Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dell to Create Formal Channel Program (again)

According to the Dell to Create Formal Channel Program story reported on EWeek's Channel Insider site, Dell is about to launch a new channel partner programme. I say new - many years ago (late 1980s/early 1990s), I was one of a small number of Dell VARs here in the UK. We made a small profit in the days when PCs cost £2k or more, although we were hardly in the big leagues! It was heady times as we replaced earlier stand-alone word processing systems with networked PCs, first using Novell NetWare then using Windows NT.

Dell were great to the VARs in those days. As an example, I got a call one day from a customer whose office ceiling had collapsed reducing their main PC to debris. They desperately needed a new box, so I phoned my account rep. He organised for me to pick up a machine that afternoon from Dell's tiny factory in Bracknell. Effectively, he'd found a  system at the end of the production line that matched the spec I needed. He let me have it and had another system built to go to the person who originally ordered it. My account manager even met me at the door and helped me to load the boxes into my car. What great service - less than a day after the accident, my client was back up and running.

The phone support in those days was outstanding too. Today, sadly, much of it has been outsourced to India with a corresponding (and significant) reduction in quality. I blogged about one less than stunning episode  here. This is NOT an isolated incident sadly.

Then things began to change, and not for the better, in terms of the VAR channel. I had the opportunity to bid for a very nice PC supply contract for a firm in Yorkshire.  I checked with my then account manager to see if, for 100 systems or more, I could get a better discount. He never phoned back. A few days later I discovered a Dell employee had called on my customer offering them a discount greater than the one they were offering me! I complained and effectively got a shrugged shoulder response and that was it.  The end came when I went to order a machine and was told I was no longer a VAR. Dell had apparently eliminated the VAR channel and there'd be a letter (which I don't recall ever getting). I continue to provide machine installation  service, but had my customers order their machines direct.

Of course, this was all a very long time ago and I have no doubt that things have changed. I continue to be a Dell customer despite the untimely end to my VAR status and the continuing poor support from India.  Nevertheless, I doubt I could ever trust the firm enough to want to  become a VAR again. New channel/VAR partners need, as always, to be careful when entering in to any reseller agreements. Larger manufacturers don't always play nice.


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