Calling Your Deliverable “Managed” Is Not the Same as Actually Managing (IT).
Today, print service providers are attempting to transform their deliverable into the latest buzz phrase “Managed Services.” Their history of catchy phrases leads one to believe that over the next few years the “Managed Service” description will continuously evolve and mean something different to those who use it.
As with Managed Print, the industry believes they can easily complement their core portfolio of products and services by offering “Managed Services”, which is an IT deliverable. Successful Managed Service providers understand they don’t sell things and they don’t support manufacturers in selling the flavor of the month or quarter. Managed Services delivered profitably and correctly is complex, with many moving parts. Successful Managed Service providers deliver a service which, for the most part, will include hardware. Although the goal is not to sell things, but rather to sell a better process; a mindset which gives customers to a peace of mind.
Managed Services, as described by the masses, is selling anything involving technology. Copier and printer manufacturers that add software to their deliverable believe they are instantly transformed into Managed Service Providers. Some will deliver insular services as one-offs, such as e-mail management, backup service, or a standalone firewall service; some will sell computer or server hardware. They engage in these one-off deliverables because they believe it will help them add value to their print hardware deliverable. They will use slogans such as “if you own the network, you will get all that hangs on it.” This thinking runs counter to the reality.
Yes, Managed Service Providers can get all that hangs on a network, either in the closet or the cloud. However, the successful providers realize that customer engagements are about assessing the needs and capabilities of an organizations technology and then deciding whether or not the customer fits into their service deliverable. Anyone can sell things, but customers and service providers both benefit the most when there is a mutual awareness which occurs when both sides are equally aware of what a successful engagement looks like. The disciplined provider does not deviate from their best practices, and the customer is not motivated by what’s on sale, or the impending doom of a monthly financial close-out. These [ideal] customers understand quality, and in most cases consider themselves and their organizations above the competition in their respected fields.
Managed Services is not an on the job training program. If the service provider does not have the skills or infrastructure to completely onboard a customer from the start of the assessment throughout the lifecycle of the engagement, they should not engage at all. You may be the best software service provider, if you are call yourself a software provider, you may be great at selling one off hardware needs if you are you’re a computer hardware sales organizations. When you really want to be recognized and taken seriously as a true Managed Service provider, stop thinking about, and looking for easy quick gains. When you can focus on, and understand the bigger picture, is when the benefits to you and your customers will be recognized. If your organization has the ability to do it all either personally or understand vendor management. Then why would you settle for selling pieces in hopes of getting it all. If you can successfully deliver the whole package, you have earned the right to ask for the whole package. The trick however is being able to say no when the customer only wants to give you some of it.
Saying “no”: the nightmare of the print industry.
I grew up in the print/copy industry, and saying “no” was blasphemy. When the price was too high, we always had a less expensive option. When the service costs were too high, we quickly came up with an alternative to match or beat the competition. We did not leave without a check.
This mindset still lives in the minds of the print/copy industry. This thinking hijacked Managed Print Services. The successful Managed Print providers did not say “yes” to every engagement. They understood what Managed Print really was and knew how to capitalize on it. If their potential customers deviated from their best practices, they walked away. They welcomed uneducated competitors to the engagement, and watched them lose not only money, but their credibility as well.
The Pareto principle (80/20 rule) applies to service providers across industries; 80% do it wrong an 20% do it right. Don’t be an 80-percenter. The fact is customers also fit in the 80/20 rule. 80% can be sold anything. They will force a shift in the seller’s mindset and convince them to abandon their principles in search of a sale. Only sellers in the 80% club will allow this to happen. If you are a 20-percenter, you will sell to the customer who is also a 20-percenter. The trick is, you have to know when to say “no”.
If the past is any predictor, over the next few years there will be many changes and innovations in technology and IT service delivery. Service providers who remain diligent in how they deliver, and adapt to innovation will succeed. Service providers who avoid selling one-offs will build deeper connections with their customers.
For the printer industry, the time to innovate is now. Unlike the transformation to Managed Print, you won’t have ten years, and delivering IT Services will never be about selling print hardware. An important concept to remember during your transformation is that your large copier/printer customer base is not necessarily an asset in the Managed Service space. Remember the 80/20 rule I spoke of earlier? Success in Managed Services will never be about selling things to everyone. Success in Managed Services is selling everything to the select few. Those customers who understand and value their technology as one of their organization’s most critical assets. Every one of your customers uses technology, however, don’t confuse that to mean they are the right fit for a Managed Service engagement. Seek out the 20-percent that will do it right, and leave the rest for your competitors.
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