Should I be working with my phone company, or some other big service provider, instead of a smaller partner?
It’s no secret that a lot of different types of channel partners are vying for your attention these days. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes: Resellers, consultant, cloud aggregators, cable companies and phone companies, just to name a few. Some of them may have their own products and services to sell, but many also resell the offerings of others.
To a certain extent, the value propositions can be dropped into one of two separate buckets: The first bucket is for partners who are large and can leverage that scale to provide lower prices for their customers. In this context the fee structure might be advantageous, but they tend to not break any land speed records in terms of customized customer service. The second bucket is for channel companies that are most customized and consultative. Their fees may be higher, but frequently they provide guidance and a level of service that can reduce total costs of IT over the long haul. On the other hand, they might not have the reach, resources, and technology breadth of larger companies.
At this point, a number of PR folks are probably getting itchy fingers from reading my generalization. So before they start typing, let me acknowledge that some service provider call centers do indeed deliver good customer service, and not all small consultative channel partners are more expensive. And most of you already have had your own experiences on that subject, already. But here are a few questions that should factor into your selection process:
• What has been your experience in the past? Was it successful, or not? Were the numbers in line? And how well were things resolved when issues arose? Does thinking about it kick-start the ulcer? If not, maybe it wasn’t so bad. And I’m in favor of continuing what works – if, indeed, it does work!
• How well does your team understand your company’s IT needs? How do you use technology? Is it straightforward, or complicated? Is the integration tight enough that you need a channel partner to be on the hook for delivering the full, combined solution? In other words, does it have a lot of different components that need to work closely and successfully? Or can you manage your wide area connections through a service provider deal, and then work with your own people, and maybe a channel partner for basic desktop support? The answer to these questions will likely be based on your company’s business model, how it uses technology, and how critical it is to keep your IT infrastructure up and running all the time. If downtime means everybody might as well go home, then your infrastructure is no place to cut budgetary corners. If, on the other hand, the biggest problem with a temporary outage is loss of ESPN access, then maybe you can realize some savings.
• What is your tolerance level for call centers, as opposed to having direct access to human beings who have already established their credibility? On the other hand, waiting in the call center queue can often save a little money, as compared to the more customized resources. Think about that for a moment. I’ll hum “Take 5” by Dave Brubeck while we wait.
Regardless of what type of channel partner you may be working with, you’ll need to make a value judgment between cost and level of service, based on the specific circumstances of your own company, and your available resources. Consideration of these elements should guide you, nicely.