[010] Building a Contact Center in the New World, with Tony Poer from 8x8

Episode 10 August 09, 2021 00:52:04
[010] Building a Contact Center in the New World, with Tony Poer from 8x8
Scalable Call Center Sales
[010] Building a Contact Center in the New World, with Tony Poer from 8x8

Aug 09 2021 | 00:52:04


Show Notes

Why do some call centers don’t make the changes they could in their technology? Do you have a culture of change, or a willingness to change?

Everything is going to change because it’s going to improve in some way, thus change is inevitable. The purpose of organizational changes, such as those in technological systems, processes, and scripts, is for the company to improve and grow.

In this episode, Tony and I talk about what it’s like to build a contact center. We also talked about his experiences in designing customer experience and consulting on best practices for contact centers.

Learn more about call centers, sales teams, and technology.

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Connect with Jason on LinkedIn

Or go to Jason’s HUB – www.JasonCutter.com

Connect with Tony on LinkedIn

Tony‘s Bio
Tony Poer manages the Channel Contact Center Solutions team at 8×8. Tony has been with 8×8 for 4 years and has spent almost 20 years designing Customer Experience and consulting on best practices for Contact Centers. When he’s not evangelizing 8×8 at industry events, you can find him riding his bike or hiking with his family in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Tony’s Links



Jason: [00:00:00] What’s going on everybody so glad you’re joining me for another scalable call center sales podcast episode. Uh, very excited as always my special guest. He comes from a company called eight by eight. His name is Tony poer. And, um, eight by eight is a telecom company focused on call centers and the call center industry, which makes sense that he would come on the show and kind of share his experiences.

[00:00:29] Uh, Tony has been, um, he manages the channel contact center solutions team at eight by eight. Uh, and he’s been with them for four years. Spent over 20 years, designing customer experience and consulting on best practices for contact centers. It’s gonna be a lot of fun to talk to him about contact centers, call centers, sales teams, technology tech stack.

[00:00:50] There’s a lot of important things that I know are vital for call centers, especially for sales teams. I am not great at picking the right ones, but I know what’s important and that’s where Tony’s going to come in. Tony. Welcome to the scalable call center sales podcast.

[00:01:04] Tony: [00:01:04] Hey Jason, thanks for having me.

[00:01:05] Jason: [00:01:05] Appreciate it. Yeah. So like I mentioned, just now I know the technology is. There’s so many different options. Um, and not for this to be the eight by eight show. But I think one of the big things is when I look at this, especially as a con, uh, consultant, where I just wanted to dive right into is, um, maybe a little bit of your background experience, but then let’s talk about.

[00:01:30] The reasons why call centers don’t make the changes they could in their technology. For me, it seems like it’s overwhelming. And that may be one of the reasons why, um, but like where do you come from and your background, and then where do you see, you know, the challenges being for call centers, context.

[00:01:48] Tony: [00:01:48] So without dating myself too much, uh, I started my career working at Accenture and, um, one of my first projects was building out the backend call center for American express.

[00:01:58] So kind of tying in what their agents were doing on the front end with all of the backend mainframe processing, uh, from there, um, ultimately wound up working for a couple of smaller vendors in providing things like call recording and outbound dialing in the contact center space just kind of leveraged what I learned from the Accenture world.

[00:02:16] Um, and. Starting at about 2007 or eight, really flipped from being on the developer side of the house to being more like a pre-sales support, uh, side of things. So I’ve, I, I wound up working, um, at a small company that got bought by Mitel. Uh, you might know them if they’re, if you’re in the UCAS space at all, Michael’s a fairly large vendor.

[00:02:36] I worked with Mitel for about four and a half, five years, and then had an opportunity to come over to eight by eight, uh, about four years ago, almost to the day. About four years ago. And I have been working here ever since kind of driving hours channel organization and enabling them with more knowledge around contact center.

[00:02:54] So yeah, I guess if we’re going to pinpoint it, my specific background has been on the development side and then with smaller vendors leading up to now fairly large vendors, uh, supporting different contexts in our applications and, and providing, um, either the full suite of products or in some cases, smaller sets of products.

[00:03:10] And that’s kinda how my experience led me to it. Um, but I, I have been doing it for about 20 years and it’s always been with some sort of context and our focus, even though I came out of school with more of a computer science and an engineering degree. Um, and I think to your point, you’re right. There’s there are, there are a lot of reasons that people might not upgrade contact centers for a long time.

[00:03:33] I think one of the biggest challenges was. If you wanted to upgrade, let’s say you had a, an old Avaya on prem system and you wanted to do an upgrade to the Avaya. Well, that meant not only upgrading a via, but it meant upgrading the other 10 applications that touched the context center software. Right?

[00:03:49] You had to upgrade your PBX, maybe your call recording. If you had workforce management tools or anything like that, you’d have to upgrade every server and something that might’ve been small on just the PBX side, had these cascading effects that would. Everything around there, their computer telephony.

[00:04:07] And so you’d had people that just kind of kept putting it off or putting it off. And then as the switch to cloud became more prevalent, I think people are just trying to ride out that investment in the, in the software that they’ve, that they’ve purchased. And then eventually they’re going to switch to cloud and realize, oh, this probably would have been a lot easier to do four or five years ago, uh, and not have to worry about managing 25 different applications all over, but it’s usually just, Hey, I, I paid good money for this and I’m going to ride it until it dies.

[00:04:33] That’s that’s the attitude. I see a

[00:04:35] Jason: [00:04:35] lot. Yeah. And, and that makes sense. Total sense. I mean, obviously also could date myself in, you know, the era of the desktop phones and the server closet and, and, uh, all of that thing, you know, even having reps, accusing other people of the fact that they get the better leads is because they’re closer to the server culture to, you know, where the technology.

[00:04:56] I’ve been accused of that as well as I was, I was closer, closer to the internet, which is why I closed more deals. Um, because I, you know, I was, I was closer to the hub. Um, yeah, which is obviously funny, but that, isn’t an interesting thing where, you know, all of that sunk cost, all of that investment and what used to be a huge.

