Selling M2M Solutions

I have in the past ranted about service. In my business travels I have always marveled at a country’s lack of, or excellence in, their service models. Having just returned from another trip to China and Hong Kong, I am noticing a slight change in the dynamics.

We stayed at our familiar haunt, the Intercontinental, a five star hotel, so you would assume it would have service levels to cater to a well-heeled travel clientele. The staff is super friendly and very polite – their entire focus is about making your stay more comfortable or enjoyable or satisfying. I did notice one thing however, at the hotel’s morning buffet. I would finish my coffee and although serving staff was constantly around the table, they never offered to refill my coffee cup. It was not an isolated instance. I had several breakfast meetings and told those in attendance to watch for this service phenomenon. It seems like the serving staff was there to serve, wanted to serve, fully prepared to do anything I asked…the only trouble was they had no idea that I wanted another cup of coffee. In North America it is de rigueur to be offered, it goes without saying that we would view this as bad service in our own country.

It got me to thinking about the services that are offered in our M2M space, and I see similarities. We all want to sell hardware, software and services. The very real problem I see is no one knows what the customers want. We aren’t guessing…that much is clear. We are purpose building every application and every solution that is out there. There is no Microsoft or Apple M2M team defining what the services industry framework should look like and the customers, (unlike my example of wanting a simple refill of coffee), are adrift with what they want as well.

Services are the holy grail of our industry and lots of people will disagree with my view, but I truly feel that most of the companies, even the largest in our space, have no idea what the customers want and are subsequently building custom solutions for every application. When you build a custom application the first thing you do is try to find other customers who have the same requirements and then sell it to them with tweaks. I really shouldn’t be surprised but I am. The semiconductor and module business are run this way, but it is efficient because the features are usually overspec'd on modules so people are used to paying for features they don’t want. Here’s the challenge – solution selling is different in that people don’t want those extra features at all and the model seems to be to customize them out.

That’s the way I see it.