Navigating Deep IT Client Relationships by Thinking Customer-First
by Krystle Burnett-Dunkley
In the world of IT consulting services, one size fits none. Each business is too unique to simply offer a cookie-cutter solution. The days of quick, transactional box pushing are over. That just doesn’t work anymore. So how do successful IT consulting firms begin the process of offering solutions to their customers? By first understanding a customer from a 360-degree perspective and forming long-term partnerships. This is our ethos at Agilant.
Agilant is a top-tier partner of the largest IT manufacturer, distribution, and trade organizations, and boasts a network of 20,000 technicians and engineers. But despite having a great deal of in-house talent, we don’t start off prescriptive. Instead, we focus on business consulting and understanding our customers. Only then do we move on to technology solutions, services, and procurement.
Don’t be prescriptive until you understand your customers’ needs. That’s how you build true relationships.
Within the last year, we’ve gone through a significant organizational evolution. On a surface level, we changed names and locations. But more significantly, we shifted our identity from being a traditional system integrator to a forward-thinking, consultative powerhouse. We’ve always focused on services and solutions, but now we’re in the big leagues.
You can’t just wake up one day and announce to the world: “NOW we are real consultants. Forget what we did yesterday because we now do this instead.” That would never work. We had to design a multi-faceted strategy that includes the way we train our teams, the way we socialize our identity, the type of key experts put in leadership, the relevancy of our solution ecosystem, and the way we choose to communicate. Of all of those things, I’ve found communication to be top of the list. You can have all of the above and be super excellent; but if you can’t communicate it, it doesn’t exist. And the absolute LAST thing we’d want is to lose a customer to fear simply because we did not communicate effectively. We’re still the same great team offering amazing IT solutions—we’re just more relevant than before.
More Than Hardware: Expertise, Support, and Peace of Mind
Just a moment ago, I mentioned the type of key experts in leadership. Well, HELLO! Let me take a moment to introduce myself. I am an HP expert; or more officially, the Agilant HP Navigator. And what does that mean? It means, when it comes to HP Solutions, I’ve got Agilant customers covered!
My role is a specialized one, offering consultative knowledge and support to both our sales team and customers, providing them with up-to-date information on HP solutions. But it’s more than that. I maximize solution potential by leveraging the best of HP and the best of Agilant. It’s a hand-in-glove partnership that generates an optimal customer experience. My value isn’t simply in choosing PC SKUs, offering spec information, or providing the lowest price. A salesperson in any organization can attempt to do that. Being a Navigator is all about steering the ship, being skilled enough to understand the waters, and recommending appropriate speed and direction based on the goals. And that makes me super unique.
While most organizations these days have product specialists, many lack a specialist who not only knows the products, but how they integrate with software, services, and solutions as a whole. And how do I know this? Because I’m constantly trained by both HP and Agilant. Because I’m not a salesperson (nor am I being compensated based on deals), I find that customers are often more willing to speak candidly to me. And I truly advocate for them—bringing to the table what they need, not what someone wants them to purchase. And this approach gives me the best leverage and success in right-sizing a solution. As the HP Navigator, I’m a perfect trifecta, simultaneously waving the flag for HP, Agilant, and for the customer.
Customers often typically encounter me in one of two ways. The first way is through their Agilant Account Executive. I work very closely with our AEs, providing them with information along the way. So when a customer need arises, they already know enough to be dangerous and then bring me in for additional clarification and support. Sometimes, I’m introduced during preliminary customer conversations prior to any solution exploration. The second way is in working closely with Agilant marketing. I’m the first point of contact for many of our HP lead generation campaigns. These types of meetings are either over the phone or face-to-face but generally prove a tad more challenging as the prospect generally has not yet heard about Agilant and is unaware of our relationship with HP. Again, our lead generation programs aren’t meant to be sales calls; they are solution introductions.
Once they adopt me into the fold, from a customer perspective, I provide the added peace of mind in knowing they have a dedicated partner solely focused on a brand they so heavily use. They may have had the experience with another IT company that sold them a printer or a desktop and provided no follow-up support. Then, if the customer had a question, they had to go through various channels of communication to reach the right person. I want to provide the antithesis of that experience.
As the navigator, I stick with a customer for the long haul, far beyond solutions introductions. For example, let’s say we implement a solution. If a customer has a question at any point, they can contact me directly and I will point them in the right direction. From my vantage point, I can tap into and/or involve HP and Agilant resources at any time. I’m proud I can provide that extra level of reassurance and customer care.
