Homepage: Services with a spin
- 19 May, 1999 13:05
Now that there's an ERP platform in just about every customer site in the country, it seems the channel's attention has been turned to the lucrative add-on services side of the phenomenon.
But wait a minute. Just because I mention the "s" word doesn't mean you can just jump in and say, "Yeh, but we've been providing ERP services for ages."
That may well be true, but the deeper you delve into these murky ERP depths, the more you discover just what a variety of opportunities exist for VARs and integrators that wouldn't necessarily call themselves ERP specialists.
Have you ever stopped to apply the concept of one of the "in" catch phrases - repeatable solutions - to your business model? The reason I ask is that many of you are already (and if you haven't, you should be) looking at ways to differentiate your organisations from your competitors.
The thought crossed my mind after I met with the local head of a leading ERP vendor that, wait for it, is seriously considering diversifying its professional services arm to include product-related service packages. This vendor's aim, even though the idea is still in its infancy, appears to focus on automated services that could effectively eliminate the need for some channel partners. The services this vendor is proposing are nothing mind-blowing, just basic offerings that could assist it to forge closer relationships with their customers.
At the same time, the vendor in question realises that it cannot provide all the services to all the people. Logistically that would be a nightmare. So it has tentatively formulated a new business approach based around the idea of packaged, repeatable services. There would be little, if any, increase in staff required as the plan can already be handled by the vendor's existing support arm. As a result, the vendor could reduce its reliance on costly physical support and pump revenue either back into the service or into product development.
This idea makes a lot of sense and is one area in which an integrator could make plenty of friends and pick up a nice chunk of loot to boot.
I'd suggest the first thing you do is make sure that Web site of yours is geared up to handle a technical support knowledge base replete with drill down solutions to technical problems. In fact, this is vital. The phones in your office may never ring with support queries but that's because your customers are quite happy to fix their own problems in their own time.
Now that they're happy with support, why not group your customers into specific industry segments, eg, manufacturing, education, and tailor services packages to suit their individual, but common, needs. This way you can cut the costs down because you know what you're playing with.
Of course, these are but a few of the options available to you in this repeatable services world, but one word of warning. Get customer feedback first or it'll be back to the drawing board and another miserable winter.