Clearly communicating service: Why channel partners risk confusing the customer

The channel move to hosted services is well underway. Many channel partners have already made the transition from license to service-based revenues. You may have already experienced greater revenue from service-based offerings.

But what do we mean when we talk about services? As a channel partner, you will traditionally take products and solutions from vendors and add your own value on top. In this sense, anything from implementation to consultancy to hosting to IT support could all fit under the broad umbrella of “services.”

If managed services include additional solutions such as security or mobility, then you can see how things can quickly get confusing for the customer. In a world of ‘service-flavoured’ offerings, it can be tricky to know when one technology starts and the other stops.

For some of the businesses you are selling to, telecoms and voice may not necessarily be concepts they consider on a regular basis. If the presentation of services and add-ons is too complex, it can cause confusion. Too vague, and it can leave prospects feeling disengaged. Worse still, it will make your contact’s job harder as they try to explain complicated telecommunications infrastructure to senior staff who will have to sign it off.In a quest to become the bastion of service provision to customers, to make things simpler and offer value, there is the risk of ‘service wash’ – a lack of depth to a range of non-product purchases that sit under a services umbrella. There are a whole host of things you, as a channel partner, can do to make life simpler for your customers. But perhaps the most important first step is to clarify exactly what type of services you offer and how they benefit the business. The customer needs to be able to quickly and easily distinguish between options. They need to know exactly what they’ll get.

Remember that you’ve got to respond to the customer’s needs in the first instance. It may well be that you have an extensive catalogue of services to offer, from SIP trunking and cloud-based telephony solutions, to Microsoft and other IT services. But it may also be that 80% of what you have to offer is far beyond a given customer’s need. Clarity of thought before the sales process starts will ensure that you are offering the right business the right solution.

And in a world where channel partners are rapidly moving to service-based revenues, to differentiate yourself you need clarity of service provision and definition. The big players have huge marketing and branding budgets for this express purpose – clearly communicating the value they add to the customer. So much can live in the cloud today, but clouds can be very ‘fluffy’ places.

But if you’re a small business, you might not have the skills or the resource to do this as effectively. In which case, partnering with a vendor that offers marketing support could make a huge difference to your business. It is also the case that support is critical when providing service-based voice and data solutions – in some ways it defines the benefit for the customer as it provides peace of mind. Whilst support is a skills-based discipline for channel businesses to develop, as vendors we also have a commitment to providing our partners with the right tools to make support first-class.

If we can focus on clarity and support when talking services and avoid a service wash overload, customers will be better off for it.