Customer behavior is rapidly changing, and, unfortunately, too many solution providers' sales models are staying stagnant, according to Gartner's Tiffani Bova.
Bova, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, spoke to an audience of solution providers Sunday at XChange Solution Provider 2014 in Los Angeles, urging them to rethink how they approach the customer today. Specifically, Bova said solution providers should focus less on technology and products and more on delivering an experience to their clients.
"Technology is great," Bova said, "but it's really about creating customer experiences."
Because the technology industry has changed so much in recent years, Bova said, customers are now moving at different speeds -- and solution providers need to keep up. For example, she said the Internet of Things is radically changing how people interact with and use technology because everything from household appliances to baby products can now communicate wirelessly.
"Now there's an Internet of diapers," she said. "We've taken this to a whole new level, folks."
And it's not just machine-to-machine technology that's altering the landscape. Bova offered up a prediction of what the year 2020 will look like with driver-less cars and smart office buildings that rely on automated lighting, environmental and power controls.
"All entities will become smart enough to communicate with each other in new and meaningful ways," Bova said.
And not only is the technology changing but so is client behavior; Bova said customers today are more educated about technology today than five or 10 years ago. So the old adage about the solution provider "owning" the customer isn't necessarily true today, she said.
"The customer actually owns the customer," Bova said.
In addition, businesses are no longer limiting their purchasing to just IT managers or CIOs. Lines of business such as marketing departments are making their own IT decisions, and they often move at a faster pace than CIOs, Bova said.
As a result, solution providers must adapt and focus less on product features and speeds and feeds and concentrate more on creating experiences for the customer. That means moving away from using the same sales staff, sales model and sales projects that you've always used, Bova said.
That transition starts with an important question: "What's the business process you are helping your customers change?" For example, Bova highlighted human resources and expense reports, which many years ago were mailed or faxed into corporate accounting departments. But today, employees can simply snap a photo of their receipts, which makes the process much easier and less time consuming. It's not about the specific product or technology, Bova said, but how the process has changed to deliver the customer a better experience.
"It's really about the experience economy," she said.
PUBLISHED MARCH 2, 2014