[00:05:18] Undertaking to change. One thing, like you said, it was just a domino effect. And then how that’s still kind of a remnant in people’s minds where they don’t want to change their phone system or their, their set up or something like that versus, you know, what’s available now in the cloud. And, and obviously there’s a balance there too, because you know, it’s kind of.

[00:05:36] Uh, if you selling CRMs, okay, well you could just upgrade your CRM and it would be better or faster. Yeah. But then everybody’s used to it. And there’s also that change that they don’t want to deal with. Even if it is better longterm, most people don’t like change. And where do you see that fit in to, um, the decisions that call centers make or don’t make, I guess

[00:06:00] Tony: [00:06:00] it is still a factor kind of amazingly the number of customers that we talk to that.

[00:06:05] You know, they say to themselves, yeah, we want to upgrade. We want newer technology. We want to be able to leverage AI and machine learning and bots and all these things, but we want to design the experience to look exactly like the old platform that we’ve had for 10 years, or they want to support the same exact functions and.

[00:06:26] You know, that’s not always a huge roadblock, but it does. It’s a paradigm shift for a lot of people that, you know, they’re used to, they’re used to the fact that there’s an orange button on the left corner of the screen, and that’s what they click to finish the call or to kick off a transaction or something like that.

[00:06:40] And so you get a lot of requests for, Hey, well, I want to still have my orange button because that’s just kind of ingrained in my workflow. A big piece of, of what we have to do. I mean, not just what we do at eight by eight, but I think I could probably speak for a lot of our competition. Um, you know, is sit down and understand, well, why, why is the orange button or whatever piece of functionality?

[00:07:00] Why is that so critical to you? If we get caught up in the idea of, I’m just going to replicate feature for feature, not only are you not going to get the most out of what the software or the application can do, but you’re also just burning all these resources to kind of retrofit. Something that made sense 10 years ago.

[00:07:18] I always try to just get to the bottom of and say, you know what, what’s the actual business school. Why do we want to, why do we want to have this piece of functionality? Because reality is I could probably come up with a more elegant or more efficient way of doing it. If we can get past the, the idea of, oh, I want the screen to look like this, or I want the buttons to be here, or I want the reports to be identity.

[00:07:41] You know, change is, is, is challenging, but some of them it’s really good thing and it’ll, it’ll provide so many other opportunities. If we just get past the, uh, the idea of how it’s got to look or I feel a certain way, but it is still something that comes up a surprising amount. Um, you know, I don’t want to go buy a car that looks like the car that I had in 2005.

[00:08:02] People want that, that technology experience sometimes it’s, it’s unusual.

[00:08:07] Jason: [00:08:07] Yeah. Well, and, and I think there’s a lot to that. Um, just talking about this concept of change, which is important for what you focused on, but just call centers, uh, owners and leaders in general, who are listening to this is to keep in mind.

[00:08:19] I mean, one of the biggest things I have looked for notice, especially in my clients, but in centers in general. Is there a culture of change or an openness for change. And the one big thing that I’ve always done as a leader and, or as a consultant is ensure that people understand that change is a constant, everything is going to be changing because it’s going to be improving in some way.

[00:08:42] However, the goal isn’t to just change for change sake, right? It’s not just, Hey, it’s Tuesday. And I had this idea in this spasm and let’s go and just move everyone’s desks and let’s find a new platform, right? Like. Yeah. And, and the change that’s made, uh, organizationally technology systems, processes, scripts, whatever that may be is for a reason in order to improve and get better.

[00:09:07] Um, and hopefully everyone understands that and they’re on board that if there’s a changes for that. And it’s interesting hearing you talk about the orange button thing. I’m just imagining someone as an adult saying, I loved my childhood home. That was my good memories. I want you to rebuild my childhood.

[00:09:24] Uh, exactly. And then I want to live in forever, uh, like a museum. And, um, you know, like you said, your car from 2005, uh, that’s not necessarily what you want to be driving right now. And there’s a reason. And of course, every time everyone gets a new cell phone, it’s different. The buttons are in different places.

[00:09:40] It does different things and it’s generally better. And so where do you have that culture in an organization where everyone goes, okay, if we’re changing. There’s a reason it’s going to be better. I’m assuming that’s the goal.

[00:09:55] Tony: [00:09:55] Yeah. I, I, I agree. A hundred percent. There’s, there’s gotta be an embrace of change.

[00:10:00] And I think if you look at most contact centers, not all fit this model, but a lot of them, you know, the average attrition is like between 30 and 45%. So there’s a, you know, a pretty constant amount of change just coming through the people that are working there. I think if your mindset is my employees, can’t take chances.

[00:10:19] You know, a third of their coworkers probably leave every year anyways. And there’s all sorts of, of internal and interpersonal change that’s happening in the contact center. I don’t think it’s a huge leap to say, Hey, let’s make some technological change. And it’s usually after some conversations.

[00:10:36] Everyone gets on the same page and realizes, Hey, I, yeah, if I change this one thing, it might be temporarily frustrating, but I’m unlocking 25 new features that are going to make me far more efficient. It’s going to make my agents more money. It’s going to make my agents better at what they do. They’re going to like their job more, you know, hopefully, um, it’s better all around.

[00:10:54] And usually the, the resistance to change disappears pretty quick. Once they realize that, oh yeah, I I’m, I’m getting rid of my childhood home and my race car bed. Uh, but it means that I get to, you know, I get to sleep in a, in a much larger bed and I have my own private bathroom that I’m not sure what my brother, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s give and take.

[00:11:14] And there’s a lot of value in, in, in growing and expanding.

[00:11:18] Jason: [00:11:18] And now that makes me think, man, I need a queen sized race card. Yeah. That’s what I need. Let’s just blend both worlds. Then now we’re talking. Um, and I think really, you know, back to the change that it’s just about change management setting expectations.

[00:11:31] Um, and the biggest tip I give to anyone is if you’re going to make a change in your organization or with the team is always help them understand the why. Right. It’s not just, Hey, we want to change our, let’s say our telephone technology just for the sake of change or because it’s cheaper, but it’s like, it’s going to be better.

