Building business in the IT reseller game can be a tough call. Often it involves a fundamentally unequal relationship between multinational multi-billion dollar corporations, and small-scale computer retailers. However, some in the channel have found a way to balance out the relationship, by side-stepping the major vendors and doing business with smaller local manufacturers.
Looking to expand the company's range of products and services, Wayne Peterson, IT Director for Akorn Computer Solutions at Charmhaven on the central cost of New South Wales, tried contacting different vendors to find out about their requirements for service agents.
“It was like hitting a brick wall,” Peterson said. “The big manufacturers make it too hard for you to become registered, and some even want you to pay just to put their sticker in the window.”
Dismayed at the off handed way he was treated by the major vendors, Peterson decided the service agent relationship was not worth the headache, and opted instead to work in conjunction with local manufacturer, ASI Solutions.
With their small footprint, and limited reach, whitebox manufacturers such as ASI Solutions, Optima and Volante have a greater vested interest in the success of their reseller base than their multinational counterparts. A decentralised agent network of certified resellers enables them to offer ongoing service even in remote locations.
“We need the resellers and service agents as much as they need us,” director of ASI Solutions, Maree Lowe, conceded. “The resellers have the local know-how to work with customers in their area, and we don't have any right to undermine that relationship.”
Executive manager for service delivery for Optima, Emma Pike, is similarly opined.
“Setting up service agent relationships throughout Australia allows us to be a lot more customer orientated,” she said. “We sell though the resellers, so they have the strong relationships with the end users. If we give them our warranty work, they have more of a chance to get in front of their customers and maybe pick up even more business.”
However, not all local manufacturers opt for a decentralised model for their servicing requirements. With its predominantly urban presence, Pioneer users a single large-scale third-party servicing company to fulfil its warranty contracts. According to Pioneer account manager, Jeff Li, while the extra work does not feed back into the channel, the model enables the company to offer a four-hour turn around for onsite warranty checks.
Recently merged with Volante, Ipex works on a hybrid model where servicing requirements are partially fulfilled in-house, with the rest addressed by a network of more than 80 service agents throughout Australia.
“We pride ourselves on offering business driven solutions,” sales and marketing manager for Ipex, Gadi Bickler, said. “Having a centralised approach gives us the critical mass we need to address large scale warranties, while our service agents let us address specific geographies, and technologies.”
All local manufacturers require their service agent network to fulfil certain criteria when it comes to addressing customer requirements, and conduct regular assessments of their overall performance. So while the relationship is easier to establish, it is no free ride.
However, according to Akorn's Peterson, it is the size and scope of the companies which make for a more balanced relationship.
“After having the door closed in our face the first time around, one large vendor got in contact with us a few months later and tried to offer us some kind of deal. But they have missed the boat,” he said. “They only contact you when it suits them, and that isn’t good for our business. So where possible, we’ll stick with the whiteboxes.”