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The key to business growth is succeeding, but only after your customers

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Soon, successful partnerships between IT services and customers will be reliant on being aligned through sharing risks, rewards and joint ventures. Customers are now increasingly tech-savvy, and where previously solutions were sold based on features, functionality and cost, they are now sold on an outcomes-based approach. This requires balancing value for money with delivering agreed outcomes and aligning incentives with the customer’s wider business objectives.

But how can solution providers prepare for this shift in mindset to serve customers better both now and in the future?

In this article, Matt Newing, founder, Elite Group, will look at what is driving this change, how service providers can add value and why only an equal partnership between customer and provider will work.

Technology: A driver for change

Technology can be both the enemy and the enabler. New market entrants who are “born” digital pose a real threat to larger established businesses as they have the agility to evolve quicker and adapt to market forces and the changing needs of customers. The issue for larger businesses is that they must transform digitally to compete and maintain a competitive advantage in the long-term.

As with most change, this presents a huge opportunity for businesses that can innovate and go on this journey, adopting the latest technology in a secure and compliant way to drive productivity and better serve customers. Those that digitally innovate will keep pace and win in their respective markets.

Seventy-five per cent of CEOs currently feel the pressure to digitally transform. The truth is that only the most agile will be able to ride the digital transformation wave. To survive, one must look at technology as not only solving an immediate need but also on maximising the long-term potential.

Digital transformation and the consultative market

There is a huge opportunity for partners that adapt their sales process to the customer’s journey. Taking this new approach will require a business growth strategy that is more interlinked with that of the customers. It’s not just a case of understanding what the customer wants, matching a solution, making the sale and ending the relationship there. Long-term success for both the solutions provider and customer depends on what more the solutions provider can give the customer in terms of outcomes. 

Solutions providers need to be the driving force of change within their customer markets. It’s less about technology-led initiatives and more about solution-led strategies that future-proof and grow the value of their business. It’s about driving incremental changes that allow customers to do more with the same or fewer resources.

How to ensure a successful partnership

  • Map client outcomes from the outset

To compete today, the four key areas that will help businesses become more successful are; being more productive, secure, agile and communicating better. The unified communications market is growing 5 per cent per year as customers recognise this. Global spending on IT services is also expected to reach a record high of 1.14 trillion U.S. dollars by 2021. But many digital transformation projects fail because companies aren’t integrating their business and technology strategies from the start. As the solutions provider, you cannot begin to transform a customer’s operations without a deep understanding of their business goals and pain points.

Step one is to find out what struggles and challenges the customer may be facing. Listen to their issues and ask specific, open-ended questions. Maybe their customer call centre isn’t performing as efficiently as it could, perhaps multiple offices need to find a way of communicating better following a merger, or is the customer looking to gain better insights from its data? Each customer is different – each with their challenges.

  • Align deliverables against client outcomes

When we think about what it takes for the customer to be successful, it’s much easier to then define the scope of work we need to do to help them be successful. Whether it’s seamlessly integrating mobile devices into the network or enhanced communication tools for effective remote working, it’s important to look at how the technology fits in with their business goals and strategy. The best combination of tools for one organisation will differ massively to the next. When discussing the solutions, focus on the benefits rather than the features – for example, time savings, increased collaboration or increased productivity.

And it’s essential not just to look at technology solutions in digital transformation projects. Often new technologies fail to improve productivity, not because of the technology, but because the cultural impact of that technology has not been thought about. It may be that CIOs and organisations haven’t yet made the full leap to transforming their culture, and this is where the solutions provider can offer up valuable people training. Workforce engagement has a direct impact on productivity. Hence, it’s also important to be mindful of the need to migrate business operations in a way that works for employees, so that they can implement change in a positive way.

  • Set up measurement to monitor the outcome and consistently improve

In the relationship between provider and customer, transparency and delivering on promise is crucial. To ensure that the solution meets the promise, providers must regularly monitor the delivery and proactively plan corrective actions if any aspect of it is at risk.

The customer and partner need to develop KPIs that enable them to verify and further enhance the value that the solution brings to the customer. To measure this success, the focus should not only be on technological performance, but also the impact of the customer’s operational and business performance.

  • Only an equal partnership will determine success

When it comes to growth, you must look at new ways to change things, and this is no more apparent than with digital innovation. Digital transformation is a technology-enabled tidal wave that is changing businesses every day. The one certainty is that only an equal partnership between an innovative solutions provider and the customer will successfully navigate the predictably unpredictable challenges along the way. It’s about finding forward thinking solutions that ensure that customers can compete in the future by adapting to the growing needs of the business. As a solutions partner, success only comes after the customer’s success.

Matt Newing, founder, Elite Group