megaflopp - stock.adobe.com
The rapid shift to remote working in response to the coronavirus lockdown has sparked high levels of demand for certain product categories as people look to keep levels of productivity up and collaboration high.
Headsets have become a key tool for those trying to increase collaboration and, according to some analysts, demand for such products has exceeded 100% year-on-year in the past few weeks.
On paper, that presents the channel with a chance to sell lots of products, but for manufacturers dealing with supply constraints, it means making some stock allocation decisions.
Nigel Dunn, EMEA North managing director at headset specialist Jabra, said the current situation meant it was playing catch-up to try to meet demand. Its channel partners are being advised to think creatively – for example, offering Bluetooth when USB has been requested, to keep customers working.
“We can’t magic up the products, but what we can do is help solve the problem by being creative,” said Dunn.
With a growing backlog of headset orders, the task for Dunn and fellow Jabra executives has been to prioritise certain customers.
“We are prioritising healthcare and key government departments, and contact centres that are a contact point for furloughed employees and for people to speak to [organisations like] banks and HMRC,” he said.
Dunn has been encouraging Jabra’s own staff and partners to speak more to customers to make sure they are aware of what technology is available and to keep them updated about product allocations and stock movements.
“You have got to over-communicate and be as transparent as you possibly can,” he said. “We have seen examples of companies that have tried to take advantage and not been able to fulfil. We have always tried to do the right thing for the customer.”
A major factor driving demand for headsets has been the surge in use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom, with many customers embracing these collaboration platforms on a wide scale for the first time. The expectation among many industry watchers is that these technologies will remain popular long after the current crisis has passed.
The timing of the coronavirus came just after Jabra had rolled out its latest Evolve product. Dunn said it had been able to carry out some physical events with partners in London and Manchester before the lockdown came into effect.
“We spoke to customers at the right time,” he said. “No one would have predicted the clamour for home working. Factories closed, but the early dialogue with customers meant we got enough products into the market before things [went into lockdown] and that helped us and helped our partners,” he said.
Like many in the channel, Dunn said some of its partners’ activities, particularly with NHS customers, had gone well beyond the call of duty, and resellers and distributors alike had been magnificent in the crisis.
“It gives me pride to see how the IT world has responded to the situation,” he said.
“How you react and behave in times of crisis is remembered in the future. How you work under these circumstances is how partners will remember you,” he added.