For your information, the distributor mentioned in the article is one of the largest ones.
I was very surprised to find out that such a large distributor would display such incompetence. I also thought that the leading distributors were 'leading' because of their professionalism and great customer care. However, it seems there are exceptions to this rule.
I do agree that this particular example should not colour all channel partners bad because most of them work responsibly and with courtesy.
I also agree that in most cases technical data can easily be accessed via web resources and therefore the distributor's involvement is not required. However, the company mentioned here is very protective of every datasheet they have on every product. All the information is actually stored on the restricted area of their website, which can only be accessed after signing an NDA with one of the sales partners.
Furthermore, when you download any information from the restricted area, they come in pdf format with a watermark on every page that lists the specific customer's name! Therefore, distributing such datasheets freely is not an option as every document is traceable to the original person who performed the very first download.
The manufacturer 'forces' the customer to go contact the distributor in this particular case. The customer has not option like you have described in your post.
I am one of those people who believe that the customer needs to have full flexibility in where to get the information from and with whom to do business. In a competitive world there is no room for such commercial restrictions.
The leading distributors would not be caught in this type of situation. These are companies that live by their word and customer service is a big part of their operation. That at least is the experience reported by many of their customers. Also, I believe customers tend to do a lot of their homework way before reaching out to distributors.
In some cases, though, they put themselves in the distributor's hands and the service they expect here is value-added and would be expected to be exceptional. If the distributor does not deliver on this they lose the contract.
I am sorry that your friend had that experince, but I do not believe that is indicative of channel partners in general.
I believe that the vast majority of channel partners are responsive and hungry and therefore do not let customer requests wait.
I also have to disagree with your initial premise that customers call channel partners first. I believe that with the proliferation of available information via the internet has in many cases allowed customers to go directly to the manufacturer's rep or the manufacturer.
As a regional distributor we are seeing more and more where a manufacturer will take orders direct. In fact, we are seeing manufacturers in some cases booking and fufilling orders in the <$1K range. This is not the norm or everyday occurance, but it is happening and too often when we do get a customer call, the manufacturer has already had an inquiry from the end customer.
I am sure most distributors do a good job. There are some distributors and sales representatives that are remarkably professional. It is a joy to work with them. This article is about distributors who fail to recognise the importance of all customers - big or small. I can say that are quite a few of them around unfortunately.
There are cases where the distributor is aware that the customer's hands are tied without its assistance. Such distributors really make life difficult for the customer. They don't respond to emails, technical queries and leave the customer in a limbo in terms of decision making. (This situation gets worse especially when the distributor has a monopoly nationally.) I am not sure whether they do this to control the customer like a puppet by giving the impression that the distributor is king in all this and to remind that the customer is helpless without them or for some other reason.
I think the manufacturers are to be blamed for tolerating such distributors. They need to show who the boss really is and more importantly that the customers need to be responded to promptly and with courtesy. They need to audit teir distributors using performance metrics other than just annual sales.
I also think that the manufacturers should be the initial point of contact for all technical queries. This is because before getting to the stage of placing an order, customers always have technical questions on the technology and the nitty gritty detail of how things work. If this information gathering stage is too exhausting for the customer, they start looking elsewhere for alternatives and the manufacturers and the distributors become the losers in the end.
The size of the distributors cannot justify their arrogance and ignorance. At the end of the day, the distributor achieves the target volumes because the manufacturer offers a good product that the customer is happy to pay for. Therefore, they should always keep this simple fact in mind and treat the customers properly - no matter how big or small they are.
Successful businesses often start small and they expand and grow if they are nurtured properly. Distributors have not right to hinder this natural flow of business purely because small businesses may not be able to place millions of volumes in one go.
One useful piece of advice for distributors is "Treat all customers while wearing the shoes of a small distributor who is always hungry for any business, and stay hungry (not greedy) to be successful and to be respected".
"As this case shows, distributors are a critical link for customers"
Cagri, in most of the cases there won't be any interaction between the customers and manufactures. In such cases distributers act as a bridge between these two and in most cases they play well. Since there are some issues reported like this, now a day's some of the companies started their own distribution departments, which interacting directly with the users. So both the manufactures and customers have an one to one interaction.
Cagri, I was sorry to hear about your friend's experience. I hope it was the exception rather than the rule. Big companies can get arrogant and often ignore the little guys. After 20 years of covering distribution, I'll admit I have a positive bias toward the industry. But one mistake like this can harm what is probably a pretty good company. I hope X-Sales has since improved their customer service.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.