[00:11:48] And it has these features. And to your point with the high turnover, uh, obviously you don’t want to leverage that or expect that. But, you know, the people who are still with you or with you for the right reasons, the people who aren’t with you, that don’t worry about upsetting them with the change, because if they’re, if they’re not successful, then, then how much of that really comes into play with your decision?

[00:12:10] You know, the other part in thinking about why somebody wouldn’t change or upgrade their technology, or, you know, any part of their sales operation. I alluded to it in the very beginning, which is just the overwhelming number of choices. Um, you know, you even used some acronyms that I still struggle with what they mean.

[00:12:32] I know what I want as a consultant when I’m working with a client, but there’s EUCAST and there’s sea cast and there’s all these things. And then there’s, there’s, you know, you’ve mentioned a bunch of things where it’s like, if somebody’s not familiar with that, a lot of times it’s easier to do nothing than try to even figure it out.

[00:12:49] And how do you address that? Or what’s the best way for a call center to be thinking about what they need.

[00:12:56] Tony: [00:12:56] Uh, you know, I think that if you’re in a spot as whether you are a manager of a call center, or you own a call center, if you are overwhelmed by the choices out there, I think it’s probably best to find whether it’s a consultant or a value added reseller that knows the industry well, and can talk to you about the differences and can provide a little bit of.

[00:13:19] Consultative approach for you. I mean, we can do that for you at eight by eight, there are plenty of, of partners as consultants like yourself. There are people who have that level of industry knowledge. They can come in and probably get a pretty good snapshot of where you’re, you’re doing well and where you’re failing.

[00:13:33] Um, the other good thing to keep in mind is so many of the players in our space. Um, Not just focusing in one particular area of technology, right. There, there is a real solid trend within the industry to say, we’re going to consolidate a lot of these applications together and integrate them and have a single.

[00:13:57] Uh, consumer experience at a single employee experience so that you’re not having to manage 25 different applications. So like with, you know, from an eight by eight standpoint, yeah. We’ve got the contact center. We also provide the telephony and we provide, if you also want to have video chat and meetings and things like that, we provide all that under one roof.

[00:14:16] So if you bring us into a discussion. We’re going to be able to say, Hey, even though you just asked about this one area of contact center or this one area of maybe PBX upgrades or something like that, Hey, we noticed that you, you have these other people who could benefit from some of this technology.

[00:14:31] Let’s tell you about it and let you make your choices. Most consumers want to do that level of research before they buy. Anyways, I forget the exact stat, but it’s something like two thirds of consumers are, are doing, uh, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re doing their own homework. Uh, and they’d rather do like a self-service or a, a self-discovery than talk to a salesperson who just gets sold on something.

[00:14:52] Um, so I think that there’s a lot of value in it. You’re doing a little bit of homework, but you don’t, I don’t think you have to be an expert in it. Talk to a consultant, talk to somebody who sells it and knows it and can give you a little bit of guidance. Even if they give you a couple options, it’ll make your life easier to choose from three or four different products, as opposed to a hundred.

[00:15:13] And a good consultant is going to know that market well enough to know like, Hey, this is a great fit for what you’re trying to do. This other one might not have the features you’re after, or this might look attractive because it’s got a shiny interface, but it doesn’t have international calling or, you know, whatever the, the different details are.

[00:15:28] I think working with a consultant or somebody who’s, you know, ingrained in that environment can really provide a lot

[00:15:34] Jason: [00:15:34] of guidance. Yeah. And it’s interesting that you mentioned about the, how many people research either to make purchasing decisions on their own or prior to even talking to somebody. And for me, a lot of that comes down to the fact that, like you said, people don’t want to be sold or try to be talked into things, or even like myself, I will hesitate filling out a form or reaching out to a company because then I know I just get put into this campaign.

[00:15:58] I’m getting calls and emails forever. I know I’m good. I wanted to stop. And you do that enough times where you just, I don’t want to fill out anything because yeah. I don’t even want to start that, that cadence, uh, as it’s called. Um, yeah. And I, and I think that’s something for people to keep in mind, especially from the sales side, if you’re selling something like, what are you doing to people that might be turning them off and what’s that you, a customer user, a buyer sales experience, like, and then obviously if you’re looking for some.

[00:16:29] You know, just understand that that’s part of the game is going to happen. Um, yeah. When, when you think about like, let’s say the call center owner, the person who’s listening to this that says, okay, I think I might be due to upgrade my tech stack. Right. Let’s say specifically, since we’re talking about communications until telephony is talking about that, what is like the, is there a good question or questions that they should be thinking or asking?

[00:16:57] Tony: [00:16:57] Well, yeah. So if I’m, if I’m, uh, if I’m a Senator owner and I’m thinking to myself, you know, might be time to upgrade. I mean, there’s any number of triggers? The biggest one that came up was we know, within the last 18 months was the pandemic, right. There were a lot of people that one day everyone was in the office and the next day.

[00:17:18] Everyone was not. And people had to figure out how to, how to pivot really quickly and our business, you know, I think at first I thought, oh gosh, the pandemic is going to really slow things down. And then, you know, the next six weeks of my life were nonstop because it was people saying, I’ve got this old on-prem platform.

[00:17:37] That’s great when my people are in the office, but now that they’re not in the office, I have no way to forward calls to any other location. So. You know, the fact that the old model wasn’t working, that was a huge, huge impetus for change for a lot of people. Right. And I think that that also brought forward.

[00:17:55] Okay. Hey, as long as I’m going to make this change to allow to, you know, to move into the cloud, because it gives you way more flexibility on where agents are, where your, your, you know, your team members are located. That was a huge impetus. I think that anytime you say to yourself, I’m not able to support my customers in the way that I would like to, or I’m not able to support my customers in the way that I’m used to being treated by other companies.

[00:18:18] Right. If, if you, I think about myself personally, and it’s a little weird because I work for a company that provides telecom. But if, if the only way that I can reach out to a company is over the phone. I’m probably going to look for a competitor, right? I don’t want to call you and I don’t want you to call me my preferred method of communication is text-based right.

