This month, a panel of print hardware and software vendors and resellers, talk about the importance of customer experience
PrintIT Reseller: It’s been well documented that it’s much cheaper to retain a customer than it is to acquire one, and clients who have a ‘low-effort’ experience are more likely to buy from the business again. How do you balance your priorities – customer retention vs. customer acquisition?
Phil Madders, Managing Director, Print Audit Europe
“Our business model at PAE is built on a subscription model which means that if we don’t look after our customers they can end their subscription and stop doing business with us. This instils a real focus throughout our organisation to look after our customers from acquisition through our entire partnership together.
“Our retention rate is very high, and we tend not to lose customers unless they are acquired or cease trading for whatever reason. Last year we lost nine customers out of 657 dealers across Europe and our base grew by 13 per cent year on year. In terms of longevity we still work with two out of the first three customers we signed up 17 years ago. The other one was acquired and actually became part of an organisation we also work with.
“The other aspect of a subscription based offering is that the sales cycle is completely changed. Instead of trying to sell more, we find our energies devoted to trying to get the most out of the subscription. This means we have a vested interest in helping our dealers grow, as if they grow, so do we. Our customer objectives are completely aligned with ours which makes our retention programme critical in terms of our growth.
“I would not be so complacent as to say that we have cracked it – but if you can continually supply products and solutions that make your customers more efficient and competitive, and balance this with providing excellent support it is a great balance. Is the subscription model relevant to our dealers? If it isn’t today it soon will be as the growth of SAAS models continues and we all get used to Office 365, Google docs and Spotify.”
Michael Burke, Managing Director, Purpose Software
“Purpose Software has the market’s largest portfolio of software solutions and committed to an ongoing programme of enhancement for each product. This ensures that we continue to meet the evolving needs of our customers and enhance the return on investment for each of our product lines. It also means that customers can look ‘within’ Purpose Software when they are ready to change – options within rather than searching elsewhere. If we look after them they will look at our other products first. This also makes a compelling proposition to assist in the new customer acquisition process.”
Mike Anderson, Head of Marketing, Brother UK
“Today, decision-makers have an abundance of choice and information at their fingertips, which means IT suppliers have to work just as hard to retain customers as they do to win new clients. Vendors and resellers can’t afford to rest on their laurels just because they’re the incumbent supplier. Getting the right balance of targeting new customers and retaining existing ones is important to help our company grow, and we’re careful not to prioritise one over the
“For retention, one of our key aims is to build valued partnerships with our existing customers. One way we do this is by continuing to deliver on the promises we made at the point of winning their business. We’ve invested in a service team and a dedicated call centre to make sure our ongoing support for our existing customers is second to none.
“In terms of winning new business, we’ve invested in our lead generation strategy to make acquisitions as seamless as possible. Having a thorough understanding of the customer’s requirements and their common pain points is essential, and we don’t instigate meetings until after we have these nailed down.
“This is a long-term strategy and investment is being managed accordingly, but there is a healthy balance between management of new and existing business at Brother UK.”
Nigel Allen, Marketing Director, KYOCERA
“As the majority of our business is indirect we focus on retaining channel partners. Our mission is to be the ‘partner of choice’ and you can only achieve that by delivering good service and being very open and transparent, even when things don’t go well, which sometimes happens. We do have a business development team which creates new business opportunities for our partners and we ensure that activity is separate from the core business.”
Carlo Longhi, Director and General Manager, Indirect Channels UK & Ireland, Xerox
“Both long-standing and new logo customers are equally important to us at Xerox. We focus heavily on supporting our partners to retain, grow and add new customers with various programmes and incentives to help them drive balanced performance.
“It is critical that our partners retain their existing customer base and get broader and deeper into existing accounts while also adding new logo clients to ensure that they have a healthy and growing client base. Digital transformation is a key opportunity in both areas and we continue to equip our partners with new offerings and training to enable this. For example, last year, we hosted a series of Future of Work forums for our channel partners to give them an insight into how their technology can fit into a changed landscape. These events came with a Future of Work Forum Kit providing partners with everything needed to plan and execute their own event with suggested venues, sample invitations and agendas, presentation materials, imagery, equipment recommendations, logistics and budget guidance, social media assets and even public relations support.”
Tatsuo Murakami, Managing Director, RISO UK
“Customer retention and customer acquisition are of equal importance to RISO UK. In simple terms, that’s why we continue to invest in our new business teams, and the account teams who look after our customers.”
Lars Hargaard, Marketing Director, OKI Europe (UK & IRELAND)
“Keeping our customers happy, from individual home users to global enterprises with users across different countries and market sectors, has always been our top priority. However, it’s more than just
providing a ‘low effort’ experience – it’s more about adding value, engaging the customer so we can help enhance their business in ways perhaps they hadn’t even realised were possible. We also aim to build long-term relationships so that we can help their business grow over time.
