“It’s about the customer.” That’s a phrase that anyone in the service industry uses as a touchstone. But, all too often, we’re not being as customer-centered as we think. Not only do customers notice, but it causes what we call in sports an “unforced error”. As it turns out, these unforced errors and mistakes are easily avoided with dramatic improvements for your business.
Here are some common mistakes and how to address them. When you do, you’ll improve not only initial sales but also customer satisfaction, margins and lifetime value.
Mistake 1: Designing a system “for” a customer, not “with” a customer
The most common mistake is designing a system for a customer, not with a customer. This mistake happens at the earliest point of the customer journey and it has a serious domino effect. But, most importantly, you can lose the customer’s confidence or gain it. It’s an opportunity for an unforced error, or a faster win.
Think about any project that you’ve wanted help from a professional and how eager you were to ensure that they know precisely what you wanted. My example is a project that we have going on at home. We’re redoing our master bath after 20 years in the house. I had a design/builder come the other day and I wanted to show them pictures, provide examples and walk through to see if they could get into my head and my vision. That’s the same thing for your customer. They want you to get into their head, engage thoughtfully, and then share your expertise.
The problem: solution providers and integrators who fall into the decades-old trap of walking site surveys in their mind, making mental notes, and jotting down translations in fast sketches on a yellow pad. The issue is, when you gather that information in your head or on a cell phone and sort through mental notes, you’re not actually visually showing or engaging the customer. This is an easy way to alienate customers from the beginning of any project. The solution provider that stands out will help the customer visualize their desired solution – and it’s proven they will win more business.
How can you visualize with your customers and consult more effectively? How can you ensure that they feel heard and understood? We all have different visions, so your job is to get them to the point that the design is “theirs”. Not yours. This relates to the next mistake and opportunity to fix it.
The OnGuard Way
We always try to maintain a collaborative and consultative mindset. Sometimes our customers want a very interactive approach and other times they prefer to ‘leave it to the pros’.
We aim to listen, respond, recommend & readjust as needed. When we collaborate, it is WE no you or us.
Mistake 2: Using legacy technology to sell new technology
In the system integration industry, we sell some of the most advanced tech in the world. AI cameras, high tech access control devices, you name it. When does that tech not sell? When it’s pitched with prehistoric tools like paper floor plans, PDF markups, and PowerPoint presentations. These don’t effectively help you design “with” a customer. Moreover, the average integrator can spend up to 15 hours on a design and only gets the sale 1 out of 3 times.
This is where you need a new, easy to implement approach that is customer-facing. It should allow the customer to visualize with you while you navigate with them to show them your recommendations and why. When you ask good questions and then digitally map where technology devices should go, what they need to connect to, how they want it to look in their environment – you are building confidence and trust. You look professional and as a result there will be less back and forth to get the right proposal. Before you have left your first interaction, you get a design confirmation. That is worth gold.
You’ll need more modern tools like intelligent system design software, it will be a gamechanger.
The OnGuard Way
We are happy to use System Surveyor software (the orginal writer of this blog). It literally enables everyone to be on the same page and same spot, brand, model, direction, symbol, path, etc.
It is super nice because we can remotely or locally share the screen. From design, present, install and service, it is a wonderful tool in our arsenal. It is a cloud based platform as our company was designed and operate almost fully in the cloud.
Mistake 3: Not getting other partners involved such as your favorite manufacturer or engineer
Hint: Not everyone needs to be at the same location.
Let’s be honest: we’re not all tech experts in every area. We often specialize in certain areas and our team members complement us. Many system integrators are eager to sell, design, and install systems with the newest technologies, but aren’t entirely up-to-date on them. The biggest mistake here? Thinking “I’m on an island.” Trying to design systems that you don’t know much about, like access control, or high-tech locks, or sophisticated entry… without enlisting the help of your ecosystem.
This is where the power of collaboration comes in. Think of the ecosystem around you: system integrators, manufacturers, consultants… they each have intelligence to offer to improve the project. Say, for example, your manufacturer just released a new device. They’re the experts here — so how can we engage them very early on in that meeting? If we can tap into the expertise of others involved, anything is possible. You can think about this like a force multiplier.
With a bigger team, your questions are answered and your projects’ problems are solved much more efficiently and effectively. However, this can backfire unless you collaborate in an organized way. This means utilizing existing technologies to channel the diverse strengths and expertise from your team into one clearly communicated visualization. With system design technology, you can bridge the expertise gap and sell your projects with confidence knowing that your team can tackle even the most sophisticated systems. When you’re confident in your abilities, your customer will feel confident about the results.