[00:18:39] I want to send an SMS message and then my funnel, ding in three minutes, when I get a reply and in the meantime I can do whatever else I want. If that’s your mindset as a consumer, and you’re not offering that within your own contact center, that is that that’s when the alarm bells should be going off.

[00:18:54] Like, Hey, if I can’t do this with my current tech stack, I need to figure out a way to do it because not only is that technology available. But that’s how people want to communicate. Right? I’m not in the minority. Most people would prefer to not use the telephone. Now it’s still the number one way that people interact with contact centers, but that’s not by choice.

[00:19:14] That’s because that’s the option that most contact centers give. And they don’t, they haven’t all fully embraced chat SMS or social media or email or whatever. Those are their options. Yeah.

[00:19:26] Jason: [00:19:26] And, and that’s such a good point, especially because you and I are in a, in an age demographic that doesn’t race that represent the younger generations correctly.

[00:19:34] Tony: [00:19:34] Right. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m really young. I’m only like 21. Well,

[00:19:39] Jason: [00:19:39] you are in that young demographic. Um, you know, where it’s assumed that the younger demographic doesn’t want to pick up the phone and call, um, and that, you know, Older generations are used to that and that’s how they want to deal with it.

[00:19:52] Um, but it’s just not true as a group. Um, and then I also think about it depends on what it is that is being sold or, you know, dealt with where there’s some products and services where no matter what age the person is, they’ve still want to get on the phone and get the information. Right. There’s very few people let’s say that are going to buy a house.

[00:20:11] Uh, it get a mortgage online. The first time they’ve ever gotten a mortgage without speaking to someone and without getting help and going through the process. Now, if you’ve done it enough times before, you’re like, whatever, I got it, it’s just give me the paperwork. I’ll fill it out. It’s like, it’s not rocket science.

[00:20:25] Um, but if you haven’t done it before, it’s, it’s a, it’s a big deal. And so I think your point is great. You as a customer, how do you want, or what do you want your options to be one warning though? I would say is I see a lot of companies go too far to the other extreme of only thinking about themselves and their internal culture and then picking a channel or a few channels.

[00:20:48] Where they go all into that example, being tech companies, where they literally have no phone number because they don’t ever want to talk to anybody. And then that is leaving out that portion of people who want help or need help from a phone standpoint. Um, and so you want to make sure you don’t go all in on one or the other, not all phone, not all SMS.

[00:21:10] Um, but have that omni-channel approach. I love that it.

[00:21:14] Tony: [00:21:14] Yeah, I think you want to, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your consumers, what do your consumers want to do? How, what is their preferred method of communication? And if you’re not providing all those options, that consumer is going to look elsewhere, right?

[00:21:29] And you, you know, each customer knows their demographics better than everybody else. But when we get those customers and say things like, oh, I don’t want to have, I don’t want to have any automation. I want everything to come through the phone and want it to be answered by a live body. You know, it’s, it’s a delicate conversation to have, but sometimes we have to just say, look, um, that your, your mindset is it’s factually incorrect.

[00:21:51] Right? I can point to the numbers and say, look, your customers. They want other methods of communication, even if they’re on the older end of the spectrum, my mom uses Facebook, right? My, I have older relatives that use social media and channels other than the phone. So to just assume that your way is the only way is, is kind of a broken model.

[00:22:13] And then when you talk about companies going to the other end of the extreme and it’s. You know, it’s all online or it’s all bot driven. Um, I think one of the mistakes that tends to get made is that the communication is still impersonal. I think that a good automated design can still have a lot of personalization, right?

[00:22:31] Like what I call an airline company. Right. When I call American airlines, uh, they know that it’s me, that’s calling right. This it, the, even though I know it’s a robot, the robot answers, isn’t it? It says, hi, Tony, it looks like you have a flight scheduled for later today. And it’s like, yeah, actually I do.

[00:22:48] And coincidentally, that’s why I’m calling because I have to change it or it’s delayed or, you know, whatever the case is, that’s a personalized experience. That’s driven by a bot. That’s a lot less frustrating. Just a robot that says Blakely, tell me what you want to do. And it’s like, come on, man. I’m a VIP customer, or I’ve been working with you for 20 years.

[00:23:05] Why are you, why are you making this more work for me? You’ve got my data. You know what I like to do?

[00:23:13] Jason: [00:23:13] Yeah. And, and I think that’s important both from a sales, from a service standpoint, obviously we’re talking about, you know, scalable call centers, sales on this podcast. It can apply to both. I think the key is, is that, and this is my go-to for most things, as far as responses, it’s now 2021.

[00:23:32] Um, there’s no reason. Things should be manual in most aspects of the business or for salespeople or for the customer journey for the perspective client journey, where again, it’s that, oh, this is you. What can I help you with? Even, even if it’s like, we know who you are, uh, you shouldn’t have to tell me who you are.

[00:23:52] If it’s the phone number and confirm, and the sales environment, like you said, where it’s, it feels personal. Even if you know, it’s not, then that helps. Going back to something you just said about the companies, you know, your potential clients who say we want everything to be manual phone mode, where there’s no automation, there’s no omni-channel illness.

[00:24:14] And what do you think’s driving that is that just a stuck in the past? And this is what we’ve always done. Do you think you think them as a customer, like they only want the phone and they literally don’t want chat bots. And so they’re looking at it that same

[00:24:29] Tony: [00:24:29] lens. You don’t obviously

[00:24:32] Jason: [00:24:32] speculating. Cause you don’t know exactly what’s in their heads.

[00:24:36] No

[00:24:36] Tony: [00:24:36] in the handful of instances that stand out, you know, there’s those customers or prospective customers where it’s like, you know, you go in and you think you’re going to do a really good job. And they’re like, no, no, no, we really just want phone because that’s what our customers want. I think what it boils down to the handful of cases where they’ve been really headstrong about that.

