In Part 1 we covered 5 of the dozen professional services that go hand-in-hand with the purchase of a comprehensive ecommerce platform to manage your multichannel trading environment. In the second half of this series we outline the other 7 services, closing with the one offering that can encompass all of them.
Why bother with services at all if you can buy a product, install it and learn to use it yourself? That’s an option of course, and generally speaking the cheaper or narrower the solution, the more likely you’ll be doing this anyway. With more comprehensive and complex platforms, however, it’s worth remembering that you’re engaged in a change management exercise, and according to McKinsey 70% of them fail. Services reduce that failure rate considerably.
Once you’ve made your decision and committed to a particular platform, you’ll need a process and project for implementing it. The better platform providers will set out a detailed plan for working with you to make this happen successfully. They’ll generally charge it as a separate element, separate that is from the monthly license fee for trading on the platform. Onboarding is critical to success and ensures that the people, processes and technology on your side and your provider’s side are working together. In most cases you’ll already be running a business, so transitioning to a new system and way of working has to happen, from the buyer’s point of view, as though nothing has changed.
Adoption of a new system and new behaviours is essential for you to get full benefit out of your investment. How the training is delivered varies from automated self-learning videos and training modules, to a ‘train the trainer’ approach where a key member of your staff gets the knowledge and in turn imparts it to their colleagues, to full, in-person end-user training. Again, some providers may break this out as a separate fee, while others may provide it as part of another element.
Once you’re up and running and trading with your new system, the more comprehensive platform providers will assign you an account manager or account management team to help you get the most out of the platform and the channels you sell on so you can grow your business sustainably. This expertise might cover platform functionality, automation and process improvements, marketplace, product or general business strategy, promotional programmes in collaboration with channel partners, as well as listening to your requests for bug fixes, platform enhancements and roadmap direction. Providers can sometimes supply this service as part of the platform fee, and sometimes, for a specific project, as an additional chargeable item.
From time to time you’re inevitably going to have technical problems that you need help rectifying. This is the realm of the support team, who operate structured escalation procedures for fixing issues with varying degrees of severity. Available via email, the phone or via support portals, this team’s service is usually part of your platform fee, unless you’ve taken a ‘no frills’ option where support is a chargeable extra. Your support team also manage the maintenance, update and upgrade programmes to minimise the disruption to your trading as they improve the systems.
A health check is usually a framed project that you pay for, but some providers may sometimes offer it as a complimentary service in the hope that you will convert to a contract with them. You can commission a health check any time, and it might review the quality of your current processes, your data, your products, your marketing, your marketplace strategy, your reporting and analytics, and so on. Depending on the nature of the project, the work might take place on site or else remotely, and is generally a function of the amount of time the provider estimates the project will take, multiplied by the prevailing hourly or daily rate.
Multichannel ecommerce platforms vary considerably in the amount of reporting insight they provide to the customer. Consequently, the amount of subsequent number crunching you do for your own reporting purposes varies a lot too. Even with the most sophisticated and flexible analytics modules there are occasions when you may need some custom reporting done, or else you may lobby hard for an enhancement to the module that gives you what you need with a few mouse clicks. Similar to the health check, these kinds of services are usually a paid-for project operating to a specific brief and timelines.
Finally, depending on your business model, you either develop these services in house or you stay lean and contract them out. Managed services providers do just that: they can provide some or all of these 10 services for you, for a price. They can also do the platform- and operations-related work as well, covering supply chain, logistics, warehousing, product listing and optimising, order processing, shipping and customer service, so you can be as hands off as you want. It all depends on your appetite for risk, control and margin.
So, it might be the product and its embedded technology that delivers what you’re looking for, but in the complex world of multichannel ecommerce, it’s the wrapping of professional services and expertise that maximises your return.
You can read more about Volo’s professional services here, some of which we provide directly, and some of which we provide through specialist partners, or you can contact us here to open the discussion.