Michael Guschlbauer on the meaning of customer focus in the digital age, “connected dispersion” as a USP, and the new customer journey. The COO for IT System House & Managed Services sees customers’ willingness to engage as a great opportunity to position IT as a driver of business growth and innovation.
Mr Guschlbauer, Vision 2030 puts customer focus at the top of the list. What does optimal customer service look like—today and in the future?
Michael Guschlbauer: I see this from an—admittedly very personal—vantage point: Everyone can serve customers within the scope of their respective resources. So what you need is to find a way to stand out. We can do this when we funnel our attention on the primary purpose of a system house, on the very reason we exist, that is, to offer our customers our honest advice and in-depth expertise: What architecture harbours the greatest potential to elevate their core business, and with minimal risk? Legacy data centres, hybrid cloud infrastructures, multi-cloud architectures, holistic security and modern workplace concepts—the market is ripe with trends and opportunities, and our customers and prospects need our advice to navigate them. In order to be successful in the future, you have to think ahead and with the customer in mind, and have IT concepts at the ready that are geared to empower their core business. That makes all the difference.
What is the role of “connected dispersion” in all of this?
Our dispersed yet connected organisation is among our biggest selling points and a sharp edge over our competition. It combines imperative customer proximity with the ability to leverage the full competence available anywhere and everywhere at Bechtle to drive customer success. The emphasis lies on connected dispersion, i.e. the eagerness to work together across companies. Dispersion alone is a dead end.
The power of 10,000 employees combined with the customer proximity of Bechtle’s IT system houses—will this continue to be the ace up Bechtle’s sleeve in the future?
Absolutely. I've touched on the collaboration among system houses, and I'd like to mention the collaboration between system houses and e-commerce. Leveraging the distinct sales skills that exist in both segments in any given scenario gets us closer to our customers than anyone else in the market and across all market segments.
Is it conceivable that by 2030 there will be Bechtle system houses outside the DACH region?
Our current strategy sees us everywhere our customers are, wherever in the world that may be. We deliver global services, even when our own system houses may be limited to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It is, however, not inconceivable that there will be system houses beyond these countries by 2030. But there’s still plenty of room for us to grow in our home markets.
Bechtle promises to deliver its customers critical and future-oriented information technology. How important is a good line to the vendors to achieve this end?
The partnerships with our strategic vendors are crucial to our success. Our rapport enables us to participate early on in industry innovations and developments, which also allows us to promptly form an opinion on what trends are here to stay and respond accordingly. What’s more, these partnerships are instrumental to how we address the market, for example through mutual digital marketing campaigns, training initiatives and designing architecture blueprints.
Artificial intelligence, Modern Workplace, clouds—what topics are going to shape the face of IT in the coming years and how can Bechtle support customers as they journey towards a new age of IT?
Multi-cloud architectures, i.e. an intelligent blend of private cloud architectures and a variety of public-cloud services will become the new normal. So naturally, they will be embedded into our core business with regard to both technological, commercial and contractual aspects. Simple forms of artificial intelligence, such as, say, machine learning, will be part of modern architectures. This means that machines will be able to detect potential issues before they arise, remedy the situation, share their experience with other machines, and let them know how to prevent the issue in the first place. Modern Workplace concepts will also be critical for the success of our customers, in terms of efficiency and productivity, and also with respect to strong employer branding. We can help our customers above all by putting ourselves in their shoes, recognising their particular challenges, and coming up with pre-emptive solutions. That is true customer proximity.
IT is increasingly turning into a driver of growth and innovation in many companies. Is this a trend that benefits Bechtle?
Absolutely. And I believe our IT business architects are instrumental here. They start by looking at the customers’ processes, then speak with the customers to uncover optimisations, and translate the results into IT requirements, which ultimately manifest as intelligent architectures that strengthen our customers’ competitive position. I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years and never have I seen customers more willing to engage in this dialogue and accept professional advice than they are today.
As COO you’re also in charge of managed services. What kind of potential do you see in this department over the coming years?
There’s enormous potential for growth in scalable managed services, because customers of all shapes and sizes and across all industries are ready to source IT as a service. They realise the massive benefits that go hand in hand with fully managed IT workplaces, also with regard to their bottom lines. This kind of consumption model has become integral to a Modern Workplace today and there’ll be a lot of future growth here.
Given the growing complexity of IT, demand will likely also increase…
…and not just because of the complexity, but also—and above all—because our customers enjoy the simplicity with which they can tap into IT and application services in consumer electronics. They’ve come to expect the same kind of user experience in their work environment, too.
This promises a bigger margin in comparison to the sales business. How are you planning to increase the volume in managed services?
The strategy we follow in restructuring our managed services business aims at building up shared managed services, i.e. designing a scaling platform business.
Let’s fast forward to the year 2030. How will customers get in touch with Bechtle in the future, and how will Bechtle acquire new customers?
On the one hand, there are the traditional ways of approaching customers that will still be around in the future—think face-to-face and over the phone. On the other, I’m certain that digital channels will have a great impact on how we connect with customers and prospects. There’s the way we will address the market with digital marketing campaigns, the targeted dissemination of information over the web, self-service customer portals that allow them to do a great number of things such as scale service levels, book or shed individual services, monitor their order and delivery status, manage their assets, etc. Chats will also be a common feature in customer communication, both in e-commerce and in consultations on complex issues. We will put a focus on making the digital customer journey an exceptional experience for them. In addition to that, video and collaboration-enabled communication over the phone is gaining increasing foothold already—especially in consulting customers on extensive and complex solutions. I am very positive that this kind of communication will be much more significant in the near future as it allows people to effectively tap into existing expertise from wherever they are. That’s something that benefits everyone—both our customers and ourselves.