As the economy continues to toughen and companies are targeting their spending for maximum return, those operating in the channel must think differently in how they will remain competitive and relevant if they wish to emerge from these challenging times.

By James Hickman, chief customer officer at Altron Karabina

At the core most of the channel is in business to assist customers in receiving value from the technology they purchase. Businesses will partner with solutions providers they trust and who deliver the best long-term value that extends way past project sign off.

For example, a customer wants four business intelligence dashboards. The company develops and implements these, and the project is signed off. Traditionally, this would see the business moving on to the next customer and repeating the process.

But in these challenging market conditions, the focus must be on exceeding customer value expectations. Let’s imagine that over time usage for one or more of those dashboards starts to decline and in doing, the customer stops receiving value for the investment. In the old world, the solutions provider may never have known. Even if they are monitoring the dashboards, they are probably doing so to ensure that they are working and not that they are being used.

The solutions provider of today and the future needs to adapt their business to ensure that they are continually working with the customer to measure value and proactively engage when the value curve shifts. This way they ensure that the customer is continually receiving value from their investment and as a result value from the partnership.

Customers will continue to invest with companies that deliver measurable value and stop dealing with those who don’t. The channel must therefore have a heightened awareness of what defines customer value and a satisfied customer. If they are doing things the same way as they did yesterday, they need to change.


Delivering value

As a result, organisations must be prepared to work harder to impress their customers. This is especially the case with businesses being more selective on how they spend their budgets. It comes down to delivering significantly more real value to the customer than in the past.

The channel must understand that they are now competing with not only different service providers, but also technologies, solutions, and mindsets. Even those long-standing relationships will be scrutinised as customers focus more on their return on investment and seek partners that will be agile and work with them in achieving their long-term value goals.

The onus is therefore on the channel to build the skills and new business models required to remain relevant in the market. It is, however, more than just staying technically aware and relevant, it is about staying customer relevant.


Becoming agile

Those who respond to the “new” customer expectations fastest will be the ones that stay in business and grow. No organisation can afford to be doing things the same way as they did in the past.

If history shows us anything, then it is that there will be an upturn. The work the channel does now to build a new way of business will put them in the best possible position when the business cycle becomes more positive.

All told, the channel must take themselves and their customers on a journey of modernisation, digitalisation, and building a platform for the future. There are two types of responses to this – a company might either decide to batten down the hatches and not do anything or it will select to innovate in the right areas.

With our industry and technology moving faster than ever before, there will be winners and losers. Time will tell who will be on which side of the coin, but regardless of the choice the coin has been tossed, it is up in the air and the channel better be prepared to respond when the result is revealed. The real question is, will the coin that lands have the same two options as the one that was tossed, and, are you prepared for an answer you might not have expected. Agility is the new survival.