Have you ever got tired of Sales reps complaining complaining about the complex CPQ interfaces, and all the steps they have to go through to get a simple budgetary estimate? While CPQ platforms (Salesforce, Oracle, SAP…) are developing new functions faster than we could imagine a decade back, the challenge of user experience and adoption have been there all along. Good news is that, if we think outside the box, there are other opportunities to improve the user experience, still taking advantage of all the benefits a CPQ platform can provide. Note, my suggestion here is for mostly simpler quotations, where the quote manipulations are limited. For complex quotes, let’s say, to configure and price a turbine generator worth millions, it’s better be done directly in CPQ platform itself.
From Forbes, “Chatbots have taken a quantum leap forward in user support, contributing substantially to the emergence of the modern service desk. Even in their earliest form, they heralded the promise of versatile new advances to come, such as sentiment tracking, NLP and machine learning.
As chatbots evolve, we are seeing a continuum of progress that will soon make it nearly impossible to tell the difference between human and artificial intelligence in service desk and customer service functions. I believe it’s enlightening to understand the chatbot journey, as it has evolved from the first generation to next-gen conversational AI that is unsupervised and context-aware.”
The key points to note that the chatbots are much more capable; though in most consumer world, most of the chatbots function to help the visitor find answer to a question, querying a database of pre-scripted questions and answers. Sometimes, these chatbots can also connect to the live agent. However, when we talk about B2B commercial activities, the true power of chatbots come from its ability to interact with artificial intelligence and back-end systems, in this case, a CPQ. Modern CPQ platforms, which we use for commercially to configure a product, price it properly and send the quote to the customers (CPQ: Configure, Price, Quote), have the ability to process almost all key functions and feedback the result to other systems, in addition to user driven configuration & pricing activities (for example, if we want a Dell computer, we can go to Dell.ca and configure one computer and get the latest pricing).
Now, let’s make sure we understand what is a guided selling. The word ‘guided selling’ is so broad that everyone can have a different definition. In theory, it is the function of the CPQ platforms where it ‘guides’ the user in selecting the right product. However, a true guided selling will analyze ‘what’ customer needs, and suggests the ‘right’ solution instead, taking advantage of the analytics and other logical calculation capabilities of CPQ platforms. For example, if the customer knows they want a Laptop with Core i7, 15″ screen, 16gb Ram with 1TB SSD, a CPQ can ask those questions one at a time and narrow down the selection for them. However, if the customer wants a PC that can enable his small business accounting work, then CPQ can ask about the work volume and other parameters, calculate the potential options and recommend the right computers built for that purpose. Chatbots can play a role in both simple and complex guided selling process, and it can actually make it easier for Sales Reps or Business Customers to get the quote they want with minimum administrative procedures.
Here’s an idea how it might work out, assuming, we’re using 4 platforms for this purpose; I won’t go through each step, they’re pretty much self explanatory, but you get the point. We can make it as complex as needed, or as simple as needed; in the end, goal is to give a very friendly user experience to the sales team. Let’s briefly talk about the platforms and how they can work together to create this seamless experience.
Chatbot Interface: This is the main user interface, and in this case, ONLY interface the sales rep will use to get the quote. Because of the versatility of such interfaces, it is possible to have it anywhere from a website to a mobile phone, as long as the system allows it to connect to the Chatbot Engine/AI Engine. We expect the user to enter questions, information and get the feedback from the same interface. However, because of the complexity of the data coming from CPQ, this interface should have the ability to show tables, bulleted list and attachments in PDF or some other format.
Chatbot Engine/AI Engine: This is the brain of this whole schema, it will parse the input/questions from the chat interface, create a series of action items, and communicate with CPQ and CRM to perform the actions. When the actions are completed, it will feedback the result to the user via the interface. For example, as the user enters answers to the guided selling questions, it should be able to parse and combine the data points, send those back to CPQ for processing; and when CPQ processes the data, and comes back with follow-up questions, it should be able to compile those and show to the user via the interfaces. Note, for some simple scenarios, it could be possible to keep the guided selling rules in Chatbot AI Engine; however, I’ve seen situations where I had to build hundreds of rules and CPQ Engine is better suited for such task.
CPQ & Analytics Engine: Most common and top-tier CPQ platforms can handle routines and send the feedback to any other interfaces. For this schema to work, CPQ should be able to take input from multiple sources (Chatbot AI, CRM…), perform necessary calculation, run the routines, and send the result back to Chatbot. I’ve assumed that the cloud-based CPQ has the necessary horsepower to do so in a very fast speed. Nothing drives the user away if they don’t get a response from their Chatbot within a very short window.
CRM: Standard cloud-based CRMs can be easily used to extract data and send the data back to it, in this case writing to the Opportunity entity and the Account entity about the latest quote.
I know this is a simplified version, and there could be many points of failure. However, with the modern technology, AI engine, powerful Middleware and ever-growing top CPQ engines, this is possible.
If any question, please don’t forget to reach out.
Copyright: Reza Rahman, CPQ World