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Coronavirus: Partners add value as customers adapt to lockdown

Face-to-face meetings might not be an option, but the channel can still help users as they adapt to a new reality

The channel has always prided itself in delivering high levels of value to customer service, but with the restrictions placed on everyone by the Covid-19 pandemic, traditional approaches have come under strain.

Support and communication with customers has begun to move online and it is becoming clear that some phases are emerging in customers’ reaction to the virus.

“Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we now pretty much all live in a working-from-home environment,” said Ian Ashworth, EMEA channel director at Netwrix. “In the short term, customers will be focusing on setting this up and optimising work processes. In this timeframe, it is crucial that partners are able to assist in using their knowledge and showing best practices of how to do this.

“Once this initial phase has been implemented, the second phase will be focusing on how to monitor and secure users to ensure that security threats such as data breaches, data loss and ransomware don’t become the norm and exponentially grow over the coming months.”

The channel has already seen huge increases in sales of hardware and software to support home working as part of that first phase, with laptops, monitors, printers, keyboards, headsets and mice all in strong demand.

Collaboration tools have also been in high demand, with Microsoft reporting over the weekend that the use of its cloud services had increased by 775% in the last week in countries that have introduced movement restrictions.

There are also signs that the second stage – keeping remote workers secure – is also leading to increased sales and activity for those in the security channel.

“This is where partners can play a critical role in being trusted advisers to their customers, who will be stretched very thin on a resource and technology level, as well as helping them to choose the right solutions that best fit their customers’ cyber and data security needs,” said Ashworth.

Jason Howells, director international at Barracuda MSP, said providing security was one of the main ways a partner could deliver customer value in the current situation.

“A security-centric RMM solution will help service providers in the channel to roll security tasks into daily application and system management processes,” he said. “This enables channel businesses and MSPs to more easily fit these vital security-related responsibilities into the day-to-day management of other service offerings without adding resources or increasing internal expenses.”

Showing value from a distance

Resellers can not do as much face-to-face activity because of the lockdown, but there are several ways they can continue to help users. Ian Ashworth, EMEA channel director at Netwrix, points to a number of things partners can do:

“Remote working will mean partners need to work with, and promote, technologies that not only address the above issues, but that are also able to show value through demos, POCs remotely to help their customers show value back to the board, etc, while still addressing their internal security posture.

“The channel should ultimately look for vendors that can provide their customers with a 100% remote service, starting from sales, demos, POCs, and ending with deployment and maintenance. Realistically, it is not the best time for complex solutions that require on-site maintenance.”

In terms of communicating with users and looking to gain fresh customers, vendors have stepped up the help and advice they provide to those looking to improve their digital communication levels.

Dell has been urging partners to use its Thinking digital first marketing guide to help them formulate online campaigns.

Other vendors have been increasing assistance for resellers that want to run mail or e-shot campaigns to maintain levels of communication with their customer base.

“At the heart of the channel is customer service,” said Ronan McCurtin, vice-president of sales for Northen Europe at Acronis. “Channel partners who are standing out during this crisis are those that have adapted their service offering to reflect their customers’ needs and those that have embraced technologies to effectively serve customers, while face-to-face meetings and filed service engineer visits are not options.

“We have all heard clichés like, ‘put yourself in customers’ shoes’. But it is worth going back to these fundamentals in times of crisis because what is needed is an entire rethink of how service is delivered. As global business adjusts to the remote-work environment during the Covid-19 pandemic, clients are counting on service providers to help them adapt.”

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