The term “customer journey” implies sales is not just a transaction, but an ongoing relationship through engagement, implementation and ongoing interactions. This makes sense as it can create customers for life and partnerships versus one-time touches. In this new world of online buying of everything from food to cars, how do we establish that relationship? The key is to provide the customer something of value beyond the product you are selling. Knowledge of the client that they don’t necessarily have, but would value, is one way to build this trust. The ongoing providing of this knowledge through the customer journey provides you the contact to continue to grow the business.

As the output providers expand into managing everything, this can become more impactful. We are now in the age of Bring Your Own Device. And beyond that is the Internet of Everything, which makes deciding what to manage that much more difficult for the provider and customer alike. In my house we have over 40 devices with IP addresses — traditional devices like computers, printers, tablets and network storage. In addition, we have networked music, smart assistants, portals, internet cameras, smart TVs, game consoles, phones, lights and plugs. Our next purchases of appliances will most likely be internet-capable ones such as microwaves, washing machines, refrigerators and even garage door openers. The corporate world may not be this diverse, but understanding what they have to manage and what the implications are will be key.
So how do we provide this knowledge that the customer values and probably doesn’t have? Historically, the output community has provided assessments. Most of the time they are as simple as running a Device Collection Agent and delivering statistics on output devices to stimulate the sales process. Beyond this, basic assessment providers would do walkthroughs, mapping locations of devices, taking notes on the condition and special requirements, and gathering data on devices the DCA didn’t pick up. In a true consulting engagement this walkthrough could include interviews to truly understand customer requirements and identify workflow opportunities that again provide value. At this point you do have knowledge that the client will value if presented properly. This also can be knowledge that is offered on a continuous path along the customer journey.

Most have a methodology for the output assessment, from the basic manual method to a detailed software supported assessment. How does this translate into the new world of management of a wide variety of device types? It doesn’t make sense to throw out the basic skills and methodology you have if your assessment process has been effective. Now you need to expand the scope to gather more knowledge to assist your client.

Define what is to be managed in your client’s business. Printers, MFDs, fax machines, servers, workstations, network drops, water coolers, coffee machines, smart boards and video conferencing are all possibilities that I’ve seen dealers and OEMs branching out to. Of course, it depends on your skillset but in the new world, the managed equipment will continue to expand. With these new items your traditional quick-hit Data Collection Agent won’t provide all the data you require. Luckily, in the world of IT there are additional tools that will scan the network and provide inventory data for servers and workstations — including configurations and software installed — and the goal of the walkthrough can be expanded. They can then be located and plotted accordingly. Even in the mess of Internet of Things in my house, I can pull up the router and see all types of devices connected.

Now the assessment will include all devices to be managed with the data consolidated into a current state benchmark. This is used in the presales phase of the journey to illustrate current costs and project the savings in a future state. In my career, I’ve used these Total Cost of Whatever scenarios to build the business case for a new solution. This is the benchmark, but the assessment knowledge should not end here. Use that data and expand it as you implement your solution, whether it is hardware or services or all-encompassing. Verify your savings, and communicate that back to the client. Have regular meetings to review this data — not just on service calls made and base statistics — but use the data to make ongoing recommendations on things like under- or overutilized devices, security risks, relocated equipment and even missing equipment. When your service people make calls, document any observations they have regarding the above, not just what they fixed.
If you keep this knowledge updated and communicate it to the client when the contract comes up for renewal, the process will be that much easier. No mad scramble to find out the new current state or a history of continuous improvement, and you will be a large step ahead of the competition. Renewal rates in our industry should be high, but that isn’t always the case as many ignore the customer journey after the deal is closed.

All of this takes effort that some aren’t willing to exert, either due to lack of resources or time constraints. Using the proper tools available will greatly reduce the manual work that some envision. As I’ve mentioned, there are various automated ways to collect data, there are mapping and total cost tools to allow professional presentation, and reporting can be automated so you aren’t cutting and pasting a PowerPoint every time.
Gathering this knowledge has other benefits. Looking at your data across clients can provide additional benchmarks. One can reference what the typical school, law firm, or hospital looks like based on actual data. Trends can be observed in usage through color, copying, scanning, network bandwidth, storage consumption, etc. to proactively make recommendations — again providing value.

By starting off the customer journey with an assessment of current state IT, you will be able to travel down that path together. To continue down that path, keep that gathered knowledge current, and your client — now partner — will value what you bring to the table. It is tempting in this world of Amazon and online ordering of just about anything to minimize assessing the current state. I think everyone needs to have a web presence, but providing the in-depth customer knowledge will set you apart when clients decide where to make that purchase and who will provide the service.

Ed Mosteller started his career working various roles at IBM including management, technical sales support and sales specialist. He then worked at Lexmark as the U.S. Director of System Engineering, as well as the U.S. Director of Professional Services. Following those roles, he headed the U.S. portion of NewField IT which was later acquired by Xerox. In his present position, Ed is CEO of Perform IT US, a leading provider of sales enablement software for the managed print space.