I know, for example, that some customers feel committed to this brand or that brand because it’s been a standard for the last 10 years, or because of the personal preference of the IT decision-maker. Sometimes, IT decisions are made by procurement who has to hit a certain price point. But I’m used to seeing companies get stuck. And when I hear more about how those customers use those products, I learn their attachment to the brand is about being accustomed to doing things a certain way. And those patterns are often hard to shift. I understand the fear of trying something new—or getting buy-in from all of the involved job roles—and the worry that they’ll waste precious time on something that doesn’t fit their needs.
Customers don’t stick to a brand because of loyalty. They often just resist the change.
But then, when we dig a bit deeper into a customer’s feelings about their current arrangement, I also often hear, “This didn’t achieve everything we hoped it would.” At that point, I want to ensure the customer knows the other options available to them. It’s important they understand there are HP products and solutions that may be a better fit than their current standards, whether that be Apple, Lenovo, Dell, or something else. In those cases, I’m the one to attempt to break a mold that doesn’t serve them. It’s a tricky task, which is why it is so important to form customer relationships first and focus on needs/goals, instead of SKUs and price.
So beyond just traditional hardware and software, what can I solve? Well, in the world of PCs and Print, there are three key HP Solutions that I bring to the table: Device as a Service, Security, and Managed Print. And although each solution is unique, all three are about predictability, flexibility, cost reduction, and security.
Device as a Service
Just a few years ago, mobility was the hottest topic on the market, and solutions around Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) were all the rage. And whereas IT departments are still dealing with the issues of managing both mobile and hardwired multivendor, multiplatform devices with thousands of applications, the IT industry has moved on to a new focus: The managed “As a Service” model and, in the case of HP, Device as a Service (Daas). HP defines DaaS as “a modern service model that simplifies how commercial organizations equip users with the right hardware, support, device management, and lifecycle services to get the job done, improving end-user productivity, IT efficiency, and cost predictability.” So it’s a bundled solution and customers love it because it’s flexible, saves them money, and offloads tasks like support, security, and device management. Coupled with Agilant’s technology services, it’s a winning solution. Click for more info!
Security has also taken precedence in both PC and Print forums. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of HP’s Security Campaigns featuring Christian Slater (The Fixer, The Wolf, The Expert), but they brilliantly highlight some of the tricky security traps organizations either aren’t aware of or aren’t top of mind. HP not only focuses on device, data, and document security, but also can help your organization meet industry compliance and regulations such as PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, HIPAA, US CERT recommendations, and the NIST Framework. And the great thing is that HP is flexible enough to go as deep and wide as your organization needs them to. HP Print Security services include Print Security Advisory, Print Security Governance and Compliance Service, and HP Print Security Implementation Service. HP PC Security Services include HP Sure Click, Sure View Gen 2, and Multi-Factor Authenticate Gen 2. Coupled with Agilant’s security services, you’ll have peace of mind that your fleet is not only protected today but tomorrow.
Managed Print Services
Traditionally, many people have correlated Managed Print Services (MPS) with toner delivery. And whereas that isn’t an erroneous correlation, limiting MPS to accessories makes me cringe. If you’re only using MPS for your toner, you’re missing the good stuff. HP Managed Print is a full portfolio designed to control costs, deliver predictable results, protect data, defend your network, and streamline and automate print processes. And the result of all of that for a company is more efficient, enhanced productivity. Because you can’t manage what you can’t see—and you can’t secure your environment unless you understand it. MPS is about more than just printing; it’s all about transforming data into action. Click for More Info!
We Are Here for You Long After Your Device
As often as the needs of our customers changed, technology changes even faster. My job is to keep on top of all things HP. One thing I love about working with HP is the emphasis they put on continual training for their Navigators. I’m in a training session at least once a month, learning about the latest devices, keeping up to date with seminars, and liaising with my cohort at HP.
Years of experience don’t mean you’re in this alone. Find IT partners who bring new ideas to the table.
Being immersed in that HP culture means when customers ask me for recommendations on solutions or devices to meet their needs, I have a strong grasp of not only what is available now, but also where HP is trending for the future. And for customers who have already standardized on HP, I emerge out of those seminars with so many ideas about how Agilant can add further value to their organization.
Training is meaningful to me because my responsibility to Agilant customers continues well past selling them devices. This is true of everyone at Agilant: We view our role as not just selling customers a product or service. We want to partner with them in resolving their IT issues, streamlining their IT processes, and ultimately achieving their IT objectives. More than selling them a piece of hardware, I ask myself how I can continue to add value to their organization in my role as a product specialist and liaison. For me, it’s about building that relationship for the long term.
IT is a dynamic industry. An IT consultant should be just as dynamic to meet the needs of our customers. That vision is built into Agilant as we each have our area of expertise and work together to create custom-made solutions for them. As an HP Navigator, I’m just one expert on a great team. We are here to listen to their needs and look forward to building that relationship. One size won’t fit all, but I’m sure we’ve got your size.