2019 has ushered in a shift in control of IT budgets in many organizations. Now, more IT budget is controlled by sales, marketing, manufacturing, human resources and other departments. The IT folks will have to maintain the technology that is purchased, but the purchase, the sales process leading up to it and the follow-through on it will be less about what the technology is, or which vendor is supplying it and more about what it can do for the line of business or department. This new reality is pushing VARs into the role of customer experience (CX) or customer success “manager,” shifting from what technology they are selling to how that technology supports the business and improves outcomes.
“IT must still maintain the technology that is purchased but have less control over its purchase than the people who will use that technology,” Joe Vlajcic, Director of Strategic Business Development for Comstor, shared at a recent Comstor Customer Experience Forum. “Those people do not care about switches or routers or whether it comes from an as-a-service or services provider or, probably, even whether it comes from a U.S. company or someone else.
“All they care about is, if they give you their IT budget, will that IT solution make employees more productive, help them reduce costs, drive risk out of the organization and enhance their customers’ experiences?” Vlajcic said.
Growing your recurring revenue practice in this “new world” of IT purchasing involves providing a unique CX – and a focus on customer success – that sets you apart from the competition. Cisco’s Jeff McEachern, Software Business Development Manager, North America Distribution, joined Vlajcic at the Forum to discuss the challenges that are created by this new model. McEachern shared how Cisco can help a VAR or MSP quickly transform their business model in a way that doesn’t disrupt their bottom line.
As McEachern explained, resellers must focus on post-sales activity – including everything from ensuring that customers have all the training they need and understand all of the features available to them – rather than on how quickly the deployment will be and how many licenses are being used.
“At Cisco, we had an epiphany several years ago that if a customer didn’t understand how to use our solution, hadn’t become adept at it and come to rely on it for improving whatever they were trying to improve, they just wouldn’t renew,” McEachern shared. “And, if they don’t see results in 90 days, they will never buy from you again.”
This led Cisco to a CX approach and changed the post-sales approach it took with customers. McEachern also said that when CX managers focus on post-sales utilization and understanding of a technology, they are able to cross sell and upsell more readily. The catch is that they aren’t focusing on the sale, but, rather, the business outcomes the technology can affect and whether the customer is satisfied and using the technology.
“Every customer is different, but every organization has the same challenge of having to translate their IT investments into a positive business outcome, whether it is increasing productivity, creating cost savings or something else,” McEachern explained.
The objective is to build CX practices that help your teams focus on what is relevant to the buyers and will deliver outcomes that will keep them with you long-term. This changes the sales approach and forces the VAR or MSP to move from customer service – making things “right” if there is a problem – to CX. At the center of a CX plan is the resellers’ contract with the customer to understand what they are going to do with the technology and that it is the right fit with other solutions they may have.
“That contract also includes the commitment that the reseller makes to ensuring that the customer meets its goals and is there to help make that happen,” McEachern said.
Cisco helps VARs create CX plans and even provides job descriptions to help them hire the right people for the CX roles, blueprints for plan creation, and checklists that those in the CX roles can use when approaching customers and moving the shift from technology fulfillment to trusted advisor.