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Going direct will not provide the complete solution

Buying directly from the vendor might sound like an attractive idea but it is unlikely to provide the end result customers are looking for, argues Billy MacInnes

Here’s a question for you: if you asked people if they would buy a car direct from Ford, Peugeot, Fiat, Renault, Nissan, Land Rover or Toyota if they had the chance, what do you think their answer would be?

For my part, I think it’s very likely to be “yes”. Why? Because they instinctively believe that buying a car (or any other product for that matter) directly from the company that made it is better than getting it from an intermediary. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

Now, we all know there could be valid reasons for buying from a dealer instead. Locality, for instance. Quicker delivery and a more personal service, perhaps. Potentially a wider range of models to choose from, including secondhand cars. A broader range of finance options. More flexibility in trade in options, possibly. Service could be quicker to book and more accessible. Also, because dealers tend to represent two or three brands, they are much more likely to stock a model that suits most people.

But overall, given the choice, people are more likely to opt for the direct route because they find it more reassuring to deal with a large, well-established car company rather than its much smaller, younger surrogate. That’s just the way it is.

The thing is, however, that people generally aren’t given the choice and I can only assume it’s because the manufacturers don’t want them to have the choice. And for good reason. I don’t think they want to have the hassle, expense and overhead of having to staff, stock and maintain their own branches around the country. Just think of how many more showrooms there would have to be if every car manufacturer had its own local branch.

And I’m not sure that people appreciate just how much more work and effort would be involved in buying a car if all the manufacturers sold direct. Imagine the sheer drudgery and inconvenience to prospective car buyers of having to traipse around all those different showrooms, listening to even more pitches from salespeople, before trying to decide which car to buy.

I don’t know about you but that sounds positively nightmarish to me.

IT resellers already understand this because they’re in a similar position to car dealers. They have a small number of marque brands that they focus on and sell to customers. Unlike car dealers, they can also combine these brands with others to create “solutions” for their customers. So, in effect, what they sell is a bit more complex although, to be fair, this is probably more of a reflection on the maturity of the car market compared to IT. Right now, IT is heading towards the notion of selling more and more things bundled together but it hasn’t quite got to the point where everything is as tightly integrated as it is in a car.

But while IT resellers might understand the rationale for their existence is fairly similar to that for car dealers, their customers frequently don’t. Many customers would prefer to deal direct with the vendor, failing to appreciate that because IT has not reached the point where it has become as clearly defined and integrated as a car, it is next to impossible to do so in isolation. Unless vendors take on the function of bundling solutions for their customers and accept responsibility for the performance, maintenance and support of those solutions, they are unlikely to provide customers with a certifiably better service than they would get from partners.

And how many customers want to have to deal with three or four vendors to try and identify the root of a problem with their IT and get someone to take responsibility for remedying it?

So yes, organisations might want to have more of their IT handled directly by the vendors involved, but it might not be the panacea they hoped for. 

This was last published in May 2017

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