A frank conversation with a fellow journalist recently highlighted how resellers are perceived by some outside the industry. The picture is not too flattering.
The journalist, who writes about technology and is an advocate for small businesses, does not need to be named for the purposes of this piece.
She was lamenting that large vendors are moving more customers online or to offshore call centres for support and launched a broadside at resellers, claiming that some serving the SME sector cannot be relied upon to offer their customers proper support.
Her view was that vendors and their resellers can do more to support small businesses who do not have IT staff on board and understand little about technology.
Many of these companies have a technology supplier they regularly buy from, and whose advice they trust. But this colleague feels these suppliers sometimes let their customers down – either by not being knowledgeable enough about the latest technologies, or by not caring enough about what the clients’ business needs are.
Smaller resellers just sell products and do not provide much in the way of support or service, she claims, relating tales of companies who call their technology supplier with an issue, only to be referred to the vendor’s help desk or website for support.
However, since many vendors run their help desk offshore, the customer is left talking about their problem to someone who has little local knowledge.
The journalist added in many cases it would be best if small businesses could buy from vendors.
While her frustration is understandable, cutting the channel out is not the best solution to the problems this journalist set out.
It is not in the interest of large, multi-national technology companies, whose core business is developing new products, to invest the resources needed to support customers across a sparsely populated country like New Zealand.
Plus, local knowledge and relationships are absolutely essential in doing business here.
While I may differ with this colleague over the value the channel provides, I do agree it would be naïve to believe that many resellers do not need to lift their game.
Instead of just taking orders and charging for call outs, talk to your customers about what they really want to achieve with their business and how you can help them do that.
And be honest – if you do not have the skills inhouse to meet their needs, be confident enough to recommend another supplier that can.
Better still, where possible, form strategic partnerships with others in the industry, even if they are competitors today, to allow you to truly meet your customers’ needs .
These kinds of actions can help resellers become true and trusted partners to their clients. It would also help improve the image of the industry as a whole.