Posts Tagged ‘IT Channel’

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BI Reports: Delivering Value to Businesses

May 13, 2019

BI Reporting to Measure and Manage your Business
channelcentral launched monthly BI Reporting earlier this year for all its CPQ customers. The reports are in graphical and text format, focussing on key metrics of customer utilization of our CPQ applications. Feedback from customers has been very positive.

The key benefits include:

  • Providing evidence of the Return on Investment (ROI) from the CPQ application;
  • Sharing insights;
  • Enabling customers to make informed decisions quickly.

What’s new?
channelcentral has provided reporting to customers since launching in 2007, however this has now transformed from ‘data’ to ‘information’.  Three key aspects of reporting have changed with the introduction of BI reporting:

  • The addition of graphical presentation.
  • Time – instead of single-month data tables, it’s now shown in a chart covering six rolling months.
  • Geographical groupings – so companies who operate across borders can see consolidated reports. Although this can be done with data reports, it’s more difficult to interpret.

Using value to make decisions
The real value of this reporting, along with any data that feeds into a company’s management information system is:

  • Timeliness – timing is critical if intervention is required, to resolve an issue or to improve engagement.
  • Presentation – information that is simple, easy to digest and enables decisions to be made quickly is truly valuable to a business.
  • Accuracy – the data presented is an accurate reflection of usage and values, so the customer can either see the value the application is adding, or if intervention is required to drive up utilization, regardless of whether the user is a staff member or a customer.

The story behind the data and its potential
Although the reporting is presented concisely, customers can be provided with the data feeding the BI Dashboard, to look into and understand ‘why the numbers are what they are’.  Furthermore, other than pitch rate, there is further potential use of the product data.  Our BI reporting metrics could include most popular systems or breakdown of user functions (sales/technical) if required.

Be aware of missing BI metrics
BI Reporting should be comprehensive.  Reporting should include actual figures for the numbers of quotes and value of quoting, in addition to percentages. Beware of missing metrics or very round number growth – this could be a sign of a low utilization ‘cover up’.  Any low utilization should be highlighted to a customer; to use the data to drive Sales (to use and promote) and Marketing (to drive customer breadth). channelcentral does not add ‘spin’ to customer BI reporting.  With added commentary we consider that marketing. Without commentary we consider it reporting.

The growth of BI Reporting
According to forecasts by analyst Markets and Markets, the global Business Intelligence (BI) market is estimated to grow from USD 17.09 Billion in 2016 to USD 26.88 Billion by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.5%. The short-to-medium term for BI reporting certainly looks bright, and channelcentral certainly intends for its customers to benefit from the growth.

Everyone’s a winner
Sharing useful business information can lead to higher customer loyalty, more profit and ultimately strengthen a company’s competitive advantage.

Want to find out more about channelcentral’s BI Reporting?  https://www.channelcentral.net/bi-reporting.asp

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Information is power: talk like a ‘Techie’, sell like a ‘Tiger’

April 18, 2019

Occasionally, staff at channelcentral are lucky enough to meet our CPQ users, where they share their experiences using our CPQ Tools. Instead of guessing what our CPQ users really value, they simply tell us. Genius.

Our CPQ users generally fall in to two categories:

  1. Sales people – our key target audience. Working in the IT sector, but generalist sales people, good with people, strong admin skills and well organized.
  2. Technical people – to a lesser extent our target audience. Depth of technical knowledge. When they use our tools, we’re in some ways prouder.

For some applications Sales people are our primary target audience. Here’s why:

One of our users recently told our CEO that she loves our CPQ Applications because clients don’t expect her to know the answers to technical pre-sales questions, which she can look up quickly within product technical specifications, in our CPQ application. When she can answer almost instantly, they’re amazed; she’s triumphant.

She has worked out that knowledge trumps pre-conception. Nobody expects her to know the answer, they fully expect her to go away and find out. They expect to wait hours or days to progress their project or purchase. She can quote independently in real-time.

Provide people with the right information, in the right tool and you are enabling anyone to be expert in any industry – and to be able to deliver customers information when they need it.

Combine knowledge with sales ability. You’re a tiger.

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Configure Price Quote: Call Center Integrations

April 10, 2019

It’s pretty much standard for Manufacturers to use Call Centers to supplement the work their Distributors do, to create demand for their products. Whether that’s inbound or outbound the principle is the same: a Call Center person is talking to a Reseller (Retailer) about a potential deal, which often leads to a quotation.

In the case of a Reseller, they’ll no doubt receive an email from the Call Center with the call to action: “Contact your Distributor for stock and price.” Weeks or even months later: “Did you end up buying that product?”.

Seriously. In 2019. This is how things work.

channelcentral has a different approach:

  1. Deploy the same CPQ platform in your Call Center as in your Distribution tier. Surface stock levels per Distributor in the Call Center CPQ instance.
  2. Create a workflow to allow Call Center Users to email quotes ‘off the system’ to the Reseller.
  3. Include links to transact the quote in Distributors’ Web Stores OR to edit the quote in the CPQ application that is embedded in the Web Stores. Choose one or many Distributors for each country.
  4. Record everything and report it.

Placing the CPQ application in the Reseller tier allows the same awesome workflow, but for end user interactions.

It’s 2019. This is how things should work. Seriously.

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SIX Ways to Transform Ease of Business

April 4, 2019

Most companies would identify with this particular statement: “We want to be easier to do business with.”

It’s how to become easier to do business with; that’s the challenge, not deciding it’s a good thing. In the CPQ market we believe the following are solutions to that challenge:

1. Replace disjointed and labour intensive processes with smooth, accurate and where possible, automated processes. Moving from spreadsheets to online systems provides behavioral insights that help you improve your processes. Good sales come from good processes.

