It took four months for Sydney-based network integrator, Balanced IT Services (BITS) to secure its first customer. But three years later the $20 million-a-year organisation has won a host of deals with some of Australia's largest organisations, including John Fairfax Holdings, Rothschild Australia and the NSW Police Service.
According to John Perkins, BITS' managing director, the integrator hasn't performed any extraordinary deeds in building its customer database, however "our success has been achieved through a desire to drive the excess cost out of their businesses.
"Australian resellers, now more than ever, have to look closely at their business and decide how they want to differentiate themselves from the market.
"Resellers need to develop strong databases with useful information not just about products but also about the customer's needs, cultures and expectations.
"It's one thing to provide a solution for a customer but its another thing to earn their respect and secure their services for the long-term," Perkins added.
He said BITS has made a concerted effort to use the Internet as the medium for most of the organisation's dealings with clients. It's integrated Web site http://www.bits.net.au offers customers exclusive access to a mass of information from product pricing, purchasing and inventory to asset management and technical updates.
"Some time ago we had a close look at our business and decided that we needed to redefine our approach to customers," Perkins said.
The integrator decided to focus its efforts on boosting the professional services component of the business to the point where it now contributes 50 per cent of BITS' annual revenue. It partners with a number of organisations including Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, National Computer Systems and Support (NCSS) and the Multi Vendor Customer Service arm of Compaq (now called Compaq Services).
BITS is also an Authorised Compaq reseller, Lotus Business Partner, IBM Premium Partner, Novell Net Provider and Microsoft Solution Provider.
A key feature of the Web site is a password-protected Gold Club for customers which offers weekly technology briefs, white papers, monthly product reviews and vendor performance comparisons along with invitations to BITS' regular seminar series.
According to Perkins, the Gold Club was designed to improve the knowledge of not just BITS' customer base but also the organisation's internal staff.
"To put out our weekly technology briefs and monthly whitepapers, for example, we make our internal staff research a topic and write a brief to boost their own knowledge as well as our customers," Perkins said.
"By doing this we can bring our staff closer to the customer and also create a situation where the customer is comfortable with the services we provide."
Perkins also highlighted a number of internally developed initiatives, which are geared to reducing the costs of business. For example, he referred to the automatic software loading capabilities of BITS' Web site.
"We can control software distribution and downloads from our end simply by giving customers access to applications stored on our Web site," Perkins said.
"They don't need to worry about wasting time with software upgrades and it allows our customers to redirect the resources at their disposal."