We’re all familiar with how evolving customer expectations have been enormously disruptive to the office technology space. We also know that they have led to many manufacturers rethinking their offerings. But how are these expectations factoring into acquisitions, partnerships or other strategies? We spoke to representatives of several leading manufacturers to get some insight.
Muratec’s director of marketing and sales support, Lou Stricklin, says that evolving expectations have led to the aggressive formation of partnerships with companies that are able to deliver solutions around the MFP. He says that these solutions enable greater device control and accessibility, and offer smart, easy-to-use document workflow solutions and complete print management capabilities.
“As our customers evolve and migrate away from traditional business practices, such as centralized document printing and scanning, we’ve aligned ourselves with partners that can make these transitions seamless for our customers,” says Stricklin.
For Lexmark, it begins with understanding the end customers’ needs. Solutions Engagement Manager, Doug Frazier, gives an example by citing end customers’ investments in core business systems, such as ERPs, HR, or EHS and how these systems of record have become crucial for them in running their business.
Frazier says that these investments represent the customers’ control systems, providing a backbone that ensures proper compliance, reporting, financial and inventory management – all of those business functions that are core to a customers’ existence.
“Unfortunately, these systems of record lack the ability to handle dynamic processes that are needed for exceptional engagement of their customers,” says Frazier. “They generally don’t enable collaboration or real-time access, and are slow and costly to change.”
Frazier continues, “To date in the SMB space, for a variety of reasons, businesses have not focused enough on how their customers interact or engage with them. The typical system of engagement with their customers and vendors has been face-to-face and manual or paper-based.
Frazier concludes that it is important to address the end-customer’s desire for multiple engagement vehicles, such as web-based access, social and mobile apps.
“They want two-way dialogues and seamless engagement, not long hold times, unresponsive web sites or unavailable support staff,” he says. “These factors are where we are focused when looking at how we can best enable our partners to meet, and exceed the needs of their customers.”
For LMI’s Doug Johnson, understanding the company’s role as a value-added distributor of products, services, and solutions, guides all of their strategies.
Within that context, he adds, understanding end customers’ needs and how they are changing, and the implications of the go-to-market strategies of their dealers, help them develop, partner, and acquire new products, services, and solutions to deliver to the market.
“This ensures we are delivering a value-added portfolio to our dealers to help them remain relevant to their end users as their needs change,” says Johnson.
Toshiba takes a collaborative approach to address their end users’ changing needs. Robert Covington, product manager, says they also understand that time to market is important and an acquisition approach may take an extended period of time due to the due diligence required.
“Toward that end, we have built an extensive partner ecosystem and seek out companies that can complement our efforts in developing today’s leading solutions to best help our customers to operate more efficiently, effectively and sustainably,” he explains.
Xerox recognizes evolving customer needs and chooses channel partners who are prepared to service those needs, says Leah Quesada, Xerox channel partner operations. Quesada adds that one approach is to invest in new strategies with channel partners that demonstrate how they can best meet these evolving customer needs.
Other Xerox strategies include helping current channel partners through a series of training, business and marketing support, and a partner program that motivates partners to help them meet their mutual goals.
Finally, Xerox says that they understand the importance of cloud and mobile-enabled printers and state of the art tools to deploy managed print services.
“93 percent of millennials want to work for a company with updated technology, services and solutions,” says Quesada. “We help partners take advantage of the technology.”