Editorial: Bitching about the bitching

Editorial: Bitching about the bitching

I can call my sister a rotten so-and-so, because, well, she's my sister. If you made a similar attack on her character though, I'd be mightily offended.

I feel very much the same way about the SOCAP (Society of Consumer Affairs Professional) conference that was held last week in Melbourne. It purported to be a conference about customer service in the computer business. Or as the letter I received put it, "customer service (or lack of it) within the computer industry".

The letter also stated that an interesting angle for our newspaper could possibly be the "large number of computer companies that have declined an invitation to this summit".

Yes, that is an interesting angle SOCAP and thanks for suggesting how we might want to cover the event. But it's interesting, not because it's a blight on the computer business but because it's a blight on you, SOCAP. Why would any Australian reseller or integrator pay a couple of thousand dollars and invest two full days of their time just to have the pleasure of listening to people bitch about them? And you wonder why nobody turned up!

Now, this paper and indeed this editorial space has dedicated many column-inches to the problems the industry faces because a small minority of dodgy dealers tarnish the reputation of all of us. I say us, because Australian Reseller News is a part of the channel. ARN's fortunes and our future are tied to there being a healthy and prosperous channel. As far as I'm concerned, that gives me, like you, the right to bitch about our problems, just like I have the right to whine about my sister.

A small minority

We understand, too, that it is a very small minority that tarnishes the name of our industry for everyone and that largely any negative perceptions are overstated. Quite frankly, that letter I referred to earlier had my blood boiling because it inferred that not only is the level of service in the computer industry abysmal but also that resellers and the industry are not interested in doing anything about it.

Well, let's get one thing straight. In actual fact, the level of service in this game is generally amazing. There is no other business where the product is so complex and the customer so ignorant. Take that into account, and the fact that margins today are so minimal, and the problem could, and probably should, be far worse than it is.

The reason it's not is because customer service is the foundation of most resellers' business. It has to be.

I want to make clear that these criticisms were based on the promotional material and the sensational positioning of the conference. Why did it have to be called "Computers, Information Technology and Customer Service : A contradiction in terms?" The conference could have been valuable and I hope it was, but my suggestion to SOCAP is this: instead of a two-day event, spend one day educating consumers not to expect sensational service if they scrape around for the cheapest deal. On the second day, confine the event to the industry so it can talk frankly about problems and have experts on customer service giving advice on how businesses can improve themselves. And definitely change the title!

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