At the heart of customer relationship management (CRM) is the recognition that the customer is central to all business activities of the systems integrator, and that the success of the company is dependent on how well this is understood across all business operations. In practice, CRM is a partnership with the customer that goes well beyond the sales transaction by providing added value beyond the worth of the product. A true partnership equally benefits both the customer and the systems integrator.
Even with the best products and practices, system integrators who cultivate customer relationships/partnerships as an integral way of doing business will benefit in terms of financial success as well as name recognition and reputation that can be leveraged as a competitive advantage in a highly aggressive marketplace. The pay-off for the customer and how they go about realizing the benefits of the partnership, is equally as important.
Moving Beyond the SaleFirst, a systems integrator who is a technical partner provides solutions to integrate and manage security systems and processes and solve real business needs for the customer. Systems integrators, by their nature, have the expertise to design, procure and install video surveillance and security systems, but not all of them extend their service to include expertise that can help the customer achieve more efficiency in the operations and ultimately a safer and more secure environment.
An integrator partner (versus a sales organization) is not limited to designing systems or deploying applications but also offers expert guidance to the customer for decisions regarding repair or replacement; helps security and IT staff with budgeting; provides predictable costs for support and maintenance through a single contact; assures lowest cost of ownership and best ROI (return on investment); future proofs investments with scalable systems, and more.
Skilled integrator partners also have an in-depth knowledge of the system components and take responsibility for their operation. And from the customer’s perspective, issues such as trouble-shooting, diagnosing and problem resolution will be accomplished much faster with a single partner than when trying to work with several different manufacturers.
Focusing on the CustomerNext, the systems integrator partner understands the customer’s business as well as their security goals in order to deliver the best technology/product solution. With surveillance and security system technology changing at a rapid pace, customers need an experienced integrator partner who is continually up to date. Having the right partner to help sort through a variety of options can save time and resources and allow the customer to focus on their core responsibilities rather than on technical or product issues.
For instance, in the gaming industry an integrator partner will have knowledge of current rules and regulations that govern the use of cameras, and will be aware of the regulations regarding access to money areas per jurisdiction. A system integrator who knows how to install a software-based physical information management system, but does not know how the customer can improve business operations with its use, is not providing full value for the customer’s investment.
Security and surveillance products are teeming with features but the benefits must be clearly tied to a need/want of the customer if the feature is to have value. The resolution of a megapixel camera is wasted if the images are only displayed on a standard CRT monitor, whereas the “pop-up” video feature in an intelligent software control system can alert security to suspicious activity. Similarly, multiple video analytics exist that can provide a wide array of features not just in security, but marketing as well. This is value an integrator can provide to their customers.
Communication is KeyFinally, both the systems integrator and the customers who have established a successful, long-term working relationship know that communication is key. Regular sharing of information enables compromise and better management of expectations on both sides as well as establishing trust – and trust can lead to a willingness to be open to new opportunities, strategies, ideas and products. No one wants to be “sold” and by establishing trust through regular communication, the customer and the integrator can develop the basis of a strong business relationship.
In my experience, relationship management is more than just putting the customer first. It is an all-out effort to change the relationship to one of “person to person” rather than “client to vendor.”