How the IT channel can retain customer loyalty

The advent and quick adoption of cloud has given many enterprise customers the ability to bypass the IT channel and purchase the services they need directly from the Web. However, there is a surprisingly simple way for the players in the channel to remain virtually indispensable.

Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of specialist distributor Phoenix Software (image: Phoenix)

“One way for channel partners to stay in business is to differentiate themselves by providing their clients with good old-fashioned customer service,” says Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Phoenix Distribution.

“Many tech-based businesses – including all participants in the channel – have built up a bad reputation when it comes to dealing with customers. And now that technology has made it so easy for end-users to adopt a do-it-yourself approach and buy their hardware and software licenses and services directly from the web, thereby potentially placing the positions of channel partners at threat, they definitely need to give the CIOs at their client companies a reason to keep them around.”

At the start of this year, a study conducted by consulting firm Protiviti predicted that customer loyalty would be at the top of business challenges that non-financial services firms will face during 2012 and that it should be a top priority for them to hold on to fickle customers.

However, IT service providers have never had better customer-retention tools at their disposal than they do now. Channel partners that make use of remote monitoring and management (RMM) and cloud-based business continuity to service their clients already have quite an edge, because it gives them the opportunity to connect with their customers in various ways.

“Technology may have given consumers more control in that it allows anyone to buy whatever services or goods they want without having to wait on you to deliver,” says Campbell-Young. “But, on the flip side, technology also gives you as a channel partner the ability and power to assess and address the requirements of your clients, and to anticipate their future needs.”

However, he adds that technology aside, customer service really just goes back to a few basic principles such as ensuring effective, clear communication between you and your clients, being courteous, available and fixing problems as they arise.

“Remember that old adage, ‘the customer is always right’?” asks Campell-Young. “Well, apply it. Never let your client feel that they were at fault, even if they were, in fact, to blame. Do not cast blame. As with any relationship, communication is key. When trying to identify and fix a problem, be careful with your phrasing. And yes, it really is that simple.”

Staff writer