Or should we say, out with the old, in with the new?
Diversification of products and services is driving change. In a recent announcement, Ofcom, U.K.’s communications regulator, announced that telecommunications providers are no longer required to provide fax services. Hasta la vista to a more than 150-year-old service! You read it right; the world’s first facsimile machine was patented by Scottish inventor Alexander Bain in 1843. So, at least for U.K. hardware resellers, it’s goodbye to fax device/fax functionality on MFPs.
And every day, we can read about dealerships in the U.S. and Europe adding cloud services, digital communication services, and many other hardware and digital services to their portfolios. This is accompanied by news of paper mills being sold and manufacturers filing for bankruptcy. Crown van Gelder (CVG) in Holland and Stora Enso are only two names picked from recent headlines. (Update: On February 11, 2023, CVG signed a rescue deal and will stay in business and immediately pick up production again.)
Does that mean everything digital is the new diverse palette of offerings? Not so fast. Recent research from Keypoint Intelligence suggests that our colleagues 50 years and younger are still fond of paper. Almost 40% of all participants between 18 and 69 agreed that they preferred working from paper. And we all know that studying still leads to better results when using paper rather than digital resources only (never mind in-class vs. online learning experiences; COVID taught us an impressive lesson here).
The Trend is Everything Digital, Correct?
The best answer to this question is probably. And as long as we have to deal with “probably,” we need to look into solutions that satisfy three core aspects:
What is a future-proof solution for diversification? Hardware/software/services that secure both your and your customer’s future. That could be a new multifunction device segueing into a digital document/workflow strategy with new software and service opportunities for the dealership. It could be something completely new such as electric-vehicle chargers, solar panels for parking lots, security camera systems, or digital communication systems. Or it could be all of these combined and enriched with intelligent security software, bolted-on training, support, and maintenance contracts.
What is a security-proof solution for diversification? Unfortunately, in our day and age, pretty much everything is connected to and accessible via the internet. It’s everything, starting with a printer, refrigerator, and security camera, across to anything cloud, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Anything you deliver and install has to pass penetration testing successfully. On top of that, you may add security (awareness) training, road-mapping for more secure workflow solutions, and in many cases, moral support when it comes to letting go of legacy processes, devices, and, you guessed it, paper files.
What is a satisfaction-proof solution for diversification? All your services are judged by how happy the users are, which includes everyone from the knowledge worker, IT manager, and CFO up to the CEO/president. As happiness means something different to each team and team member, this is a challenge. However, happy customer = recommendation = good business. Should you, therefore, hire a customer happiness manager? It’s been done before in many startup businesses, but let’s be realistic; it’s more of an attitude than a single service or single point of contact. If your company philosophy puts customer satisfaction first, everyone in your team can adjust their attitude toward it.
Diversification, Staffing, and Expertise
The current market challenges may well be the end of the one-stop-shop concept. Again, let’s be realistic: Who can be an expert in everything anyone approaching a dealership may need? Nobody is the only honest answer.
Over the past years, we have seen waves of mergers and acquisitions, and many of us may wonder when it will end and who will be left. It is a survival-of-the-fittest market, not necessarily a survival of the biggest. You can also see a clear trend toward teamwork. The customer of the 21st century needs experts and trustworthy partners that know how to get the best people together, manage them and produce the best possible results. That’s why they are turning to a third party in the first place. They don’t have the team for it, the team they have doesn’t have the time for it, and not all teams have the skills.
In addition to your new software, hardware, and services, make sure you are on top of project management, have the right partner network for the most pressing diversification challenges you can’t solve yourself, and above all, never forget to ask your customers for success stories and testimonials. A new customer will check you out before they check in.