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What resellers want: Countering customer frustrations

Alex Tatham, managing director of Westcoast, discusses his conclusions from the results of the company’s recent survey

After reading the results of Westcoast’s What resellers want report, it became clear that distributors need to take action to address the very real frustrations resellers are feeling.

The reason Westcoast carried out this valuable research was to create a long-term plan on where to go next. We always try to remain one step ahead of the game, and there are a few initiatives we have already implemented, and many more in the pipeline that we are planning, which will make life easier for our customers.

It is obvious we all as distributors still have work to do, and while it would have been lovely to read that everyone we questioned was 100% satisfied, I have spent long enough in the channel to know how quickly our industry evolves – as do customer expectations.

What was value added yesterday, is the norm today. It’s a challenge all of us in the channel are facing. We have to get to grips with these frustrations and help these businesses move forward.

What also became clear from the results is that resellers still need distributors, with 60% looking to us for customer insights, 51% for marketing advice and 44% for market forecasts, but we in distribution have an even bigger role to fulfil.

A lot of value-added resellers (VARs) are becoming managed service providers (MSPs), and that means a different business approach. They want to move into more services-focused business models, and are pushing traditional reseller services – such as configuration, user billing, and take-back services – back to distribution.

Resellers also don’t want warehouse space any more – they want to get rid of the “stuff”, and as a result, we have built a brand-new warehouse to accommodate everything that resellers need us to do in these days of “everything as a service”.

Furthermore, Westcoast has created a new programme – called Bid On Behalf Of (BOBO) – following feedback that more resellers need assistance with managing the bid and deal registration process that vendors force them through.

It was also evident from the report that cloud is an important focus area for Westcoast customers, with 64% seeing cloud services as a key growth area over the coming two to three years, and we know customers need help with user billing support.

What did surprise me, however, was how few resellers are embarking on their digital journey, with just 41% of respondents saying they were planning the move in the next 12 to 24 months. Part of their job is to digitally transform themselves, so they can demonstrate to their customers how it’s done.

Resellers need to constantly evolve their businesses. They may be making money now, but will that still be the case in five years’ time?

A distributor’s job is to help our resellers change their business by taking things off them that free up their time and resources, which in turn helps with their cashflow.

Distribution has a great way of reinventing itself all the time, it is always doing great things and manages to execute them quickly. This is particularly true in the UK market, where distribution seems to be moving faster than anywhere else.

The death knell has been sounded for distribution several times over the years, but as we have seen with cloud, who are now the biggest cloud players in the channel? Distributors. And it will be the same with all the “new” technology coming down the line, such as artificial intelligence.

This research is something we will definitely revisit. First, we have to give everyone the time to implement those changes, and we have to make sure our contact with customers is always meaningful. But we are listening.

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