This illustrative example draws on elements of processes we have examined within multiple B2B Sales and Service contact centres.
Many organisations add value for their clients by sourcing products and services from multiple suppliers and applying expertise to ensure those clients get the best solution at the best price. Their ability to capture a client’s requirements and produce a pricing proposal specific to the client is vital.
In this example, the organisation is growing fast and their telephone account managers are key to their success. They build the relationships with existing and potential clients and their knowledge and advice is often the differentiator that wins the business. The organisation has invested heavily in systems and training to get the best out of this valuable resource.
The Current State of the Operation
Internal systems are slick (the internal Microsoft Dynamics CRM tool has been extensively built out to provide an excellent platform), giving the Telephone Account Management team the tools they need to manage client relationships. However the reality of producing comprehensive quotes and a proposals in a market where suppliers’ technology platforms do not allow integration is that the contact centre team still have to request information and compile quotes. This takes the form of a number of manual tasks:
- Contacting and requesting information from multiple suppliers (in this case 22) – involving entering client-specific information into forms either in an online portal or as an attachment to an email
- Monitoring email for replies from the suppliers
- Chasing suppliers who are slow to respond
- Gathering the returned information
- Compiling the quotes into a presentable report
- Writing a summary proposal and issuing it to the client
When the process was analysed it was conservatively estimated that each proposal was taking a Telephone Account Manager around 45 minutes to complete. It was suspected that it had a bigger impact on sales productivity as it created ‘down-time’ in the working day.
With the team needing to generate around 100 quotes each week across a team of 12, this was equivalent to at least 2 full-time sales staff. There were plans to grow by over 20% in the next 12 months – meaning the team would have to grow by 2-3 staff to achieve it.
There had been thoughts of using a back-office support team to carry out this task – freeing up the client-facing team to create more capacity – but the cost of recruiting, training and employing the back-office resource just to execute what was a very dull task just didn’t stack up. To support the sales team and cover for holidays and sickness it was felt that it would require 3 staff.
The Solution: Micro-Outsourcing
By deploying a software robot – effectively outsourcing the mundane, manual process to a digital workmate – the organisation could automate the process almost completely.
Working with the same tools as the Telephone Account Manager – an email account, a login to the CRM system – it would mean that there is no need to make any changes to existing systems.
Twice every day the robot can log into the CRM system and run a query to identify clients requiring a quote. Following pre-defined rules for each supplier, the robot can then provide the information required by suppliers, either via their pro-forma documents on email or by accessing their online portal. The robot can then monitor the email inbox for replies from suppliers – if a reply has not been received within a set time-frame, the robot chases their response.
When the information is returned, the robot compiles the information and produces the presentable report for the client. The robot notifies the Account Manager so that they can pick it up and put the finishing touches to the summary proposal and send it to the client.
Instead of Telephone Account Managers spending 45 minutes on each of 100 quotes every week, they’re now spending 5-6 minutes presenting the report and issuing it to clients.
This has created an estimated additional capacity of 2 Telephone Account Managers – which was the anticipated recruitment required to achieve the organisation’s 20% growth objectives.
The software robot was deployed at a cost of less than 1 junior back-office clerk. The estimated Return on Investment based on increased sales productivity is expected to top 6:1.
There are additional benefits. Previously there were always some errors in the process – these have now been eradicated. Quotes and proposals are now being turned around faster – which in a competitive market means that the organisation’s proposals are landing ahead of their competitors’. The robot can also deal with spikes in demand – making it possible for the organisation to explore new campaigns with the confidence of being able to cope with the results.
As suppliers’ price generation processes change, the robot adapts with no cost or interruption. It’s simply a case of learning the new process, re-training, testing and rolling out again.
All of this was achieved with no requirement for system change, no expensive consultancy investment and the involvement required for the busy internal team was just a few hours of 1 or 2 people’s time showing the process to begin with and then watching process demonstrations to verify that the robot was executing correctly.