2. Open all hours. Make your ‘closed’ sign redundant. Allowing 24 x 7 access to your sales tools not only stretches the sales window, but also means customers can work when they want to, not just when you do.

3. Replace email ping-pong with slick workflows. Identify clunky processes which result in endless email replying. Who likes mail trails with 30 replies? Nobody. Deploy slick workflows to simplify more complex buying processes. If you are working on a document or proposal why not look to collaborate online instead of mailing edited files to other indefinitely?

4. Surface key buying decisions together: stock, price, promotion in your sales tools. Alt-tabbing between apps is the modern day ‘swivel chair’. Consolidate data. If it costs, say $20, to do a quote, why do five different quotes to win one deal?

5. Introduce guided buying. Don’t always expect your customer to start with a blank canvas. Use starter kits, bundles, solutions, templates etc. to save time. Apply machine learning to improve the quality of these shortcuts.

6. Utilize your Business Information (BI). Decisions based on real data is better than guessing what your customers want. Use their data to improve their user experience.

Ease of business doesn’t improve with one giant investment, it’s lots of tiny steps and the odd leap.

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Different Strokes – selecting CPQ solutions to work for your audiences

March 21, 2019

It’s obvious, but when creating any product or service, the target market or audience is a fundamental consideration in the design process. Designing software is no different, and for Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Software there’s an additional complication: there are at least two audiences.

Let’s consider how to develop CPQ applications to satisfy two users. It is different for each user and here’s why (by example):

If your organization has selected, designed and implemented a CPQ Platform, it’s likely to have been a huge investment, touching all parts of your IT. However, if you are relying on a 3rd party application per Manufacturer, the investment is much lower. A third party application usually requires the user experience to be simplified, maybe sacrificing some functionality or number of configurations/workflows supported.

Knowing this is critical when selecting a CPQ Vendor.

Thanks to Frank Sohn of Novus CPQ Consulting, an independent CPQ Consultant, who had shared this observation on the Novus CPQ Circle Community;

http://novuscpq.com/cpq-circle-community/

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Charity Work at channelcentral

February 21, 2019

Back in 2016 staff asked channelcentral to create a Charity Committee. Since then two charities have been supported: SNAP! and Special Effect.

These charities are local to channelcentral’s offices in the UK. The Committee felt that our support would make a greater difference to their operations, than a National Charity. Furthermore, the Charities resonate with channelcentral’s own skills and experience. The donations are based on staff fund raising which is matched by the Company. Charities:

  • SNAP! provides support for the parents of children with special needs.
  • Special Effect uses high tech solutions to allow people with severe disabilities to enjoy computer gaming.

channelcentral has also made one-off contributions to International Relief Organizations following the Houston and Guatemala natural disasters.

Recent charitable fundraising success
In the last financial year fundraising included a WII Sports Challenge, Spring Clean Sale, Summer BBQ and Pop Quizzes.

Time for Giving
In addition each staff member can take one working day a year, away from the workplace, to undertake charitable work or volunteering. Staff can also spend time selling off old Computer assets on eBay to raise money (including the work to securely wipe all data).

Flexibility
Since 2016 we’ve listened to staff and changed our policy accordingly. Every charity event is optional. Staff can apply for funding for other charities and we’ve extended that to sponsorship. We’ve also put in guaranteed values so that not everything is dependent on staff fundraising.

Tim Moyle, CEO, actively encourages the company’s charitable efforts:

‘Our aim as a company is to have a positive impact on our customers’ businesses and staff; our charity activities are an extension of this. To see the work that our charities undertake is so impressive, and so rewarding to see our staff connecting across the organization, in a way that might not happen otherwise.’

We believe that we are making a difference to people who are supported by our Charities.

More Info:
channelcentral page: Charity

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Back to basics – getting product descriptions right

January 31, 2019

In trying to fix the complicated problems, it’s sometimes easy to forget to fix the simpler ones. In 1934, Percy Shaw patented the reflective road stud, more commonly known as the ‘cat’s eye’, and made a small fortune by (allegedly) earning a royalty each time one was sold. Simple technology, but hugely effective in keeping the driver ‘on track’ in the dark, and still used today.

Is there anything simpler than the description that is applied to a product?
Simple, but accurate and informative product descriptions result in fewer returns and better customer satisfaction.

If you are called Radical Cycles and you release a model called the Gravel Buster, a man’s Trail bike, available in Black or Blue in various frame sizes – don’t you just concatenate the data?

Radical Gravel Buster (55cm) Blue Men’s Trail Bike

Why might this be difficult for eCommerce or CPQ applications?
Accepting that not all products and their descriptions are this simple, particularly in the IT sector, there are other challenges:

  • Legacy IT is not your friend. When storing long strings was problematic, Product Managers used to have to work within 16 character, or similar, limits. This often resulted in holding multiple descriptions often creating more issues than it solved.
  • When faced with a very low character limit, the use of acronyms, which are understood by Product Managers, but sadly not by anyone else.

Poor descriptions creating havoc
This is a product description from one of the World’s largest Software Vendors, dated January 2019: CCSN,ALL,MLP,ERR01,EUW,001,N/A,1 YR ESD

It’s hard to know where to start, but not having the Vendor’s name is a problem. Nor the product name. Another issue is that a comma is often used as a delimiter (separator) in databases, so even just importing this is an issue.

Eliminate guesswork
If you are operating a Web Store, just getting good, consistent descriptions is a problem. channelcentral recently helped a Retailer locate a better, free data source, than the one they were paying for. The issue was that with poor product descriptions, customers had started to guess the appropriate service for a product, resulting in costly returns. The availability of improved product descriptions has removed the need for guesswork.

Always focussed on turning complexity into simplicity in the IT Channel through its CPQ applications and data services, channelcentral continually innovates to improve the customer experience, keeping the user ‘on track’.