The Importance Of The Bundle
Product and service bundling has become an important strategy in the
communications industry for several reasons, including, but not limited to, the
Increasing the number of products per
customer typically raises that customer's barrier to exit;
Bundling provides an opportunity to
increase service pricing in a market where traditional services have fallen
in price by ten percent annually;
Providers that are able to offer more
services gain a competitive edge;
Cost efficiencies are gained through
consolidated billing; and
Customers prefer bundled services.
According to Billing World and OSS Today, JD
Power and Associates reports that as much as 40 percent of consumers would
prefer all their communication services—including local, long distance,
Internet, TV and even wireless - to be delivered by a single provider on a
Developing an effective bundling execution
strategy, however, has proven to be difficult in practice. To be able to
competitively offer product bundles to the full extent, a bundled service
provider would need to take several steps, including the following:
Modify consumer sales processes to enable
sales agents to provide rapid over the phone quotes and discounts as well as
maintenance of multiple services;
Create the ability to quickly receive and
Ensure low error rates in order/quote
Create a flexible operational flow that
accommodates for the ever-growing communications market; and
Create flexible access and modification of
a discount/pricing engine.
Obstacles To Selling Bundles
Currently many of the primary obstacles to increasing bundled services rest in
sales execution. Sales groups are faced with a multitude of hurdles, including,
but not limited to, the following:
Conflicting performance metrics. Because
cost containment or reduction continues to be a primary metric for managers
of service and sales agent groups, call efficiency – often measured by call
handle time – remains a top priority to managers. Nevertheless, average
handle time has been shown to increase as agents engage in more bundled
product conversations, driving operational costs upward.
Escalating cost of sales. In addition to
increased communication costs, labor costs are also rising. To adequately
represent a wider array of products and services sales agents must
participate in additional product and sales training. Additionally, as the
bundled sale requires the entry of information into multiple systems, the
likelihood of data entry errors increases, resulting in inefficiency costs.
The desktop maze. The primary operational
bottleneck for increased sales of bundled products is the agent's desktop.
Most communications service providers (CSPs) have accumulated multiple,
siloed operational and business support systems over the years, through
mergers and acquisitions, through the natural proliferation of platforms and
technologies, and through best-of breed solutions acquired to accommodate
specific needs of the business.
In addition, the bundling strategy typically
requires access to partner systems in order to create a quote, sell a service or
make changes to services. These issues create a point-of-sale environment with
multiple order systems each with its unique look and feel, embedded business
logic, and rules and regulations. Navigating through these systems while
participating in a conversation with a prospect is, to put it mildly, quite
difficult. The sales agent ends up not focusing on selling as much as focusing
on the mechanics of the call – "Which applications do I use? when? and how?"
This complex desktop environment further exacerbates the cost of sales and
metrics issues by inflating the processing time required and errors associated
with completing the bundled sale.
"In the race to be the customer's sole
provider for multiple or all services, yesterday's fragmented and disparate
billing and OSS environment simply will not do."-Billing World & OSS Today
Addressing The Desktop Problem
Until recently, providers have had few options to address this significant
performance and quality issue associated with the desktop labyrinth. Strategies
that have been employed include the following:
1. Creating a new order entry system that incorporates all order types.
This is typically a lengthy and expensive process with an
extended time to market which few, if any, providers can afford
given the highly competitive state of the communications
Each additional service added will require much coding time in
the new system resulting in an opportunity cost of loss
Significant risk is added due to the necessity of rewriting
existing long-standing and complex business logic.
This approach typically requires duplicate entry on the back end
to populate partner systems with the order.
2. Additional or enhanced training for sales agents.
The root technology problems are not addressed.
The desktop workspace continues to handicap the agents by
causing long processes and creating an environment where the
amount of information the agents can maintain is limited
because of the sheer volume of operational information they
An environment is created where hiring preferences are
for employees that can type and navigate between
applications quickly versus ones that have a sales orientation.
"…the complexity of the agent desktop continues to plague CSP contact center
agents' abilities to cross-sell."
CSPs' Contact Centers Struggle with Cost Control vs. Revenue Generation,
Yankee Group industry report
The Process Optimization Platform
While the above represent the traditional options to solve the desktop problem,
new option has emerged that is gaining momentum as a viable, cost-effective
solution – the process optimization platform.
As more and more applications have been deployed by providers for specific
business needs, business managers have become enslaved by these systems, unable
to improve contact center processes due to technology limitations. A process
optimization platform provides business managers with the freedom to implement
new processes without being handcuffed by the limitations of legacy systems and
without having to resort to purchasing or installing new application software.
At the agent level, a process optimization platform simplifies interactions with
business systems by optimizing and automating processes, even processes that
flow across distinct, un-integrated business systems.
In order to address the needs of any and all application types, the platform
provides a "non-invasive" approach to interacting and integrating desktop
applications – simplifying processes for the agent without having to replace or
modify any existing business applications.
A process optimization platform provides the ability to do the following:
Create a new 'view' of a process that more accurately reflects the flow of the
Automate navigation and data entry for agents while they traverse existing
systems – speeding process flow, eliminating errors and eliminating
redundant data entry.
How Does It Work?
The process optimization platform works by enabling the business to isolate and
automate specific operations within a process workflow, irrespective of the
system where the operation is actually performed. In the illustration below, a
process optimization platform has been used to simplify the process of executing
an order for an additional phone made by an existing customer. The old workflow
for the process had the agent accessing one system to order the hardware,
another for applying discounts, and another for updating the customer's
contract. Using a process optimization platform, the business was able to
consolidate the operations from the three separate systems into just two,
greatly simplified screens for the agent (one for submitting the order and the
other for the order confirmation), dramatically improving the process workflow
without making any changes to the underlying business systems.
A process optimization platform provides a risk-free, cost effective approach to
streamlining complex contact center processes. Implementation time is typically
measured in weeks, and payback is achieved in months. It is not uncommon for a
process optimization project to reduce handle times by as much as 25percent, and
nearly eliminate processing errors which typically result in significant
breakage between the point of sale and fulfillment.
By simplifying the agent desktop and collapsing processes that span multiple
applications the process optimization platform enables the agent to spend more
time focusing on engaging the prospect in an effective sales pitch and less time
struggling with navigating and deciphering complex business applications.
Advantages of the process optimization platform:
Significantly reduces handle time by streamlining the process
Creates a "real" enforced process by automating process flow
Reduces training time
Reduces processing errors, increases accuracy
Eliminates redundant entry
Agents can use the time gained from decreased processing time for
additional up-sell or nurturing
Makes it much easier for the business to adapt to changes in process and
By utilizing existing business systems it reduces risk and is implemented
quickly… typically in weeks