CRMs: the power play and revenue source for reseller CX revenue in 2024 – but the battle is already on to gain market share

By Iain Sinnott, Head of International Carrier Sales, Enreach for Service Providers.

  • 5 months ago Posted in

Now that the focus on meeting and collaboration technology has moved from adopter to mainstream, the next area of focus — and a source of market revenue for the channel  — has become the customer experience (CX). While it may not have the urgent call to action that the pandemic created, resulting in the instant growth of remote collaboration tools, the CX is increasingly at the heart of ICT decisions being made right now. 


While thoughts might, therefore, turn to contact centre features (and those most definitely have an essential part in the mix), CRMs are the key to unlocking the broader potential. They also bridge the gap between IT and comms, enabling resellers of all kinds to develop far more sophisticated CX solutions. CRMs can even help pave the way for successful AI adoption. 


However, expect competition to be fierce and with early movers beginning to make market impact, so now is the time to start planning an executable strategy. In conversations I have had with industry peers, CRMs will be centre stage. Fortunately, while there are some challenges,  the tools, technologies and expertise are in place.


CRM as a route to revenue

Before we dive into those points in more detail, let’s examine why CRMs are at the heart of the CX’s future in ICT. Knowledge about customers and the interactions with those customers is hugely powerful in delivering a great CX: customers who feel that they are seen and listened to are more likely to stay loyal. Consequently, suppliers grow revenue, increase retention rates and net promoter scores, and gain more referrals. 


For instance, if inbound support calls are logged against a CRM record, this information helps the customer service team identify a repeat issue, show empathy and know that they must act quickly. If a CRM record shows a customer previously expressed interest in a product, the next time they call the support team, that person is also flagged as a potential buyer. Furthermore, if a salesperson has visibility of a customer’s buying history via the CRM, then during their interaction, they can make customised and more relevant suggestions for the next purchase.


CRMs are also set to play a pivotal part in using AI to enhance the CX, which in my opinion, AI hype aside, is probably a good year away. However, AI is only as good as the data it depends on, so in 2024, organisations need to ensure they have a clean, manageable, and scalable foundation for data on which they can start to build. A CRM integrated with other systems can deliver much of that data, for instance, through voice and chat queues, call recordings, and performance analytics. 


CRMs also help resellers grow into new areas by helping business customers evolve their use of technology, creating opportunities for channel organisations from both IT and comms backgrounds. As a result, the boundaries between these two camps start to disappear, with resellers becoming one-stop shops for their customers’ ICT needs. 


Steps to Success

However, adding CRMs to their portfolios may seem daunting for many resellers, especially if they have little or no experience in selling IT solutions. Fortunately, there are some practical steps we have seen resellers in the region successfully take, plus there is a growing pool of knowledge and help on which the channel can lean.


The best starting point for a reseller is to focus on the effective use of CRMs in-house so that they can understand first-hand what their customers will experience. Of course, the specific details will differ, but they can learn how CRMs can address typical pain points and enhance the CX.


However, there should not generally be the need to dive into the technical nuances of a CRM because that is a supporting role that a vendor should provide. Of course, if a reseller chooses to appoint an in-house product champion or team, the vendor can provide relevant training, but the sales team does not need that level of detail. 


Customer outcomes and use cases

Instead, what is more important is to help the sales department gain insight into customers’ desired business outcomes and how CRMs can support those. Hence, equipping salespeople with the expertise to identify those outcomes and typical use cases is vital. Depending on whether focused on a handful of accounts or a large number of SMBs, then the approach will vary from workshopping with a single customer, or ascertaining typical use cases that apply to hundreds of customers.


For instance, simple outcomes can already be identified, such as a customer out of terms on their account being routed to the finance team, even if they have called the sales number. Looking to the future, another case — using AI — might be to use the CRM to give special treatment to an incoming caller who was angry or stressed in their last recorded call, putting them straight through to a member of the support team rather than being routed via web chat or IVR.


It is also essential to look at the surrounding environment and all the systems that feed CX data into the CRM, including accounts packages, workflow applications, and unified communications (UC) platforms. The latter is a logical starting point for CRM adoption, particularly the many business customers who are evolving from communications focused initially on voice, so helping them connect that type of customer contact with a CRM is a safe place to start.


Start with Voice

Example voice-related features include agent availability, skills-based call routing, call recording, conversation transcripts and sentiment analysis. As soon as the customer is ready, non-voice contact such as webchat can be brought into the mix. 


In this way, resellers can also help smaller customers make the most of what is sometimes referred to as ‘casual contact centre’ style features found as part of many cloud-based UC platforms. In other words, businesses without the need or budget for a dedicated contact centre solution can still benefit from some of the functionality. 


However, the UC platform or the CRM, is just one part of the bigger picture. So, easy integrations between them and other solutions are important, giving both the reseller and the customer more flexibility and choice. A reseller might want to support different choices of UC, CRM, accounts and other systems. A customer might have a preferred set of technologies or want to adapt the CRM solution in-house to their own environment. Therefore, all vendors concerned must provide simplified and flexible API integrations and a willingness to ‘play nice’ alongside other vendors, even direct competitors. 


It is also worth re-emphasising the role of those vendors to provide product expertise and technical support, even though they may themselves be early in their CRM journey. Vendors, the channel and their customers will all gain more from the CRM discovery and adoption process if they all pull together.

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