UP THE CHANNEL: Trust us — we’re experts

UP THE CHANNEL: Trust us — we’re experts

A customer walked into a large computer chain store and said to a senior sales person: “I need to scan a large quantity of slides. I am not sure if my PC will handle it so here is a comprehensive system report.”

The salesman glibly responded: “This scanner will do what you want.” This was the start of three weeks of frustration where the customer wasted countless hours, had two new scanners and only received a refund after seeking professional mediation.

If only the sales person had known what they were talking about in the first place a lot of angst and bad publicity could have been avoided. The tragedy is that this happens every day.

It seems endemic in the IT channel that over enthusiastic, underqualified, underpaid sales people are the norm.

They learn on the job, usually via a form of passive osmosis or Chinese whispers and, with this second or third hand information, become “instant experts”.

I often drop into computer stores to test their product knowledge and receive ridiculous answers to straightforward questions.

My opinion is that the great majority of IT products are sold by well meaning amateurs posing as experts.

It is all very well to move to the white/brown good marketing model and rely on Caveat Emptor but IT is still a very sophisticated area.

Manufacturers, disties and resellers all need to invest heavily in training and support or risk consumer ire. Microsoft and Intel do it very well (product news, seminars, launches).

Tech Pac (product emails and TechExpo), Ingram Micro (some co-vendor sponsored seminars) and Canon, Samsung, Lexmark and Belkin (active in visiting retailers) reap the benefits but the great majority of disties and manufacturers do not invest enough in their brands future. Sorry if I missed anybody out — let me know.

There are real technology danger areas at present. Digital video and still cameras (connectivity issues, hardware compatibility issues, the steep user learning curve in mastering the image manipulation software), ADSL/Cable connection and routers (home setup is not simple) and Wi-Fi home networking (which generally does not work out of the box).

Most retailers are simply lucky that their appalling lack of sales knowledge has not landed them in court before. Haven’t they heard of fit for purpose consumer laws? Perhaps the consumer does not know any better either.

The industry really needs to pick up its act and quickly.

No amount of money is wasted on training. Let’s see more sales people training, better online knowledge bases (with objective comparisons of similar products), more comparative articles and better pre-sales support provided by the manufacturer and distie.

If the margins are not there to provide such support perhaps its time to increase them accordingly.

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