VARs always gripe about the niceties (or lack thereof) of vendor partner programs. But the biggest continuing problem VARs have with their affiliated vendors is an absence of clear, consistent communication. And that communication gap can affect customers, to the detriment of VAR and vendor alike.
Several VARs told SearchITChannel.com that they routinely have trouble getting such basic information as the timing of fixes and product availability schedules. Clearly that's an issue for VARs who market themselves as technology experts and trusted advisors to their customers. They're supposed to know these things!
Paul Shoberg, director of sales at Works Computing Inc., said that knowing what's going on with his vendors is vital to success.
"Without a doubt, timing is important to me," Shoberg said. "Communication is key because when they let us know about a new product or service in time, they can enable the products to make an impact."
Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions Inc., is not happy with the way Hewlett-Packard Co., Cisco Systems and Microsoft communicate with his company. Recently a customer was instructed by a cost-conscious HP to replace a server's power supply on its own instead of providing assistance. As a result, Valley Network Solutions ended up spending 10 hours reinstalling the power supply.
"While the work itself isn't difficult, I don't understand why these non-tech end users are being expected to do it right," Duffy said. "HP expects the partners to pay for replacements and services, which is a non-partner friendly approach."
Duffy said that the communication gap with HP is clear during its PartnerOne channel program meetings. There, instead of trying to remedy these problems, HP refers to them as exceptions and says they're caused by external factors.
"Vendors don't get it -- we [are the ones who] vouch for them," Duffy said.
Other VARs acknowledge that a direct line of information flow from vendors is important, but they're unsure how much more vendors can do. Gia McNutt, CEO of Special Order Systems Inc., said she has communications issues here and there but thinks these problems are par for the course.
"There are times where there have been inadequacies with products and we're left wondering when they will be fixed," McNutt said. "I'm really not sure how much vendors can do about it but it's definitely a problem."
Building customer trust
Since communication problems with vendors won't go away any time soon, many VARs try to sell customers on the fact that they, as VARs, are trustworthy and won't let them down if such snafus happen.
Jonathan E. Dambrot, managing director of Prevalent Networks, said that the number one question he gets from customers is "why you?" Customers want to see which VAR can get them the best technology and price, but trust is important when customers pick technologies, he said. "We are building a brand and want to elicit more trust than other companies by articulating value in a product or technology," Dambrot said.
Shoberg said that it's critical for VARs to have a basic solution strategy in place and provide a level of consistency for customers because VARs are becoming much more the "point person" to customers than the manufacturers are.
"Customers want to know where a solution is going and specifically how the product is going to work and fit their needs," Shoberg said. "They are going to want to do business with you if you want to do business with them and show that [the customer is] not just a transaction."