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Listen in as we dive in with Sam Nelson, leader for the Telarus CX Practice. We chat about current trends how the customer expectations are changing, what we are seeing in actual deals, and what to watch out for in the next 12-18 months as new technology enters the space. If you stay till the end and hear a discovery call role play!

Transcript of episode can be found below.

Josh Lupresto (00:01):
Welcome to the podcast that is designed to fuel your success in selling technology solutions. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus. And this is Next Level BizTech. Hey everybody, welcome back. I’m your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering at Telarus. And this is the Next Level BizTech podcast. Today I’m joined with the wonderful Sam Nelson, leader of the Contact Center Practice at Telarus. Sam, thanks for joining today.

Sam Nelson (00:30):
Thanks for having me, Josh

Josh Lupresto (00:31):
In studio. So the title of this track is Interactions and Contact Center and, and really what the future that looks like. So we’re gonna go through some good stuff today, but before we jump into that journey, what your role is, the experience, all this good stuff. How did you get here? Have, has this been a linear path for you, <laugh>? Did you used to make Happy Meals, sell cars? How did you get here?

Sam Nelson (00:53):
Yeah, When I was two years old, three years old, my first words were, I wanna sell contact center <laugh>. Absolutely. No, no, I’m kidding. Well, when I was younger, I really wanted to get into sports and until I realized that you actually have to be tall to have an advantage playing tennis. So when I realized that my path to Wimbledon was not going to happen I actually got into sports medicine. That’s where I started. Yeah. And then I sat through about 30 minutes of biology and immediately knew that was not for me, <laugh>. So I switched it to business. I actually started my my job in retail banking, and that’s where I got like the first taste of anything having to do with customers. I loved building relationships. People trusted me with their money. It was a great experience. And so it eventually led to finding a sales job in technology, in disruptive technology. And that’s how I made it here.

Josh Lupresto (01:49):
The important thing here to share is that you and I share the fact that we’re never gonna bump into any ceiling fans. So Absolutely. With you on the height chain as well.

Sam Nelson (01:57):

Josh Lupresto (01:58):
<Laugh>. Alright, so, so let’s talk, you know, there’s been an evolution. It’s contact center, it’s call center, it’s all these good things. We’re talking about it cx it’s about the experience. But talk to me about, you know, the title of this is Interactions, but, but bring this back to center, right? Where are we now? What does this technology solve and what is it encompassing here?

Sam Nelson (02:18):
Well, what’s interesting is the pandemic did a lot of things including the way that we as consumers like to do business with companies, right? We now expect things to show up on our doorstep, not even tomorrow or two days from now, but the same day right. And we’re even willing to pay more for better experiences and just for the least path of least resistance, I should say. Right? So the technology leading up to that has changed quite a bit with the way people have set up their roadmaps. Now, from a supplier standpoint, it’s leading more toward giving people different options depending on how they prefer to interact, right? Because, you know, like I said, our consumer expectations are so high and we want to reach out to companies the way that we prefer to do so, right? We don’t always want to pick up the phone and call somebody we want to text, right? We want to send an email if we don’t have time, Right? There’s so many different ways. And so what you’re seeing now is a shift from, hey, here’s my physical doorstep to more of a digital doorstep, right? And so to your point, we’re making more progress in the digital interactions realm.

Josh Lupresto (03:29):
So, you know, we, we joke about this, but when my kids wanna use their chore money to buy something online, they get, they get distraught when they realize it’s gonna be three days before it gets here. Right? <laugh>, that’s crazy to them to think that it takes that long and they’re like, Wait a minute, I thought we could get this stuff by 4:00 AM the next day. We joke about this cuz they don’t appreciate, you know, they didn’t go through it. We had to go through to wait weeks to get these things right. But yeah, but that’s the reality though. Like, if, if partners are listening to this, I think that’s the reality you’ve gotta think of for the business, right? That’s where the bar is being set. It’s the Chick-fil-A’s, it’s the Amazons of what that experience is, and they’ve gotta be thinking about, right? What, how is their business right now, their prospect that they’re working with? Are they, are they at that bar mm-hmm. <Affirmative> or are they far behind that bar? Mm-Hmm.

Sam Nelson (04:18):
<Affirmative>. No, exactly. And, and when you think about what the pandemic did as well, is it, it pivoted our attention from in-person experience to digital experiences, right? And when a lot of companies thought, Oh, I have the leg up in, think of like a Nordstrom, right? When you walk in, it’s like walking into Disneyland, everyone caters to you, but what happened was the pandemic and all of a sudden nobody could leave their homes for the most part, right? And so now you have companies competing on a very sort of level set playing field, giving other companies more opportunity to compete regardless of, you know, brand name or what have you. Because if we can get something today or within the hour, we’ll probably do that. Mm-Hmm.