[00:24:52] Um, they’re typically privately held companies and they’re companies that have, that have been owned and operated and managed by one person. Even if they’re relatively large organizations today, it’s still very much driven by that CEO or that founder mentality. On the one hand they founded the company, they got to where it is.

[00:25:11] They, their, their business acumen and their mindset. Got it to the size that it is today. But if that company was founded in 1990 or whatever, with, with those ideals in that mindset, uh, and is resilient to change. Yeah. It still might be going great now, but your brand is going to be eroded if you’re not taking into account what your customers want.

[00:25:33] So, you know, Painting with too broad of a stroke. I feel like the companies that tend to do that are it’s headstrong ownership or leadership that has gotten where they’re at, because they said my way or the highway. And they don’t realize that now they’re at this inflection point where it’s like, okay, well it’s your way or the highway.

[00:25:53] What it really boils down to is it’s your way or. I could go to Amazon or I could go to any number of other competitors that are going to give me the service that I want. Cause I could probably get that same product in a different package because now those options are there 20 years because you might’ve been the only game in town now I’ve got plenty of other options and we’re not even gonna have a conversation about it.

[00:26:14] I’m just gonna go right.

[00:26:17] Jason: [00:26:17] Yeah. And, and when you’re explaining that model, I can totally visualize that. And one example that just popped in my head is looking at yellow pages, phone book ads, right. And placement. And there were, there were so many companies where back in the day, not too long ago, Um, that was the only way other than billboards and maybe TV and radio, like you were in the phone book.

[00:26:39] And if you’re in the phone book, people were looking for, let’s say an attorney or whatever. That’s where they made their decisions was based on the ads that were in there and the bigger the ad, the better. And then as the internet came out and just kind of put that. It just made it less effective than, you know, there were still companies who are like, no, no, we spend this, we do the yellow pages and that’s all we do and we’re not going to change.

[00:27:03] Um, and it’s similar to what you’re talking about where yeah. Okay. So you can say, we’re just do everything over the phone. Cause it’s the way we’ve always done it. Yeah. But the consumers are different and then you can, you can draw that line in the sand if you’d like, um, you might just limit your growth and your revenue, your scalable.

[00:27:19] By doing that. Um, yeah. Yeah. Um, so if, if I’m a prospective customer and I know we just kind of talked about this and we were looking at the reasons why, um, if I’m a perspective customer of yours, right. Or if I’m looking at some kind of solution, I know that I need to make a change. What you’re talking about is, Hey, I wanted to.

[00:27:40] Upgrade my system, such that I can serve my customers. Like I like to be served or at least give them options, even if it’s not my thing. Even if like, I’m not a text buyer, but I want to give that option so that I can serve it. Everybody. What is a great question, shin that I would ask that a call center owner would ask someone like yourself or someone, you know, if they’re shopping for this kind of technology, what’s a great question.

[00:28:04] That, that when you hear that, you’re like, okay, this is good because they’re thinking of the right thing. Or they’re looking for the right thing.

[00:28:11] Tony: [00:28:11] Yeah. Um, it’s, it’s a tough one because everyone has different needs and requirements, but I think the one that tends to the one that I think prompts the most discussion and I think gets us to really understand what the organization is after.

[00:28:24] And it’s, uh, it’s actually, it’s a little bit ironic. Cause I think it’s, it’s a misguided question or it kind of shows a little bit of a lack of understanding about maybe how. The technology might work, but the question I get a lot is, um, so what do you, what do you do with AI? What’s your AI product look like?

[00:28:41] Or how can I, how can I automate this process? So what I get, I want customers to think about automation. I want customers to think about ways that they can let technology do some of the heavy lifting for them still offering that personalized experience. But they, when they ask a question about, Hey, tell me about AI or automation it’s misguided because there is no just off the ship.

[00:29:02] AI product, right? There’s no off the shelf bot the way that you might want to use a bot or, you know, whether it’s a chat bot or a voice bot can be totally different than somebody else. So a lot of the AI and the automation that we talk about is more of like a toolkit where we can say, Hey, let’s build this together.

[00:29:19] I’m going to give you the toolkit. You can build it yourself, or we’ll do it for you, but we’re building something custom out of whether it’s API APIs, whether it’s integrations to, you know, to Google or IBM Watson, whatever that might be. The, the introductory question about automating processes, I think is a really good delineator between kind of an enterprise level contexts that are, and just, I need a call manager.

[00:29:42] I need some way to distribute calls and it’s basic. That seems to be the inflection point where, where customers who are really. Looking to, to make strides. We’ll ask about automation. Even if that question is a little bit misguided, I’ll usually flip it around and say, okay, rather than look at it as, Hey, here’s the off the shelf automation product you have to tinker with and make it fit.

[00:30:04] Let’s talk about what you want to automate, what processes right now, make your agents crazy. What takes up too much of your time, right? How much, uh, whether it’s you building reports as a manager, whether it’s your agents having to answer. Questions about how much widgets cost a hundred times a day, that mundane stuff is what makes context centers grind to a halt.

[00:30:29] So if you can identify those things and talk about, Hey, how can we automate this stuff? How can we streamline this process? We’re probably going to have a really solid conversation and come up with some really good ideas together. And I’ll say that for eight by eight, frankly, I’ll say that for a lot of our competitors that are in the, you know, in the larger space, if we can start to have a conversation about how we’re going to actually improve and automate some of these things.

[00:30:50] Without sacrificing the personalization and the options that your customers want. That is a recipe for a great contact center discussion. On the flip side, if, if the contact center that you’re talking to, or the sales person that you’re talking to, if they just want to start putting quotes in front of you and start demonstrating things.

[00:31:13] You probably rushing it. Um, you’re only seeing what they choose to show you. I would rather have a conversation around what your overall process is like, and that we can get to that end point together rather than just saying here’s a quote, right? That’s it just asking for quotes because you’re like, Hey, I need an agent license and that’s.

[00:31:35] Um, I mean, you’re going to get a lot of quotes. A lot of salespeople will be happy to talk to you, but you’re not solving the core problem unless you really understand all the technology that’s out there just asking for quotes is probably not going to get you very far. Yeah.

