Interview with Andrés Checa Martín, Protecmedia
- Article ID:
Suppliers as consultants
As the complexity of workflows and production increases, users and buyers of systems and equipment face an increasing challenge in understanding and evaluating what is on offer and how to maximise their ROI. This is one of the reasons why many suppliers now offer consultancy services independently of their product sales. Another is that the extra activities generate extra revenue. However, the business strategy behind providing consultancy varies greatly from one vendor to the next. Here is what Andrés Checa Martín, marketing manager of Protecmedia, said about the company's strategy along these lines.
WAN-IFRA: Does your company sell consultancy type services independently (i e without equipment); if so how long have you been doing it?
Checa: Yes, we have been offering consultancy services for the last 7 or 8 years, but always to existing customers.
WAN-IFRA: Why do you do it (revenue, to keep expert staff, deepen customer loyalty...)?
Checa: There are two main reasons: Firstly, our customers ask us to help them to improve their workflows or to boost cultural changes in their employees. The second reason is that we are interested in them maximising the performance of our applications because we strongly believe that our customers’ success is our main asset. If you can ensure optimum use of your applications, customer satisfaction and loyalty are assured and this means continuity for your business. Consultancy forms part of the long-term relationship you build with a customer.
WAN-IFRA: How important is this aspect of the business to you, for example, from a revenue point of view, keeping key staff, etc?
Checa: It is very important from a strategic point of view. Consultancy enriches the corporate knowledge of both companies and opens up an excellent opportunity to change possible bad organisational habits and generate new impulses.
WAN-IFRA: Are these services primarily aimed at your existing customers, new customers or both, and why?
Checa: They are primarily aimed at our existing customers because Consultancy is not the main focus of our business. Apart from that, we feel it is important for us to be clearly defined. We cannot play the role of an independent consultant when we are a supplier at the same time. We prefer to base our relationship on honesty and clarity.
WAN-IFRA: What types of customer might be interested in your services, i.e. what stage are they at in their projects (Pre-project/installation or post-project/installation)?
Checa: Usually, our consultancy services are required at the beginning of the project or when the applications have been running for a period of time and the users want to broaden the advantages offered by new applications.
WAN-IFRA: Could you please give specific examples of needs of customers for these types of services such as optimisation of existing plant/workflow, project specification, etc.
Checa: Optimisation of processes and workflows relating to the former situation is a typical requirement. Project specifications on how to integrate data or processes between departments of the company which are not using our products are also usual.
WAN-IFRA: How do you deal with the issue of giving “independent” advice?
Checa: With transparency and honesty, we never play the role of consultant for applications that are also in our range of products. If they are not and the customer asks us to take on this role, we analyse the situation and recommend what we feel is most appropriate.
WAN-IFRA: How can your consultants get information from other vendors, should the need arise? Specifically pricing information.
Checa: As I have explained, they can only get information on behalf of the customer if the application is not in our catalogue of products.
WAN-IFRA: If you do not offer consultancy independently of systems sales, is it something you have considered or even have actual plans to do? Why/ why not?
Checa: We consider consultancy as a way to help and support our customers, not as our main business. Therefore, if a customer of ours asks for consultancy we offer the best advice within our knowledge range because that is part of our mission: Collaborating with Customers for their Success. However, if their requirement is outside of our scope, we advise them to contact a specialist in that field. By doing this, we also foster good relationships with independent consultancy companies.