Josh Lupresto (05:00):
<Affirmative>. So partners have choices. I think you do a phenomenal job leading out the CX practice. But, but tell everybody what, what is Telarus doing? What are you doing that’s different to help them understand this, Right? What’s their approach? What’s your approach?

Sam Nelson (05:13):
Yeah, there’s a lot of different components that go into this, right? And approach is definitely not linear. It’s definitely multifaceted. In that one, we have to make sure that partners have access to emerging technology, right? And just because something’s not on the magic quad doesn’t mean that it’s not good, right? A lot of these disruptive technologies are changing the way that companies are doing business and changing the way that they’re thinking of growing in the future. And so, you know, emerging technologies and making those available for partners is really key and it’s really, you know, a big responsibility with all the folks involved in this practice. But in addition to that, we need to make sure that we’re keeping our partners up to speed on sort of what the latest trends are, what’s happening when I’m telling you, if you go into the AI space, I mean, we can go into, into the depths of ai to the point at which, you know, we can have you, you know, sitting on the floor in knees to chest rocking back and forth, right? It really is the case, but it’s just really important to make sure that we keep our partner community really informed of what’s most important right now. And that’s a real challenge cuz something new is coming out every single day.

Josh Lupresto (06:23):
No, it’s true. And we have to pay attention to, is it the next greatest thing right? That people need to revolutionize their business? Or is this just some really good marketing?

Sam Nelson (06:30):
Exactly. Exactly. And it’s our job to make sure that they’ve also got the model in place that best supports our partner community, right? Because of course, you know, great partner experiences ultimately lead to really great customer experiences, and we have to make sure that they all are treated with a priority at that

Josh Lupresto (06:46):
Level. So if I’m a partner, let’s say I’m a partner that’s tuning into this. Maybe I’ve sold cloud, I’ve sold network, SD wan, whatever mm-hmm. <Affirmative> something different, and this is new for them, What are you gonna advise a partner to do to create a practice around this technology?

Sam Nelson (07:01):
Yeah, definitely. Well, the first thing to do is embrace this concept of getting comfortable with being really uncomfortable. And that’s something that regardless of practice that you’re involved in, if you’re looking to get into something new you have to get really uncomfortable. And that first step is actually 50% of the way there. And I’ve been in that situation, and so, you know, when you think of, Oh, I need to build a a contact center or even a CX practice you have to start somewhere. Don’t try to boil the ocean, as they say, right? Or if you think of like a sand dune, focus on a grain of that sand, right? And what you can focus on and what you’re really gonna go after. You know, pick maybe a few, you know, folks you want to go into the race with and go from there.

Sam Nelson (07:49):
But more importantly if you don’t know where to start, which is typically where a lot of partners are right now, come to us and we will help you start where you’re at today. I think that’s the biggest challenge in trying to educate an entire partner community on a, on a new practice, is that they really just don’t know where to start. Because there are so many things you could start with. They’re like, I have people who come to me saying, Sam, let’s talk ai, let’s talk workforce management. You know, employee gamification experience, right? And they really don’t know where to start. You know, let’s get back to the basics. And if you know that, great, maybe we talk about an ancillary product like AI or what have you, right? So come to us, we can help you. And just to add in, you know, a big differentiation for us is we’ve got by far the biggest technical team out there, right? I mean, we’ve got, you know, solution architects, we’ve got sales engineers you know, one of our guys literally wrote code for an existing product out there, right? We’ve got the tools that you guys need, so don’t be afraid. And we’ll help help you get started.

Josh Lupresto (08:51):
Love it. We, we gotta give JLo some love for sure. Yeah, <laugh>. All right. Let, let’s talk about trends. You know, you’re, you’re seeing a lot, We’re seeing a lot of different trends and deals, and we always talk about this, right? What’s next? What’s this? How does that, you know, how is that gonna factor in? Curious from your perspective, trends that you’re seeing into deals? Is it, is it these, you know, the uc world and the context center, you know, the CX role converging mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, what are you seeing trend-wise that matter?

Sam Nelson (09:17):
Yeah. Let me paint the picture because a few years ago, pre pandemic, I would say that unified communications and contact center were treated pretty separately, right? And so what we’re seeing now is that uc and CC or contact center are blending together. Because what we’re witnessing now is that companies are realizing their internal employees all, for the most part, play a CX related role, right? And it doesn’t matter if they’re communicating with the customer directly, but if the end result ends up in front of a customer, even if it’s a billing inquiry or something like that that person’s in a customer experience related role. And so that’s why you’re seeing these two coming together. The conversation of, hey, you know, is you see just for internal employees, is CC just for a contact center? That’s absolutely not the case. And so, you know, many suppliers out there will kind of muddy the waters but there’s a reason for that. It’s because there’s so much gray area in that entire environment. So that’s why, you know, even more importantly, to lean in on us to kind of help figure out what goes where.

