Skills are always a challenge in the IT industry and are often in short supply – particularly in growing economies like Nigeria. Vendors are pushing products and solutions into the country to help keep up with demand, however, without a dedicated local presence, the after-sales service can prove to be a challenge. Added to that is the lack of knowledge of the local environment, culture, and customs. This is where IT resellers have the opportunity to unlock significant additional revenue streams. By working with vendors and distributors to develop the necessary skill sets, they can effectively become the local face of vendor brands in the country, improving customer service as well as enhancing their own bottom line.
“It is not possible to have an established local presence in every single country, especially in emerging economies like Nigeria. However, this is no excuse for poor service and support. Vendors need to play their part in working with distributors to skill up their resellers in order to deliver effective customer support quickly and with a local flavour. The key is not to compete with channel partners but to work in collaboration to support them in delivering holistic customer solutions,” says Gerhard Fourie, Africa Channel Lead at Commvault.
For many vendors, distributors are an extension of the sales force and need to be able to offer technical expertise, particularly from a pre-sales point of view in knowing how to architect solutions. Distributors therefore need to provide the support to resellers so that they can in turn deliver professional services and after-sales support to ensure customers can make the most of their technology solutions.
“Service and support on global brands can be cost-prohibitive for customers if the vendor does not have a local presence. The exchange rate between the Dollar and the Naira is unstable and can add significantly on to costs for businesses that are already extremely budget conscious. Nigeria also has a very different culture and business environment, especially when compared to Western countries, so a local presence is vital. The only way to ensure cost effective service is to leverage partners and distributors, and this means that skills development and skills transfer need to be a priority,” says Hassim Mohamed, Commvault Brand Executive at First Distribution.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that the IT environment is constantly evolving, particularly when it comes to data. Skills development must therefore be a continuous process and appropriate certifications need to form a key component. However, as data underpins all IT, training and skills in data management can unlock numerous business opportunities beyond simply selling and supporting one product offering.
“It’s not just about being certified, however, but about using the skills to deliver solutions for customers. Vendors need to create communities where partners can interact and ask questions and learn, to help drive the necessary interest and collaboration, and partners need to want to learn to drive new business and opportunities,” Fourie adds.
Resellers can become trusted partners and add significant value for their customers with localised skills, which in turn becomes a competitive differentiator. Not only do they speak the local language, they are also in the same location and the same time zone, so customer issues can be resolved much quicker and at a lower cost. However, relationships throughout the value chain are key in delivering on this objective.
“By adding professional services into the mix, resellers also ensure that money stays in country, and locally skilled people can transfer these skills and create a circular economy. It also adds significant ongoing income streams, increasing profitability. For distributors and vendors, it reduces cultural mismatch and improves customer experience and trust in the brands. Skills development and collaboration throughout the channel creates a win-win scenario for all parties involved,” Mohamed concludes.