[00:31:48] Jason: [00:31:48] And, and I think that really goes back to what we were talking about in the beginning, which was, you know, one.

[00:31:54] Call center owners, leaders don’t make the change and aren’t changing. Um, my guess is one factor to that is that we all will have, right? Uh, I will include myself as a leader in an organization, purchased something, some technology that was the latest or shiniest or check the box that even if it’s the owner, the owner gets a bug in their ear.

[00:32:19] Talk to somebody. At a conference heard about, let’s say in your example, AI and says, we need that. Get me AI. Okay. Yeah. For what? I don’t care, we just need it because I heard it’s the best thing and they’re doing it too, so let’s do it. Yeah. And then what happens is misguided, especially if the buyer isn’t educated and the seller only cares you selling the, I only cares about what they’re selling and jumps into the demo and isn’t prescribing the best solution and ensuring success is you buy it.

[00:32:47] Get it. Nobody uses it, it dies there, uh, until the owner or whoever’s paying for, it is super mad that you have this expense, monthly costs and implementation fee for something that was never used. Um, and then what you learn is you only do that once you only make that decision once. Uh, and then usually it’s like touching the hot stove.

[00:33:09] I don’t want to do that again. So I’m just not going to buy anything. Right. And I think sometimes that can trigger underlying people. Don’t always realize it, but that’s even in consumers, like I, obviously I work with call centers that deal with consumers. If consumers get burned, when they bought something that didn’t work, it’s going to make them hesitated, but we’ve all done that, right.

[00:33:28] We’ve all been burned by something we bought. Um, so I wonder how much of that plays. And I love your idea of that question being about AI, because either they’re thinking smartly and they want to go big with it, or they’re chasing shiny objects that are the new hot topic. And it’s a, maybe an indicator that like you, you’ve got to dig deep or they’re going to, they’re going to buy something and then blame you for it when it doesn’t.

[00:33:54] Yeah.

[00:33:55] Tony: [00:33:55] Yeah. I mean, and kind of the flip side of that, you can, you can go the opposite direction from a, from a buying standpoint, there are companies that kind of, as I’m sure you’ve run across these guys too, they’re they kind of, they they’re cereal RFP. Companies, right. Every two years they put out an RFP, they’ve got 150,000 questions that they want to have answered.

[00:34:16] None of which relate back to what the problem that they’re actually trying to solve. The questions, relate to the technology they’ve already got. And Hey, can you report on this? Can you do this? But they don’t really explain why. And you go through this RFP process and if you’re lucky enough or unlucky enough in some instances to win and it’s been implemented for six months, and then all of a sudden, they say, well, how come it doesn’t do this one?

[00:34:37] Well, you know, you didn’t ask your RFP was so pointed on these weird one-off technology scenarios that you didn’t ask. Hey, uh, how do we manage, um, how do we manage agent attrition? Or what can your system do to help us mitigate attrition? Right? That there’s no switch that I flipped that turns the attrition button on or off.

[00:34:59] But if that’s a big problem for you, we can have a conversation and talk about the technology that’s going to solve it. But it rarely gets addressed if I’m just answering 50 questions about how call recording works, right. That there’s this weird notion that the more information you have is somehow going to make the sale better.

[00:35:16] It rarely, rarely does. Gigantic RFPs are usually the most complicated and least satisfied customers that I deal with. And it’s because they.

[00:35:28] Jason: [00:35:28] Why? Why do you think from your experience? Cause again, you you’ve been playing this game for 20 years in, in various ways. Why do you think companies do those are put out those RFPs, those requests for proposals.

[00:35:43] Tony: [00:35:43] I mean, in some instances they’re required to, right. I mean, government entities have to do it in a lot of cases. They’re required to get a certain number of bids. They know that if they just go back and talk to their vendor, their vendor is going to say, well, I recommend you go with eight by eight, or I recommend you go with company X and that’s that.

[00:35:58] And maybe there’s a corporate policies that says we have to look at multiple vendors. So we’re not getting gouged price-wise or, you know, we make sure we’re getting the approval. Um, exposure to technology. So there’s, there’s the, the bureaucracy of it. That’s one piece. And then I think there’s also just a subset of, of consumers that have done that for a while.

[00:36:18] Um, they like having the vendors come to them and present on the specific things that they’ve asked for. So in their mind it works. I mean, if your goal is to. Get through a sales process and check a bunch of boxes then. Yeah, I guess the RFP process works. If your goal is to get through the sales process and create a new solution that helps define the direction of your business, that RFP does not always address those things.

[00:36:43] They rarely address the strategic objectives of the business. It’s usually like, Hey, we want to make sure we can do X, Y, and Z without context of why. And in a lot of cases, I mean, I mean, going back to the people that are reluctant to make changes, they, they, they want to buy this new platform, but they want it to look like their old platform.

[00:37:04] Well, the RFP is predicated on this technology that they understand that’s 10 years old, right? So they say, I want it to do these things and also have AI and automate. I mean, okay, we can do that, but that’s, that’s not a solution that is, you just are going and shopping off the shelf and hoping that we check all the boxes and that’s rarely a recipe for a successful contact center.

[00:37:29] Yeah. I

[00:37:29] Jason: [00:37:29] really liked my car from 2000. But I would like it to be a self-driving electric vehicle.

[00:37:38] Tony: [00:37:38] Exactly.

[00:37:40] Jason: [00:37:40] Make that happen. I exactly. You, a fee, a RFP process is a diff I’m just going to say it a defense mechanism against salespeople, right. Where instead of like, you’re selling it, I’m going to put you in a box.

[00:37:53] Vendors. And then you’ve got to play by my rules and then I can control the outcome without feeling like you’re selling me or I’m pastured into buying because I’m controlling the process. And again, obviously there’s government entities where they’ve got to, you know, be careful, they’ve got rules.

[00:38:09] They’ve got to follow, obviously because it’s taxpayers’ money. Um, but I just wonder how much of that is it is, uh, triggered by. Salespeople, uh, the old school sales person, who’s just selling what they want to sell and making them big commissions. And then people feeling burned. And then just this RFP world, which I know that you don’t enjoy.