Josh Lupresto (10:28):
Let’s, let’s dive into that one a little bit. Let’s talk about you know, I like to hear what you think partners that are out there that are successful, that have cracked into this. You brought up a couple things, right? You brought up gamification, you brought up workforce management. We’re talking ai, you know, rpa, all these things. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, what is the right, or is there a right recipe to understand some of those in trends? Are we seeing people more displaced the old seats and put in new seats? Are we seeing more people have success cracking with some of the ancillaries? What do you recommend there?

Sam Nelson (10:58):
Yeah, that’s a really great question. And there are really two types of customers out there when you look at the CX world. One is you have those customers who are literally looking to rip and replace what they have. They’re like, This stuff is old. We want something new. Help us with this entire project. However, those customers are very rare, right? Especially post pandemic. It’s hard to keep even staff, right? So they’re looking for ways to actually optimize what they currently have. So that’s a second kind of customer where, you know, you have to be able to have the discussion around, Hey, you wanna keep what you have, and that’s great, but let’s talk about how you can optimize some of the, you know, processes that you have going on in that unit. And so that’s why then you have the ancillary products that will sit on top of whatever they’re using to help optimize what they have and make the most of what they have currently.

Josh Lupresto (11:50):
So, I mean, do, do you find that, we were talking about modernization this morning with Koby, we were talking about the cloud practice. Do you find that the, the CX side of the house, those customers, do they know where they need to go from a modernization perspective? Do they have their head wrapped around it and they’re just coming to us going, Do we have somebody that can do a workforce management tool? Like what maybe what percentage of that, or what, what portion of that do you feel that they know what they want versus we have to help them transform

Sam Nelson (12:17):
Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>? well, let’s define a customer who knows what they want, right? <Laugh>, <laugh> we’ve got a lot of clients who say, Yeah, I want this, but I would say nine times out of 10, they actually need something else. And I’m sure our partner community can definitely relate to that. And it’s even worse, I would say, in the CX realm, right? When when a customer says, I get this one almost daily, several times daily, where a customer says, Hey, I want ai, It’s like, Okay, well, let’s start. And this is what I, I tell partners, start with the business outcome. What are you looking to achieve? And let’s work backwards from there. Because oftentimes a lot of customers are confusing automation with artificial intelligence. Things that don’t necessarily require a brand. Like if, then that’s totally different than like a brain having to figure out what the intent is of a customer calling in.

Josh Lupresto (13:12):
Yeah. So, I mean, a good example, right? I need, I need my agents more intelligent. Well, okay, I need ai. Well, let’s talk about what you need. Maybe you need some recording over the top to listen for that. Listen for tone, listen for sentiment, and make a, make a recommendation. Make a a not not sure agent advised on what to do. And I think we see that a lot as well.

Sam Nelson (13:33):
Right? Right. Well, and when people talk about, Hey, I need to, to you know, train my agents to be better. Okay, well, let’s talk about what mechanisms you have in place for that. Do you have coaches? What does the follow up look like? Sometimes it’s not even technology related, right? Sometimes it’s just a simple workflow process that needs to be filled. Now technology can certainly help with that, right? But sometimes it’s, it’s literally just a business practice that we have to talk to them about. And then technology can augment that.

Josh Lupresto (14:00):
Fair. alright, let’s get into the weeds on an example. I, I love to go into this because like you mentioned, sometimes what we get pulled into and say, I need this thing, or the customer says they need this thing, it doesn’t always end up that way either because a business outcome is different or just it, it didn’t do what they thought it needed to do. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. So walk me through maybe an example that you’ve been pulled into where it’s, Hey, I need this thing <laugh>, and then you ultimately found out, well, they actually needed this and we sold, or we implemented, or we fixed the problem and this was what we put in place.

Sam Nelson (14:33):
Yeah, absolutely. Oh, that’s a loaded one. Because there are so many different, different ways we could approach this. I’ve definitely had experiences like that where, you know, we’ve helped sell the core, but we’ve also helped sell an ancillary. So let me go into example of an ancillary solution because that’s where the majority of customers are today. I’ll use the basic example of, hey, we need artificial intelligence and I wanna go with these chat bots. Okay? So I actually went with the partners to the customer and they said yeah, we want these chat bots and here’s why. Come to find out that they actually wanted self-service, but it’s because their agents weren’t up to par and they wanted like kind of a nesting period to be able to train them up, ease off the chat bot, but then also filter different interactions.

