The StreetScooter: A Tale of Tech Disruption and Customer Satisfaction

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This is the time of year when pundits, prophets and prognosticators deliver pronouncements and previews of developments to watch for in the new year. Sometimes predictable, sometimes profound, most are forgotten as promptly as the best intentioned of new year resolutions.

But rather than bore you with dubious predictions, let’s focus on a single development from the recent past that may portend palpable tech disruption in our near future. It’s also a cautionary tale about listening to your customer.

The development involved parcel carrier DHL, known in its native Germany as Deutsche Post, and the carmakers that supply vehicles to its fleet.

One of those carmakers is Volkswagen AG, which is having to fork over billions of dollars in a settlement with the U.S. government for its diesel emissions cheating scandal. In 2015, VW was caught lying about its diesel emissions by using software that detected when a car was being emissions-tested vs. driving under normal circumstances.

Deaf Ear

It would seem VW might have done better to focus its efforts on developing electric vehicles rather than cheating software. VW was among the carmakers that turned a deaf ear when Deutsche Post kept asking them to supply electric vehicles to its fleet. Finally fed up with the lack of response, the carrier decided to make its own grid-powered vehicle, the StreetScooter.

“DHL has about 1,000 of the vehicles on the road, and is looking to make about 5,000 of them a year. DHL has a tailwind of sorts because electric vehicles only require about 10 percent of the manpower for assembly that conventional vehicles do because of the relative simplicity of an electric drivetrain,” Autoblog reported in October 2016.

Now, you may ask, what’s this got to do with the price of potatoes, 2017 predictions or managed services, for that matter? We’re glad you asked.

Hard Lesson

As Deutsche Post has shown, it’s terribly risky to sit comfortably on your laurels and ignore innovation. When Deutsche Post got an unsatisfactory reaction from its vehicle suppliers, it sought an alternative solution – creating a competitor to those suppliers.

There is an obvious lesson about listening to the customer in this whole deal. The StreetScooter tale teaches us that dismissing customer requests can lead to a reduction of business with a customer — or losing the customer altogether.

In a tech-centric world, that’s a dangerous thing to do. Because technology allows you to innovate. And innovation opens up your options

If DHL’s parent company can start making its own vehicles, your customers can decide to manage their own IT. Give them a reason to, and they will try to do just that or, worse, throw the business to a competitor.

In coming years we are going to see a lot of disruption fueled by innovative ways to use technology. That’s what DHL as well as Uber, AiBnB, Tesla and many other disruptive companies have already shown us.

Don’t expect disruption to always favor tech companies. With Internet of Things innovation well under way, MSPs could find themselves competing with different players offering new, innovative ways to do what you. And this won’t always happen with scrappy new companies. It could be another DHL.

So keep your eyes open, listen to customers and always – always – keep an open mind about innovation