, should be resolved quickly.

At PeakView, we schedule meetings with every supplier we consider, to talk about their platform and determine whether we would want to recommend it to our clients. If we find they don’t have a true and proven support structure, but are rather relying on, say, an 800 number and one guy in the back to field calls, we don’t add that company to the mix.

No. 5: Cultural Fit & Cost Flexibility

Finally, it’s important that you match up with someone that understands your needs. For instance, if you’re in startup mode deploying a new platform, your provider should be one that understands what that means and can work with you in selecting the right technology. Similarly, if you’re an established company shifting from a legacy platform, there are additional considerations for building a proper migration path.

Cost flexibility is an important consideration. Some providers are firm in their pricing, regardless of what the requirements are. But we believe that contact centers should be personal and customized. For instance, if a company is moving away from an existing on-premise solution, it’s likely that avoiding cost overlap will be a consideration. In terms of contract terms and ramps, as well as licensing models, it’s possible to find the provider that will work with you depending on your specific needs.

In one situation, we had a customer who had a specific budget cycle, but also needed to hit the ground running by a certain date. The vendor was able to implement the solution, while giving our client a six-month ramp on paying for it. In another example, we had a new organization that was growing fast, but which didn’t have a lot of resources on staff. The vendor provided four months of a full-time resource to help get the project up and running, and deployed properly as part of the overall contract.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Channel Partner

With so many facets to consider, it may seem overwhelming to select the right provider for your cloud contact center implementation. Fortunately, we at PeakView are your trusted advisors. We sit down with our customers to understand their specific needs, and then, using a comprehensive scorecard, we evaluate the market options than would best fit those needs.

A provider doesn’t need to be the best in every one of these areas—it’s a balance. But generally speaking, everything should be easy and intuitive, there should be credibility in the market around the platform and ability to deliver, and it shouldn’t be complicated to have questions answered. We have the experience to help you sort through the options, and find the perfect, balanced provider for you.

The Value of Project Management

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by Heidi Romans, Project Manager

Having one captain at the helm on any voyage ensures a higher probability of smooth sailing. There will always be waves and perhaps a surprise storm, but a good captain will recover by leveraging their experience, and make the best choices to keep moving forward. The same can be said about a project manager, especially in the world of telecom. There is incredible value in having one person dedicated to an installation project – to help reign in all the moving parts and keep the timeline tight. Project Managers can facilitate actions by working closely with clients and suppliers to make sure each is aware of their action items and to keep things organized. When you’ve got one person focused on the project, the customer has more time to focus on their own business needs.

Project management helps create strategic value. Being able to deliver projects within budget, and on time, measurably impacts a client’s ability to conduct business. It also ensures that lessons are learned from the project’s success and/or failure. Projects are naturally chaotic, and there will be some that do not go as planned, even with a clear path mapped out from start to finish. The probability of this happening more frequently is much higher without those lessons learned and one person to oversee the entirety of the installation.

Reliable data and internet connections are critical to conduct business and are an integral part of our business lives. These connections frequently traverse global locations, where each country can vary in the vendor, and a telecom project manager is able to translate varying terminologies from vendor to vendor, and form them into one cohesive language that a customer can easily understand. They bring value by being knowledgeable in the different processes and requirements for each vendor, thus saving time in the long run by anticipating the next step.

Project management greatly enhances the overall customer experience, and strengthens the relationship between customer and solution provider.