Sam Nelson (15:23):
And it was, they thought maybe chatbot was going to be the ultimate solution, right? And granted it was part of the solution. But when we, we went in, we kind of debunked the different players in the AI space and where they play looking beyond just the conversational AI quadrant, right? Now of course, you know, I went in, but I also brought Jason Lowe in as well with the partner. And we were able to talk to it from a business process standpoint, but also from a technical standpoint. Cuz a lot of these guys are really hesitant to put you know, put new technology into a stack if it’s going to disrupt everything else. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, right? And so we had that technical coverage available too. So at the end of the day, they were actually able to completely change who they were evaluating but they were also able to get a list of 10 potentials to about two. And so the decision between those two is technically still pending, but at least we got them to that point.

Josh Lupresto (16:20):
Good point. Yeah. And, and I have to underscore right, what you mentioned earlier, I think we have the deepest team out there in whether we’re giving you new things, new ideas that you didn’t have before, and you’re ready to go rock with those on your own. Great. Or if we’re giving things that you’re getting excited and equally scared about mm-hmm. <Affirmative> great. We’re here to support you in both of that. We’ve got the team that comes in side by side to help you. Yep. And I think that’s been part of the key

Sam Nelson (16:42):
Success for sure. For sure.

Josh Lupresto (16:45):
All right. Before we get to the end, second to last here I wanna look in the future, right? So, so get out your crystal ball. My kids now hit me with the magic eight ball <laugh> somehow that decides everything in our lives, the future. Yeah. walk me through, where are we going? I mean, it feels like we’re at this time where all this money poured into the tech sector in the last five plus years mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and so many crazy technologies have come out. And I know you’re gonna, you’re gonna talk about some of them, but really, where does the next, let’s just bring it back down to the next couple years. What are we focusing on? What are we gonna see next? What is the future of this that’s maybe starting to bleed in right now?

Sam Nelson (17:26):
Sure. in the CX world it is very clear that companies are using CX or customer experience as a basis of differentiation. That much is absolutely clear. And so as a result, what we’re going to see over the next, even within the next, I would say, you know, nine to to 18 months or so is that you’re going to see a massive acceleration in the world of automation as well as artificial intelligence. And when I talk about automation, I’m talking more so around RPA or robotic process automation where a robot can literally you know, complete specific tasks for an agent, reducing the number of times that they have to go into different systems and what have you, Right? For quicker first call resolution. But you know, automation, artificial intelligence for sure. To give you a sneak peek of that, I actually spoke to someone of a supplier who actually said, Yeah we have the ability to change someone’s accent in real time while they’re speaking to a customer, Right?

Sam Nelson (18:37):
Because we love talking to locals and you can tell Yeah. Like when, when someone’s not from around here, you know, like me, where I’m like, Ah, no rain, I can’t do it, you know, I’m not from here. Yeah. Right. Yeah. And so yeah, it’s, it’s pretty amazing what technology is. So really at the end of the day, it’s, it’s automation, it’s artificial intelligence. And, you know, on top of that, it’s how to keep employees, how to keep them, because being an agent is really, really difficult. Working at a contact center is really difficult. I’ve done it in the past, so I can, I can tell from experience,

Josh Lupresto (19:07):
Yes. Dial up msn tech support. So yeah, I, anything that would’ve made my life easier, I would’ve been all in. There

Sam Nelson (19:16):
You go.

Josh Lupresto (19:17):
All right. Let’s maybe wrap this up with a little bit of role play. Okay. I wanna step back. I wanna be the customer. Maybe I’ll be the chief business officer. I’ll be the, you know, VP of Context center, whatever. And I want you to come in and maybe just be that, that right hand of the partner, the Telarus resource, the architect, whatever, the advanced solutions, all of the above mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and just walk me through what a partner might experience in just the first couple minutes of this conversation of how we come in and help kind of what we do. So, alright, we switch into character.

Sam Nelson (19:54):
Okay. Can you be like, be something relevant, like a, like a chief marketing officer or something? All right. I say that because they have the biggest budget, by the way.

Josh Lupresto (20:01):
I’m, I’m Bob, the chief marketing Officer. Thanks for coming to the meeting. I’m

Sam Nelson (20:08):
No, no, thank you, Bob. Oh,

Josh Lupresto (20:09):
Oh, wow. Okay. Thank you. Wait, I said thank you. Oh, man. Okay. I’m nervous. Wait,

Sam Nelson (20:15):
No, I already made him nervous.