[00:38:32] What if it’s non-government, non-required, non-life part of their thing. What’s the what in your, what would be your suggestion to come. As a better way than the RFP when, when they can. So

[00:38:47] Tony: [00:38:47] I, I think maybe, maybe the idea that the RFP should go away, that that’s maybe not the right approach. I think that it’s just a redesign of what kind of questions you want to ask in an RFP.

[00:38:59] If you’re, if you, if an RFP is designed to say, here are, here are our goals and objectives of the contact center. Um, and then here’s the technology that we, that we hope to have. I want to make sure I concisely explain this. If you ask 25 questions about very specific types of reports or very specific features of the contact center.

[00:39:22] Then you have to write up 25 questions. I have to answer 25 questions. You have to read 25 of my answers. And then you have to convert that into some sort of scoring mechanism that says yes, Tony’s company, either passes or fails and moves to the next round. It’s a really inefficient process. Instead, we should just like, let’s say that it’s around a web chat, right?

[00:39:42] It should be. Do you support web chat? Yes or no. If you do. Then let’s have another conversation to talk about what that means. If you don’t like the RFP should be about weeding out. But I think we’ve got so many questions that we’re gonna use to weed people out that these RFPs become unwieldy. Uh, my, if I was going to design one from scratch, I would probably look at the core pieces of functionality that I would want to have.

[00:40:07] And it would not be the specifics of how web chat works. But do you have web chat? Do you. Uh, workforce management and scheduling tools. Do you have speech enabled IVR? And they could really just be, yes, no questions. Nobody ever reads. I get questions. And it’s like, describe your reporting capable. Okay.

[00:40:26] Well, you know, a similar question would be like, describe the internet. Well, how much do you want to know? Like how I could give you a hundred page report guide if you want, or I can just say, yeah, we’ve got all your basic contact center reports, and if you’ve got concerns or questions, let’s talk about them later, but let’s get the table stakes out of the way.

[00:40:41] You could probably fit it RFP in one page. We’d have the players that don’t fit the bill. There are plenty of consultative resources like, and you may or may not be a fan of the different, um, analyst documents, but let’s pick Gardner out there. Some people love Gardiner, some people loath Gardner. Um, but look at Gardner, if you can see who the major players are with the successful track record and say, yeah, these guys are in the quadrant.

[00:41:05] These other guys have been around for three weeks and are doing business out of a garage. I’m going to ignore that smaller organization and maybe focus on the one that’s got a track record. So understand what’s important to you and ask those core questions, narrow it down to a smaller list. And again, going back to the idea that you should probably be working with a consultant, they can tell you, Hey, if you do this, you’re going to get a hundred responses.

[00:41:28] You need to narrow it down. We could probably, without having to go through that process, pick the five or six candidates that we already know fit that technology. The information is there. We shouldn’t have to answer. Describe your report capabilities or describe your, your infrastructure. Everyone’s going to answer effectively the same way, which is I’m going to, you’ve asked a vague enough question.

[00:41:50] I’m going to give you what you need so that I can get a seat to the next, in the next round. I didn’t solve your problem. Right. So I would, I would say like streamlined, streamlined, considerably, and then once we find some people we like, then we’ll get into the work.

[00:42:03] Jason: [00:42:03] Yeah, and I love that. And as you’re describing that, I’m just visualizing one of those product feature, you know, where there’s columns and there’s check boxes of either their own packages or them versus the competitors of what features they have in the boxes they check versus the competitors.

[00:42:20] Um, and that’s really it, right? I mean, that’s what you’re looking for. Like you said, to have that next conversation, because when you do open-ended questions, And you’re asking a salesperson to describe their reporting features. Of course, they’re going to talk about all the amazing things that are going to say, well, we don’t do reports very well and we don’t integrate with this and you have to export everything and you better have a data scientist because it’s still Sox when you get it in a spreadsheet.

[00:42:43] Like no one, no, one’s going to say that even in the RFP or maybe even when you talk to them, so you’re going to need. Talk to somebody and then see it, and then look at the reports if that’s like an important feature. Um, but you’re not going to, again, the RFPs, what I’ve seen is this just a chance for me to sell you?

[00:43:01] It’s it’s like a resume it’s like picking somebody to work, uh, at a company just based on the resume. The resume is a good filter to start, but it’s also could be just completely made up. Right. And it’s only the highlights. It’s only what sounds good on paper.

[00:43:18] Tony: [00:43:18] Yeah. And you also, I think if you’re writing an RFP, if you can.

[00:43:24] Understand or if you don’t, if you, as you’re writing out the questions, if you don’t understand why that is a critical piece of this sales process, right? Like if you say that, going back to the reports, if you say, Hey, describe your reporting capabilities. If you can’t say to yourself, why I need this information, why this data is critical to this RFP.

[00:43:45] For me screening these people out, you shouldn’t be asking the question. And if the question as it’s written, isn’t going to address that stuff. Then revise the question. If you. Just want a general thesis about reporting. I can give you that, but if you say to yourself, Hey, we are required by law to provide these metrics to a regulatory agency, uh, every on the 30th of every month.

[00:44:12] And we need these data points. We need to understand, you know, how you can deliver that, or can you deliver that? A company has a lot more insight in how to answer that question and you’re not just going to get some generic copy paste from my marketing page about what our reports do.

[00:44:26] Jason: [00:44:26] Right. I, I completely agree.

[00:44:28] I mean, if you can be specific in those questions, again, like the interviewing example, uh, you know, what you want, you know, what does work. You, you know, experiences in the past. And so the question’s going to be specific, you know, tell him like the interview question. Tell me about a time when you dealt with an upset customer and how did you overcome it?

[00:44:46] Right. I’m looking for a specific thing, not tell me about a time when you spoke to somebody. Um, I even do it, right? So this is so vague. All right. So let’s, let’s shift gears here with our, our time left today. Um, okay. So you’re dealing with contact centers, call centers, sales teams, all over the place.

