Mastering the Art of National Client Partnerships

In the world of commercial office technology, acquiring and servicing national customers is big business. Current Partner and EVP at Atlanta Office Technologies, Phil Van Gelder, provides his perspective on the importance of efficient national account management and how AOT differentiates themselves in this arena. 

Question: What type of national accounts does AOT work with?

Answer: Perhaps ironic, but there are certain national accounts we don’t want. Accounts that have thousands of locations often expect the elite level of service, support and product, but don’t want to pay for it. In our line of work, that ends up being a losing proposition. The best national accounts for AOT have been 200-300 physical locations, paper-intensive businesses, engaged management that is aware of the fact they have operational weaknesses in our area, but want to outsource the oversight of it so they can focus on mission-critical objectives. Further, they realize that even if it’s a little bit more to do business with AOT vs someone else, they won’t have to hire additional staff or assistance in the process, creating a net-positive. We tend to find partners matching this criteria in manufacturing, healthcare, insurance, finance, and non-profits within the contiguous 48 states.

Q: How does AOT effectively support accounts located throughout the U.S. and Canada?  

A: Despite being an independent dealer, AOT can manage these complex rollouts the same way a manufacturer can. We have access to over 300 platinum level dealers across the US. That elite partnership status allows us to ensure that we have uniformity in service level performance and accountability, from other business owners, to perform. This influence and independence allows us to ensure we have always selected the best-of-breed and not just the requisite local OEM (original equipment manufacturer) branch.

Q: Why should customers work with a dealer, instead of the manufacturer directly?  

A: The primary reason to work with AOT over an OEM comes down to one word – control.  A partnership with AOT permits a client to have direct access to an ownership group that make changes with one phone call. There isn’t the need to ‘get things approved,’ ‘run it up the ladder,’ ‘get sign-off,’ or any of the like. A customer calls us because they have a problem and they want it fixed. Often times, the bureaucracy and red tape of a large OEM environment creates bottlenecks and slow response. AOT is streamlined and maintains a relatively flat topography so that our employees are empowered to make swift and agile decisions on behalf of the customer.

Q: How does AOT go about assessing existing systems and determining proposed solutions and/or technology enhancements for national accounts?  

A: We accomplish assessments through a means of technological tools (the data portion), intellectual property (the customers’ experience and opinion), and our experience (past project success).  All of these steps typically require about 90 days of concerted focus and effort with the client. It’s important to observe changes within the client’s environment and a quarter will tend to give you a sneak peek. Once you have these elements combined together, the solution tends to make itself pretty evident.  

Q: What sets AOT apart from other providers when it comes to serving national clients?  

A: What sets AOT apart from other providers is that we know our competition. We understand how they carry out this portion of their business. We know what works and what doesn’t. We haven’t been boxed-in on how to do things. We have had the privilege of formulating a best-of-breed that yields the highest level of customer satisfaction and profitability for us. That’s as close to a business win-win as we can theorize. When it comes to managing national accounts in our business, it’s not easy, but it is simple. Like most business relationships, the customer contracts with a vendor they think can render the services needed at the price quoted. The value is derived in the vendor’s ability to meet and exceed that. 

“Phil approaches business like we do, relationships first and foremost. He does a great job at business development, looking out for others and how he can serve them best,” said Rob C. recently regarding his commercial real estate firm’s affiliation with AOT. 

Our dedicated staff looks forward to serving your organization! Reach out today to learn more about national accounts, partnering with AOT or to get in touch with our Phil directly.