Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Think about that for a moment. Theodore Levitt, an American economist and professor at Harvard Business School made this profound statement back in 1960 and it still rings just as true today as it did back then. In his paper Marketing Myopia published in the Harvard Business Review Levitt urged businesses to stop concentrating on the products they sell and instead start focusing on meeting the customers’ needs.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like a vendor was trying to sell you their goods or services without first understanding what you were looking for. Maddening isn’t it? After all, how will they be able to make your life better or your job easier if they don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish? How will their service help you get to where you want to be if they don’t understand the roadmap?
Still, many IT salespeople continue to offer up their solutions without first seeking to understand your needs. Worse, they say they know how to make your business hum, but in reality, they can’t because their depth of understanding is limited. Bryan Pittman recently found himself in this predicament with his IT provider.
Bryan is the North American Operations Manager at Tellermate, the leading provider of cash management solutions to the retail, grocery, food service and financial industries, deployed across numerous Fortune 500 companies. The company is the inventor of count-by-weight technology and the intelligent cash drawer. “You’d be surprised how many people use cash on a regular basis,” he said.
Identify the Need Before Developing the Solution
Tellermate’s story goes back to 1981 when Edgar Biss, a Siemens engineer with extensive experience in large industrial scales in the shipping industry found himself standing in a very long, slow-moving line at a Barclays bank in the United Kingdom. Watching the tellers painstakingly count bills and coins got him to thinking about how his knowledge of electronic weight-based scales could be used to take the drudgery out of that task. Mr. Biss first recognized a need then focused on developing the right solution. As it would happen, Tellermate’s first major rollout was to the U.K.’s largest banking network – the very same place he had the epiphany to make tellers’ lives a little easier. Today, Tellermate is an international company with operations in the UK, Germany, Spain, France and Japan and distributors in 21 countries.
But back to Bryan – during the 10 years he’s been with Tellermate he’s worked with a few IT vendors who apparently were not privy to the wise words of Theodore Levitt or the basic understanding that Edgar Biss had of understanding a client’s needs.
Bryan wanted his IT company to be knowledgeable and experienced in keeping his network up and running. But that wasn’t all. “We need someone who is thorough; we need someone who understands and empathizes with our needs,” he said. “In other words, we need someone to be more than just an IT company. We need someone to understand our business. Every business is different therefore IT companies cannot be cookie-cutter organizations. They have to be dynamic and able to understand the requirements of each business with which they work.”
While the previous vendors all said they were up for the task, what was uncovered after hiring them was that they didn’t fully understand Tellermate’s must-haves. For example, central to the company’s operations is its enterprise resource planning software (ERP) which is essentially Tellermate’s lifeblood. Their customer relationship management, quoting system, ordering software, shipping, invoicing purchasing, receiving, inventory – you name it – depends on their ERP being operational. Without it, all work comes to a grinding halt. So if there’s a glitch or other issue with their ERP, it’s a Severity One, critical issue and must be addressed immediately.
Well, you must be thinking, what’s so hard to understand about that? And you’d be right. It seems so logical, yet previous IT companies just didn’t get it. “On several occasions, we’d have a server outage overnight and, even if the vendor was aware of the outage, they wouldn’t notify me of the problem – not with a call or even a text,” said Bryan. “I’d often have to call them in the morning when I got to work just to learn that I needed to reboot the server. That would have been nice to know before we walked in the door. It was very frustrating.”
Server reboots could take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours depending on the issue. That’s time that the 20-plus staff members weren’t able to do their jobs. Most of this costly downtime could have been averted with a simple communication strategy. Communication is key to ensuring clients are getting the best client experience possible, however many businesses overlook this important component.
Needless to say, Bryan committed to making sure the next IT provider was well aware of what was expected of them and that they had a firm grasp on the nuances of Tellermate’s operations.
Is This Another Dog and Pony Show?
Bryan’s vigorous vetting process aimed to find an IT provider who not only talked the talk but walked the walk. He didn’t need a flashy sales pitch – he needed someone who could demonstrate that they knew their stuff. “Jennifer and Lliam listened to our needs, first,” said Bryan. “They dug in to find what our pain points were so they could then develop a plan that addressed those concerns. It was refreshing because a lot of times vendors will say ‘here’s what we can do’ without ever asking what we need.
“They didn’t give us a very high-level overview of what they could do – they listened to us and they were very specific on how they were going to help our business be more efficient, our network more secure and our employees more at ease knowing that if there was a problem, it was going to be addressed.”
Still, it remained to be seen if MIS would really be able to deliver what it promised, but its 100-percent money-back guarantee and the references from current clients were enough to convince Bryan to jump onboard. So one year into the relationship, has MIS been able to uphold its end of the deal? “I will say that the type of customer service that MIS has as a team is by far the best I’ve ever dealt with in an IT company,” said Bryan. “As a former help desk manager, I know how the engineers should address the customer and their concerns. The MIS team doesn’t talk over the end users heads with technical jargon. Everyone is extremely pleasant to deal with and polite. I really appreciate their ability to communicate not only to me but to my team.”
‘Working with MIS has Made My Job Easier’
“Prior to MIS, our employees would come to my door either trying to address a concern they had with the IT company, trying to understand what was happening with their support ticket or basically stating that the IT company didn’t solve their problem. They couldn’t get the answers from the vendor so I was the conduit between our staff and the IT provider.
“Now I don’t have to constantly follow up with phone calls to determine where we are with certain situations. That’s very reassuring for our staff knowing that they are being taken care of. So working with MIS has made my job easier.”