Josh Lupresto (20:17):
Oh, this is great. Listen, I, I’ve been told I’m, I’m, you can come in and help us. We’ve got some issues going on in our contact center. We’ve got some legacy technology, but I mean, it’s working right now. So I I I’ve been told that, you know, you’re on the latest and greatest trends of technology. I don’t exactly know where we need to go with this, but the problem that we have is that we’re just not getting real time decisions. We’re really, we’re reviewing some of the data, some of the analytics, and we’re not able to really coach our people and improve them at all. So what do you, you know, where do we start in this conversation? What do you recommend? What can we do from here?

Sam Nelson (20:51):
Yeah, Most definitely. Well, first, Bob, thanks for taking this meeting. I really appreciate the time. And I appreciate you sharing all that detail. You typically, we have clients who, who have an idea of where they want to go, but it sounds like you actually have experience with what some of the issues are going on in your contact center which is impressive. Now, to that point, before we dive into, you know, real time discussion and kind of getting into the weeds there, talk to me about your top initiatives for the year when it comes to customer experience or, or whatever you have the contact center doing. Yeah,

Josh Lupresto (21:25):
So we, you know, part of it is we wanna keep a high NBS score. I think our brand is everything. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, our responsiveness is everything. Word travels fast. I mean, you know, yes, we’re going through some of these kind of cost cutting measures with everything that’s going on. Sure. Economy wise, we wanna make sure that our agents are efficient, but we also wanna retain those agents too. We’re having problems with, you know, high turnover, all of those things. So I wanna make sure that our product you know, gets the support that it needs. We can keep the support and the sales and the brand up. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, but is there a way that we can do that through technology right now? Cause I feel like some of the technology we have is outdated, but mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, I don’t really know how technology’s gonna solve that for us. Or are we gonna have to do a, you know, a whole lift and shift, or is there just a piece of this we can augment?

Sam Nelson (22:08):
Yeah, and that’s a great question. It’s really going to depend on sort of the outcomes you’re looking for, right? And when you talk about, you know, needing to add technology and, and you know, what you’re looking to accomplish, but you’ve got things like high turnover, you need real time assistance, it sounds like. Right? These are all, these are all you know, capabilities that several of our customers are looking for today. Because at the end of the day, you know, based on the fact that you’re, you know, head of marketing what a lot of other kind of marketing folks I’ve spoken to are really interested in things like, Hey, how can I, you know, make sure that my brand and my CX is literally our differentiator, right? How are you leveraging customer experience as a competitive advantage and things like real time and, you know, all these other capabilities will definitely contribute to that. And there are options. It doesn’t have to be a lifter shift, it doesn’t have to be a simple Bolton to your technology that you have today. But at the end of the day, it’s a really big project that technology can absolutely help solve for. Does that make sense?

Josh Lupresto (23:10):
It does. And that’s where we cut it, and that’s the aha moment. So hopefully that gives you a little bit of a glimpse into how we have some of these conversations, and that’s, that’s really where we’re here to help. So appreciate you playing along with the role play stuff there.

Sam Nelson (23:22):
Awesome. No, a hundred percent. And I’m gonna add Josh. Yeah. That, you know, guys, you gotta know when to pivot, right? Everybody knows that pivot, right? <Laugh> know when to pivot because you don’t wanna go too into the weeds. So a transition sentence that I typically put out there is, you know, Hey, this sounds like a really big initiative and it’s gonna require way more time for us to really go through what you need. Why don’t we go ahead and put something on the books for next week on this day, this time, and let’s have a, a bigger meeting with a broader team and we can go into more detail.

Josh Lupresto (23:53):
Yeah, great point. I mean, and throughout that you’ve got, you’ve got folks that have contributed to contact center code. You’ve got folks that have sold contact center and ancillary products, engineered all of the above. So, so yeah, tout that great point, right? Know when to say, Hey, are you o put the question back on them? Are you okay if I bring them into this conversation to help you? They’re part of my team.

Sam Nelson (24:14):
Yep. Absolutely.

Josh Lupresto (24:14):
Awesome. Fun stuff. All right, Sam, that that wraps us up. I appreciate you coming in, bearing in with our, our fresh snowflakes this year, and

Sam Nelson (24:24):
Delightful surprise

Josh Lupresto (24:25):
To do this with us. Thanks so much for coming on.

Sam Nelson (24:27):

Josh Lupresto (24:28):
All right, everybody, that wraps us up for this week. I am your host, Josh Lupresto, SVP of Sales Engineering, and this is the next Level BizTech podcast. Till next time.