Managers might not realise it, but they could be suffering from high staff turnover and poor customer retention due to the simple inability of human beings to use technology.
Bottom line profits might be trailing far lower than they need to be due to the simple fact that businesses’ employees, customers or both might just not understand how to navigate the user experience required to either make a purchase or to do their jobs.
If this problem is real, the next question should be ‘how do I know who is struggling to use my technology, and what can I do to help them?’
There are two answers, depending upon whether you’re a customer of the business in question, or perhaps an employee.
In reality, both platforms work equally well in any software environment and people-based scenarios.
What is CPQ?
CPQ is an acronym for Configure Price Quote.
CPQ platforms exist in the form of SaaS (Software as a Service) facilities.
They help to ensure that when salespeople quote prospective customers for new business that the terms and price they are offering is accurate, realistic and workable.
It’s obvious that if a quote for any deal is too cheap, the company providing the product or service might end up working for next to nothing, making zero profit and therefore there would be no point in supplying the customer in the first place.
Conversely, if a quote is too expensive for the prospective customer, the tender isn’t going to win any new business as it will price itself out of the market.
Let’s take a fictional example of how CPQ works to ensure that quotes are not only accurate but profitable, and that the resultant contracts are serviceable:
Imagine that a motorcycle spares manufacturer, let’s call them Iron Horse Ltd (IH), supplies parts for British-made Trophy motorcycles in the UK.
Trophy approach IH asking for a quote for 5000 units of exhaust mufflers.
Not too complicated, you might think.
But 2000 of the mufflers are destined for motorbike models in the domestic UK market, 2000 for machines exported to the USA, and 1000 for bikes being shipped to Germany.
Before CPQ, a sales manager would have to liaise with their engineering team counterpart manager and assess whether the mufflers would be universally compliant for the US, UK and EU markets respectively.
To her dismay, Samantha the sales manager is told by Bill, the head of engineering, that each muffler must be compliant with three varying noise and emission regulations for each specific market.
The 2000 parts for the UK market are already compliant, so IH can quote for those, but the USA export mufflers require extra sound baffles, and the German-destined units need extra particulate filters to meet tougher EU emissions regulations.
The Butterfly Effect
So now, IH must regard this exercise as giving not one, but three quotes.
The EU and US models of muffler will need slight manufacturing changes.
This causes big problems.
Due to a slightly enlarged baffle, the US-bound welded fixing bracket will have to be moved by an inch further up the body of the chrome muffler.
A new welding process might mean extra labour time to set up the machines and train the welder-operators.
In turn, the moving of the bracket also means that the pipe needs to be made slightly narrower at the exhaust manifold end. Now that’s a complete re-tool job.
The knock-on effects of all these immensely complicated inter-relationships between fitting compliance is known as ‘combinatorial explosion’ a kind of ‘financial butterfly effect’, where one small required change by a customer ends up in a complete rework of a manufactured item.
CPQ software solves this problem by using an artificial intelligence (AI) based decision tree; a rules-based architecture that simply works out what changes need to be made when any part of a required quote changes.
A dashboard calculates and displays all the interrelationship conflicts between parts and processes in milliseconds, then itemises any changes to be made. It leaves nothing out of the equation.
So, provided that the rules are programmed correctly at the outset, a new quote will be produced that considers extra labour time, differing parts to be sourced, etc.
Then, within a few pushes of buttons and a couple of clicks of a mouse, the required manufacturing strategies and new accurate costings are displayed transparently, enabling managers to make solid commercial decisions on how to quote for the amended parts.
The human element
But software is only as good as people using it, especially when many firms are putting employees under increasing pressure by laying off team members in droves.
Imagine now a further analogous scenario: both the customer, a purchasing clerk at Trophy motorcycles, and the supplier, a junior salesperson at IH, are struggling to use their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems.
Why are they having difficulties? Because they’re both new employees and they are unaccustomed to the systems they have been asked to use.
Four hours training with the sales manager hasn’t really helped at the supplier end, and it is our purchasing clerk’s first day on the job.
Imagine now if one or both of those staff members are working from home.
They must either call the boss or a known colleague and ask something like “What on earth do I press to accept this price?” Or “…do these figures include sales tax and shipping?”
That’s where the Digital Adoption Platform solutions (DAPs) mentioned at the beginning of this article become a lifesaver for any digital transformers using a computer, be they a teacher, an online shopper, accounts clerk or salesperson.
A DAP is just a separate ‘teaching layer’ of software that sits alongside the primary software being used, which monitors and understands the software user’s progress.
It uses AI to build a different picture of every individual using that given software.
Let’s say that our purchasing clerk tries entering a date of anticipated delivery into a field on their CRM screen.
No matter how many times they try, the date isn’t accepted.
That’s because it’s the 14th of February 2023, but the input 14/02/23 isn’t compliant with the CRM. USA format input is required in the form mm/dd/yyyy.
The DAP platform would note that the clerk was struggling with this and offer a screen tip advising the correct format.
But crucially, the DAP would then monitor that individual person’s DAP learning account for a recurrence of the error on subsequent screens or days.
If the error happened again more than once, let’s say that the clerk comes back into work on Monday after the weekend, the DAP would announce at the opening of the relevant screen “Hi Eric, don’t forget that when filling in the date below, use mm/dd/yyyy date formats.”
In addition, once the clerk had successfully entered dates correctly on that screen several times, the DAP would no longer prompt that user with that message; the DAP learns that its human pupil has also learned.
DAPs don’t have to be specific or exclusive to commercial software.
There’s no reason why a DAP couldn’t be installed in an electric car as a permanent helpful co-driver!
Or DAPs could be installed as a web browser extension to help senior citizens filling out online forms, or maybe help online shoppers navigate the complexity of searching for certain products.
Furthermore when a CPQ has a DAP running in the background, its use becomes even quicker and easier – imagine the CPQ operative putting a specification into the dashboard in centimetres rather than millimetres, but the DAP picks up the error.
In short, a DAP is a digital change management godsend.
That’s technology in perfect harmony, a future when all software and digital interactivity becomes so much more reliable, safe and enjoyable for everyone.