While most resellers revel in customer service and support accolades, a recent IDC report has given the channel a kick in the pants for failing to develop strong customer relationships. Angered by the findings, many established resellers last week warned such practices are a recipe for short-term residency in the channel.
According to IDC, more than 50 per cent of business customers "didn't have a primary supplier or were unaware of who it was" (see ARN, April 28 page 10).
The finding came as no surprise to Pravin Patel, managing director of Sydney-based edutainment hardware and software reseller Logic 3. He said the amount of money in the industry attracts lots of entrepreneurs who want to make a quick buck.
"A lot of resellers today are only interested in short-term gain," Patel said. "It is only those who want to be around for the long term that will bother putting in the effort required to properly service their customers."
However, Patel feels the high rate of confusion amongst business users in regard to just who it is that is supplying them is not just being caused by lack of reseller interest.
As customers become more aware of what they want from their information systems, they often feel they don't need someone holding their hand, he said.
"A lot of the products being bought by businesses are now being sold as commodities which means some people will always be just looking for the best price. They just want to get what they need to do the job at the time they need it without any pattern."
The situation is the same in Adelaide, in the opinion of Steve Costello, technical director of South Australian "support-focused value-added reseller" Just IT Solutions.
"Small-to-medium business customers all seem to be very driven by survival and they are very price motivated," Costello said. "They are far more likely to go for the quickest, cheapest price they can get than to look for value-added services and relationships.
"In order to establish a long-term relationship with small business customers, you have to put out up front. Going by these survey results, I would guess that a lot of small-to-medium resellers don't have that fat to invest in their customers and develop relationships with them."
However, Costello is convinced that the rewards are there for resellers who do put in the effort to build relationships.
"It is often as easy as just ringing up a customer two weeks after a sale and it is surprising how often that will bring rewards," he said. "But that does cost money.
"While it is easier to retain a good customer than it is to find one, it does require a lot of work and often people are too busy to put in that effort," Costello added.
Paul Kots, a sales manager with Melbourne-based reseller Computer Easy, pointed to the high number of "fly-by-nighters" that have come and gone in the industry.
"Business customers may only be purchasing computer equipment once a year," Kots said. "They are not buying from an established dealer, there is every chance that the guy they bought from last time is no longer around 12 months later.
"Service and backup support costs money for resellers to supply and there are a lot that just don't want to spend that money.
"I would say companies [resellers] that don't have the right attitude towards developing customer relationships will go out of business. However, many of them are only in it for the quick buck and relationships are unimportant."