There are tell-tale signs that the way in which we all buy our products and services is changing. The concept of buying and owning a service product is increasingly looking antiquated, as consumers are focusing more and more on the outcome rather than the tools needed to achieve it. As the physical security industry becomes more and more integrated and offers true open systems, there’s every reason to assume our sector will follow this trend, writes John Davies.
This shift in consumer focus may feel surprising at first as, much like any other technology sector, the security industry has concentrated on ‘shifting boxes’ for a long time. This was especially the case when proprietary systems were the norm. If an end user wanted more services, they bought a new product. From a basic sales point of view, this was simple and economic for manufacturers and installers alike.
However, a move towards integrated and open technology has transformed the way in which security consumers view their purchase. It’s no surprise as this has been the case with any consumer technology: when the options to source from different providers increase, so too does customer choice while interest in the physical product is eclipsed by the overall solution.
This is certainly evident with smart devices and IT. Cloud services have put the onus on what the end result is going to be, with the device the user chooses losing much of its significance. We’re also starting to see this in areas that nobody would have predicted in the past, such as the vehicle industry.
People in big cities don’t want the expense and hassle of owning (and parking) their own cars anymore. Unless you use your car every day, it makes more sense to rent one by the day or week when you need to venture beyond the confines of public transport. For some at least, the humble car become a service item with the result – ie a specific journey – more important than the type and specification of the car being used.
Service without stress
At the crux of all this is the demand from consumers to identify the service need and for suppliers to provide the easiest and most cost-effective solution. Equally, when it comes to specifying a security solution, the operator doesn’t necessarily want to know the full details of what’s going on ‘under the bonnet’, just that it ‘does the job’.
Any sensible security buyer will be focused on their specific security requirements and the business drivers that need to be addressed – such as the protection of their buildings, assets, data and employee safety – and that it suits their budget. This is where service becomes key. Customers need an expert to address their requirements, with all these parameters in mind, and to remove the stress of finding ‘the right products’.
In the past, specifying and using an unsuitable solution could be difficult at best, and potentially disastrous at worst. From an economic point of view, it’s also a challenge to finance a big install then try to accumulate resources again for the upgrade when the incumbent one has reached ‘end of life’.
It’s far more sensible to moderate the costs of security investments by paying a monthly or annual fee that’s predictable and can be budgeted for with a good degree of certainty. This is where buying security assurance as a service makes complete sense.
Opportunities for security providers
There are considerable benefits for security providers, too, both for manufacturers and installers. Rather than ‘shifting boxes’ (which any salesperson will tell you can have considerable peaks and troughs), a move towards complete service solutions offers a far more stable business model. Rather than having to win new business with every product, it becomes possible to sell ongoing services for a set period.
I’m a fervent believer that the whole business model for the security industry will change to this approach over the next five-to-ten years. Manufacturers are already cognisant of the change in customer expectations and are gearing up to meet this demand.
The service or leasing approach has become entrenched in other industries, and I feel this is a firm indication of what’s to come. If you look at the airline industry, for example, it has embraced this model of supply because it makes sound economic sense for the customer and supplier. Whole aircraft and even individual key components (such as engines or seating) can be leased by the airlines.
This gives much greater flexibility, but also means that the airlines (as consumer-faced businesses) can have the peace of mind to concentrate on providing the services their customers demand. The manufacturer and partners provide assurances and guarantees of service time for aircraft engines, then deal with servicing and the technical maintenance to ensure this is delivered. This model works just as well for the provision of security systems.
We’ve reached a point where there are major opportunities on the horizon for the security industry, but it will mean that manufacturers and installers will need to shift their focus (and perhaps realign their business model).
Ultimately, we can concentrate on developing the right systems for the market and be assured that our customers will be looking for the support we’re ideally placed to deliver.
John Davies is Managing Director of TDSi