Are customers shifting what they want from service providers?
The answer is a definitive yes.
What are those shifts? How can we use our customers’ changing expectations to increase the value of what we have to offer?
I’ve been spending time studying new research examining how and why customers’ expectations have shifted, and continue to shift. As one might expect, the pandemic plays a role – as it does in virtually every aspect of our lives.
Certainly the pandemic’s role in the labor market is one part of this. Some of the research I’ve been reading shows that more than half of enterprise businesses and technology companies plan to increase the use of service providers, which isn’t a big surprise. With economic uncertainty on the horizon, this increase in the use of service providers hasn’t slowed down. To the contrary, we are seeing customers move forward on their most strategic bets in anticipation of market shifts in the future.
There is a notable shift in what they see as most important when selecting a third-party resource. Today, they are much more interested in the service provider’s ability to marry strategy and implementation than they were just a few years ago. Simply put, customers are looking for a trusted partner to move from strategy to results – without the costs of changing providers.
This all dovetails into a parallel, complimentary trend. What I am seeing is that now, more than ever, customers are demanding that service providers provide outcomes, insights and novel approaches, not just people. Particularly as the pandemic accelerated the complexity of the issues we face and the timeframe we need to solve them in.
Enter the realm of co-innovation.
Co-innovation is the process in which we purposefully work together to develop new solutions to complex problems, often spanning organizational boundaries or subject-matter silos. Customers have realized the importance of co-creating IP and assets with their service providers – from contributing to their core competencies to the creation of new solutions – rather than just transferring the responsibility and risk to a third party.
One of my initiatives with my leadership team is to help everyone understand how this shift affects the way we approach our work. I am talking with them about shifting to put co-innovation at the center of our thinking, changing our mindset around what success looks like. We need to discover, understand and unlock our customer’s creativity and know-how in building repeatable ways to solve these problems. We need to check our consulting ego at the door and not position ourselves as the only experts in the room. Rather, we need to create the space for our customers to create with us – for us to push each other for the best solutions to the problems that they are solving for. Gone are the days in which organizations hire banks of consultants, pushing the risk over to them and hoping for the best.
I see great promise in walking this path with customers. The dynamics of customer engagement that are predicated on co-innovation foster deeper, longer-lasting experiences, and ultimately, better value for our customer. The opportunity that lies here is endless – as is the impact that we can make on our world when we innovate together.