“We want every customer to receive exceptional quality from initial purchase through every touch point with us and to feel they are as important to us as if they were our only customer.”
Zana Gradus, Managing Director, Systems Technology
“As with all sectors, the internet has given access to more information and buyers have more knowledge at their fingertips. We sent out a survey a few years ago to our client base to get a better understanding of why they buy from us. We soon realised our clients see us as a service company – we take care of all of their printing facilities and they just do not need to think about it, therefore giving them more time to do what they are best at.
“So, with existing clients we offer customer excellence and always go the extra mile, treat every client as if you just won them. So we don’t see a difference between customer retention and new clients – if you put the hard work in, then it gives no reason for them to move away, then reputation will help you win more new business.”
Mark Smyth, Chief Operating Officer, Vision
“We continually analyse our mix of new business and existing customer business, alongside upgrading and churning our current clients. This ratio has varied over the years with specific business drivers aimed at client retention. Compensation drives sales behaviour and the guidelines we set to drive retention are essential. It’s all about striking the right balance that aids client retention, whilst acquiring new clients for continued growth, and it is harder than ever to win new clients in our current market.
“We are seeing new clients going to market with minimum standards required, from IT security and certifications, Quality Management (ISO9001) and Environmental Management (ISO14001) certifications, Health & Safety Certifications and so on, and when these minimum standards are not met, you are likely to not meet the required qualification and be included in the selection process.”
Adrian Low, Group Service Delivery Analyst, Midshire Business Systems
“For us at Midshire, we absolutely pride ourselves on our service, and when it comes to customer retention it’s our service that keeps our customers coming back. It’s our job to ensure that our customers have a smooth, ‘low-effort’ experience with their technology. “As for acquisition, when a prospect gets in touch with Midshire, we go above and beyond to make sure they get the best solution, in the fastest way possible. So, our service speaks volumes, and when the prospect is converted to a customer, that same service nurtures them to retention.”
Simon Hollister, Managing Director, Hollis Technology
“The simple answer would be to say both are equally as important, but it is not as simple as this. Whilst customer acquisition is obviously the quickest way to grow a business and hit short- and mid-term financial objectives, there
are equal benefits to be gained from incremental sales with existing clients to enable mid- and long-term revenue goals to be met.
“Achieving high customer retention rates demonstrates the ability of an organisation to meet the evolving needs of these clients and ensures that they are referenceable to potential new clients. Understanding the needs of existing clients makes forecasting and budgeting easier and more reliable. At present Hollis has two separate business streams, one managing the existing client base and the other driving new business.”
Scott Walker, Head of Business Development, ZenOffice MPS
“Anyone can win new business. I’m constantly telling my connections the same thing. Retaining a customer is where you show your strength. We have a dedicated business development team whose only focus is on cold new business.
We balance that with a dedicated customer services team whose only focus is to provide pro-active account management with a view to retaining our clients. It’s a positive balance…that simply works.”
PrintIT Reseller: According to the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings, the better the customer experience (CX), the more likely people are to recommend a brand. How do you ensure you continue to optimise the customer experience in your organisation, and what success have you had in securing new business via referrals?
Phil Madders: “We work with a range of brands in the MPS market. We have helped to develop the Print Audit brand into one that is recognised globally after introducing it to Europe in 2002. e have built a good reputation for customer service and do receive referrals from other companies. The great thing about referrals is that the person referred already has an idea of what we do and confident that we can assist in fulfilling their requirements.
“We have had great success with word of mouth referrals, but not with official referral schemes, which is an area we need to revisit. The obvious platform for gaining referrals is social media. Platforms like Linked In are great for showcasing case studies, I read more of these now than I ever have from visiting a website. However, the challenge is to break out of your own vertical market into markets you are targeting. We found it can be done but takes planning and persistence.”
Michael Burke: “We operate within a small market sector and word soon gets round if a reseller has a bad experience with a software supplier. Fortunately we are in a position where our customers can access the widest portfolio of software solutions, all designed by the industry for the industry. This does of course make it easier to optimise the customer experience by eliminating most of the issues experienced by software houses that do not share our total focus on this sector.
“Having such a deep level of understanding of the needs of resellers also allows us to ensure that our ongoing product development roadmap is fully aligned with the needs of the market moving forward. Of course, word also quickly spreads when resellers have a great experience with a software supplier and we are always pleased to receive calls from users of other systems that have been talking to our customers about us.”
Mike Anderson: “Having a mindset that no two businesses are the same is a great way of enhancing the customer experience. This attitude, and by delivering solutions that solve the pain points of individual customers, can drive satisfaction and ultimately lead to referral business.