So if you’re a salesperson who is still learning, it’s okay — but instead of risking your end user’s confidence and trust by recommending the wrong solution, it’s better to engage your ecosystem early on. With System Surveyor, you can get all of those people around one virtual table to visualize together.
The OnGuard Way
We appreciate partners who not only make good stuff but also assist in implementing and supporting it properly. Two of our key manufacturer partners are fully integrated into security System Surveyor which currently include Hanwha video surveillance and PDK (ProData Key Access Control).
Mistake 4: Being afraid that they will shop your design around for bids from other providers
Here’s the thing: if you don’t make the first three mistakes, you won’t have a problem here. All of these things are interrelated. But this mistake is common, and it’s a fair concern: the fear that you do all of this design work, send them a PDF of what it should look like, and they say, “Oh great, thanks for the nice work, I’ll go as someone else to bid it!”
If you have built trust by engaging at the early part of the customer journey, and you co-design together, the chance of this happening is much lower.
Enterprise leaders have expressed: the differentiator here is collaboration and transparency using technology. With more modern tools, engagement with integrators reaches a deeper level — one that keeps them from straying. When the process becomes less about trying to get on the same page with the different pictures you each have in your head, and more about visually communicating on one mutual platform – exactly what everyone involved can expect – customers have no reason to look elsewhere.
Technology buyers have said about their partner using digital system design: “These people know what I need and what I want. They’re a trusted advisor to me and I don’t actually care to bid this to other people, because I can see that my goals will be accomplished with this team.”
When you believe in your product so much that you’re unafraid to be transparent with your customers about each step in the design and installation process, your customers will see and appreciate that and have no need or desire to ask competition. An added benefit is that they also tend to be less price-sensitive and more focused on value-add.
The OnGuard Way
No one wants their hard work to get stolen or should I say ‘borrowed without credit’. If our customers want to use our design to shop that is understandable. We are happy to do a standard design for a reasonable fee based on the number of hours used to do the work with a defined Scope of Work for those who want to shop. If then, they want to use OnGuard, we will gladly credit the design work as a credit back into the job.
Mistake 5: Not using a standardized process, Every. Single. Time.
The last mistake is system-based. This goes back to what you might have heard referred to as the Entrepreneur’s Myth: believing you can be the expert in every specialty area for every client. This is a fast track to burnout. So many people I’ve talked to in the field have expressed this frustration — we’re exhausted. We’re stretched too thin. Even if you utilize the above advice and expand your team, everyone will be scattered, tired, and confused if there’s no standardized process in place to refer back to every single time.
Think about a team of 20 salespeople and 3 engineers. If this team makes the mistake of avoiding standardization, each individual salesperson will bring information about what the client needs in a completely different way. This is not an efficient way to capture data — and the miscommunication from this kind of telephone game will impact every step of the project that follows, jeopardizing your customer’s satisfaction in the long run.
Back to my example about the new master bathroom: The company that we hired has a systematic process to make sure that the end result is what we’re really looking for. I am excited about the project, confident that the company knows what I want and will get the job done well. It may not be perfect, but by showing me their process, I am feeling good about the outcome. Why? Because they use technology to organize and implement their process, and involve me in every step. When they deliver to my standards, I will refer them to all of my friends.
Summary: Invest in Customer-Facing Collaboration, not only back office CRM and visualize with your clients
Mistakes help us learn, but these are avoidable and can have a significant impact to your business. Our industry has conducted the site survey in an analog way for a long time – in fact decades. But, the customer expectation is changing. This is an opportunity to leverage easy-to-use collaboration technologies to help customers feel like they are designing solutions with you. We call it “Customer Engagement” or “Collaborative Design”. While many solutions providers have a CRM (customer relationship management ) and ERP (enterprise resource planning); those are back office applications. They are important to be sure, but we’d make the case that the customer-facing technology is where not only can you avoid costly mistakes; it’s the point of competitive differentiation and ushering in a whole new way to sell solutions. To collaborate and co-design visually “with” customers, not just “for” customers. I assure you, those that have made the switch and are using System Surveyor to address all of these areas are healthy and will be prosperous with their customers in 2021.
The OnGuard Way
This is definently an area we struggle with the most. We are a small crew and wear a lot of hats while implementing some pretty awesome but diverse technology. We are working on processes, software, test tools and the latest stuff to make it all work but its a challenge, but one we are up for.
OnGuard way comments by Kirk Booher, Onguard Security Solutions
Blog article by: Maureen Carlson