Reaching Your Customer's Customers

Polycom User Group (PUG) is an organization made up of a diverse community of users whose jobs range from networking infrastructure to implementing VoIP, managing conferencing equipment and services, and planning strategic applications. PUG's focus is to provide information, networking opportunities and direct feedback between Polycom and PUG members throughout the year with live events, streamed programs, white papers, interactive discussion groups focusing on specific markets and special interest groups.

At the recent PUG conference in Phoenix, AZ, sessions outlined the end user's perspective in purchasing and using AV equipment. Before an integrator or consultant sets out to educate a customer on new technologies, it's wise for a manufacturer to educate itself on the customer's challenges and concerns, and the PUG sessions can be eye-opening for someone who has only worked from the manufacturer/integrator side of things. However, the points raised are important lessons in customer education.

Your customer has his/her own set of customers that must be addressed.
These customers may include corporate management, business units within the company or the CIO/CFO. Your own customer will need to provide convincing arguments to these people on the value of the equipment they are either proposing or have just purchased. If equipment purchases can't be fully justified within the company, your customer has no hope of securing permission (or budget) for future installations. This is especially challenging when the customer has recently purchased a system. His or her customers-the people who will be using the equipment within the company-need to become familiar and comfortable with using the system. If no one is using the system, there won't be much incentive to put in another one. If you can find out why this is happening, and help your customer address his/her customers' concerns, you'll be more likely to land repeat business.

Your customer needs a champion within his/her company.
Just as word of mouth helps you sell your top performing lines, word of mouth within an end user's facility will help your customer maintain the position and prestige he or she has been working for. If a CIO or CFO can be convinced of the cost savings, time savings or pure efficiency of the AV system you have just installed, your customer will have a much easier time requesting that second system in the new building. If possible, set up a training session with your customer and this key influencer-make sure the influencer is comfortable with the system and understands its benefits.

Make sure your customer has the most recent updates and bug fixes.
Stay in touch with your customer and keep their system current, especially if you're working for repeat sales. If there's a bug fix or new software, work with your customer to get it installed. It might fix a problem that some influential users are complaining about.

Understand your customer's depreciation cycles and product life expectations.
If your system will become obsolete in three years due to advances in technology, make sure your customer's CIO/CFO understands that a depreciation cycle may not be in their best interest. Although a recovery cycle may be a bit harder to swallow up front, it could prevent difficulties down the road. Help your customer set up this expectation with the CFO up-front, and you'll be a hero.

Mary Bakija is a writer and editor with more than 15 years of storytelling experience. Bakija is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Library and Information Science to help others find and tell important stories that might otherwise be lost, and to ensure those stories are preserved for future generations to see.