“By going the extra mile for customers, trust can be built very early too. For example, there have been instances where we’ve been needed to solve a tech integration issue. This could typically take two weeks to resolve, but we worked with our teams in Japan to fnd a solution within 24-hours. The customer expectations were blown away, and it helped us to win the business.”
Nigel Allen: “We undertake regular surveys with our customers and with over 60 per cent of our employees based in our service division, this is a key focus to help us and our partners retain their customers. KYOCERA has a long history of success in the public sector, an area where referrals are essential and our case studies continuously help us gain further share in that sector.”
Carlo Longhi: “At Xerox, we encourage our partners to run their own referral programmes within their customer base. We utilise our customer satisfaction survey as a continuous improvement tool to provide the best support for our partners during account reviews. We also deliver ongoing training to our partners’ sales and technical teams, as well as providing support through our partner portal and support teams to ensure excellent partner and customer experiences.”
Tatsuo Murakami: “We’re very proud that our retention rate is high, as we believe this is in itself is testament to the customers’ experience of RISO. We also seen a lot of customers returning to RISO, which says a lot for our products and the customer experience.
“We also gain new customers precisely because of referrals, particularly in the education sectors. People talk, and they often need to know that their colleagues and peers trust a supplier. We’re proud that people talk of RISO and its people in such a way that they want to do business with us.”
Lars Hargaard: “We are renowned for the quality and reliability of our products and offer a free three-year on-site warranty across the range, which is over and above the industry norm. From the moment our customers register their new product, we ask them for their feedback and continue to do this over the life of the product, alongside updates and information on how they can get the best from their purchase.
“This ensures that we can pick up on any issues and resolve them quickly and efficiently. Through this customer care programme, we have naturally gained other customers or had the opportunity to share customer endorsements that have led to us acquiring new business.
“We have many long-term customers – many part of our managed print services (MPS) programme. This enables us to keep in touch and visit on a regular basis, making recommendations as their business grows or changes. This ensures their print function is always optimised and they are not losing money through inefficient contracts or using the wrong device – or the right device in the wrong place.”
Zana Gradus: “The entire business is built around the customer journey and our ‘WHY’ is to achieve customer excellence, hopefully the clients will talk about the level of service they receive and become our promotors for winning new business. The account managers are targeted to win new business however, our greatest wins come through referrals from our existing clients – our best promotors.”
Mark Smyth: “Getting off to a good start is essential. Customer experience happens from the moment we engage with a client and continues across all touch points from pre-sales, delivery and then service. Once the sales professional has won over the client, it’s important we continue to meet and exceed their expectations.
“Once you have demonstrated the ability to consistently deliver high quality products and services, you build trust, and that’s the enabler to go on and add yet more value. When you reach this level of trust, you have the potential to leverage your exceptional service by requesting a testimonial or case study and that’s often the key to demonstrating your capability to new clients in the same sector or industry.
“With corporate, public sector and large wins, we wrap an entire team – consisting of project managers, professional services consultants and architects, service management etc. and process around the client, and through the implementation process we introduce a service delivery manager. The customer experience is then very effectively managed and we work hard on building trust through this approach.”
Adrian Low: “It is so evident in business that customer experience and by proxy, word-of-mouth, can be very favourable or extremely detrimental to a brand dentity that may have taken decades to build. At Midshire we continually review our communication channels, the work never stops. This past year we completely overhauled our website, taking it from a brochure site to a site specifically designed to take our customers where they need to go, to get what they need.
“When it comes to recommendations, we tend to see a lot of referrals in the education sector. This is normally based on our consistent and effective delivery of service for schools and universities, particularly when it comes to responding to existing customers’ emergency calls.”
Simon Hollister: “Hollis Technology is committed to developing a clear customer experience vision, a set of principles or guides to ensure excellent service delivery and provide the best advice possible. We are embedding these principles into Hollis Technology’s business culture and making them a core part of training for new and existing staff. We are also focused on understanding who our customers are, to better understand their needs and ensure all communications are aligned to their expectations. Referrals continue to be a key part of our business and we try to capture customer feedback during interactions, follow-up calls and post engagement surveys. This insight drives continuous improvement to further optimise the customer experience.
“This includes the use of Trustpilot to give our customers an opportunity to convey their opinion online. This has given us a further opportunity to call and thank these customers for providing positive feedback and ask if they can recommend us to anyone. It also allows us to address any negative feedback and convert this to a positive. This approach has resulted in new and incremental sales including a major managed service contract.”
Scott Walker: “Your customer experience is a full 360 degree journey. From the first call, to the first meeting… down to review meetings, courtesy calls, feedback emails and even going the extra mile when they don’t expect it. I’ve personally had a number of new clients due to direct referrals due to transparent and honest communication.”