[00:45:04] You’ve been doing it for a long time. Let’s remove the technology piece. Okay, but talking about essentially your end customer, which is these call centers, what are the ones who you feel like are doing well right now, let’s say 20, 21 with, or without everything in flux, but just in general, what are they doing?

[00:45:24] Well, what are the ones that you view as successful? What are they doing? Well, it’s not just tech wise.

[00:45:33] Tony: [00:45:33] Um, I think that companies that really focus on. The satisfaction and the experience for their agents and their employees tend to be really successful. It probably sounds a little bit of a cliche. You got to take care of your, your internal people first, and that’s going to happy agent makes a happy customer.

[00:45:52] I mean, it’s, it’s a little bit of a stereotype or a cliche because it’s true, right? If you’re investing in the success of your employees, that is going to translate to the success of your context center. We know that attrition is a huge challenge in a lot of context centers. And we know that, you know, you, you pay roughly 75% of your budget goes towards agent salaries.

[00:46:17] And we know that attrition is like somewhere between 30 and 45% year over year. And we know that agents leave because they don’t feel like there’s any promotion opportunity. They feel like it’s a dead end job. And they feel like they’re not good at their job. Um, they, they leave because they are tired of working on 15 year old technology pay is not necessarily the top reason.

[00:46:41] In fact, there’s a lot of studies where pay is not even the top five of reasons why agents leave. So if you’re providing an environment. Allows the agents to have their personality allows them to have flexible scheduling, allows them to live the life that they want to live, whether that’s working from home remotely or given the options to, to, um, you know, choose their own shifts or given the technology they want to use taking away all the mundane stuff, focusing on the agents generally translates into a very successful contact center.

[00:47:10] And if you don’t focus on that, Nope, no matter how much money you throw with the software, if the agents are unhappy with the way that it works, you’re going to be frustrate.

[00:47:20] Jason: [00:47:20] Such a good point and it doesn’t sound cliche. I mean, to me it sounds valuable that that seems like that makes complete sense. Um, I know for me, whenever I interact with a company, I can usually tell or guess what their company culture is like at when I’m the customer based on how the salesperson or anybody interacts, like, okay.

[00:47:44] Is what is acceptable or this is how people treat people and it’s always an extension. Um, and I can see too, when we get back to this whole technology buying piece, where companies who are like, I have an attrition problem, I have an agent problem. I have a customer satisfaction. I have a, uh, employee satisfaction problem.

[00:48:03] So let me just buy the shiny new toy for them or get them something, you know, maybe upgrade and that’s gonna fix it. And it’s gotta be. It’s gotta be together, right? Like you can’t, you’re not gonna fix it. Right. Like you’re not going to make someone happy by buying them a present if they’re not happy.

[00:48:20] Right. And giving them a gift. Uh short-term it might work, but long-term it won’t. So I think that’s, I think that’s a great observation for companies if they want to succeed and they want to scale and they want to do better and, and help with the attrition focus on how and what are the ways. To improve that employee

[00:48:40] Tony: [00:48:40] satisfaction.

[00:48:41] Yeah. Yeah. Understand why they’re understand why your employees might be frustrated. Right? If you, if, if you buy a new piece of technology, just because you buy eight by eight, doesn’t mean that your contact center is going to be great. Right. If you’re buying it and you’re not utilizing that technology to solve the specific challenges that you have, you’re just, you’re still gonna have the same problems.

[00:49:02] It’s just going to be in a shiny, your package. Right. So understand why your employees. Want to leave. If attrition is a problem, let’s figure out why they want to leave. And if you can’t figure out why they want to leave, then let’s, you know, again, you can do more homework on your own. You can work with a consultant.

[00:49:16] You can work with us. We can help you figure out where agents are going to get frustrated or why they might leave. And then when we implement a solution, we’ll make sure that, Hey, this is we’re going to put some technology in place that specifically addresses the concerns that your people had. Right. And we might have to tweak it or modify it six months down the road.

[00:49:36] It’s not. Install it and then walk away and we never touch it again. It’s, it’s a living, breathing organism for lack of a better term a year from now. Things could be totally different. Two years ago, we were not radically concerned about supporting work from home. Right? And now we are, so things are going, you keep evolving.

[00:49:54] And if you look at why people are unhappy or look at the challenges in the context center and can pinpoint and say that’s where the bottleneck is or that’s, that’s what our, our core issue is here. And you’d start to build your solution around that. It’s way more effective than just saying, well, I’m going to upgrade because I’m due for another.

[00:50:12] Yeah. That’s, that’s the guy who just buys a new car every two years and he’s, you know, cause he’s trying out new things. He’s not going out and figuring out that’s the car that I need. And then I never have to buy a new one.

[00:50:23] Jason: [00:50:23] Yeah. Or I’m buying a new car for two years. Cause I think that’ll make me happy.

[00:50:27] I mean, there’s some people buy a new car every two years because they really enjoy it. But is that the truth? And is that the case for them? And obviously that’s great advice for organizations. I love it. And I think that’s a perfect place to end. Company culture. And like you said, two years ago, uh, nobody would’ve thought any call centers would have allowed anybody to work at home, right.

[00:50:47] Scale. And here we are. And so, you know, having, going back to the, having that culture of being open to change and, uh, you know, like then you added, which is employee satisfaction. If you have that. They’ll get through anything or adapt to anything or, you know, improve together. So I love that. Um, now for people listening or watching this, uh, I know that if they want to get more information about eight by eight, they can go to eight by eight.com, which is the number eight X eight.

[00:51:15] And the number eight again, uh, dot com. Uh, there’s a bunch of resources, a lot of things on there. If they want to find you, they can find you on LinkedIn, Tony pore, and it’s P O E R a. I know that you’re very active on LinkedIn as well. And, um, I appreciate you coming on and sharing kind of this technology piece and what you’re seeing in the industry, especially with so much experience and sharing this with you audience.

[00:51:38] Tony: [00:51:38] Hey, thanks for having me, Jason. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

[00:51:41] Jason: [00:51:41] All right.

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