Channel Steps Up Big to Offer Customer Support During COVID-19 CrisisChannel Steps Up Big to Offer Customer Support During COVID-19 Crisis
The channel has come out in force to support customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 28, 2020
The past few weeks have seen IT vendors rush to roll out a series of COVID-related measures to support partners. Just as importantly, however, is what channel companies themselves are doing for customer support during COVID-19. Channel Futures spoke to some key channel players about customer support during COVID-19.
“The channel’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been almost overwhelming in its generosity,” said Alex Louth, managing director of Logicalis UK.
Logicalis UK’s Alex Louth
“Our part was to help our customers make sense of those offers and get them implemented quickly and without disruption, so that they can focus on steering their business through this crisis,” said Louth.
Logicalis has implemented its Rapid Support Services to help maintain security and infrastructure readiness and to provide supplemental IT support for remote workers. Logicalis engineers can deliver all services remotely.
“While we are still engaged in long-term transformational projects, these Rapid Support Services are key to enable everyone to focus on the business at hand,” said Louth.
Keep up with the latest developments in how the channel is supporting partners and customers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Elsewhere, Insight UK has been sharing its own experiences of remote working with customers. It is equipping them with devices such as notebooks, tablets, displays, headsets and wireless access points, and accompanying services. It is also helping them to use collaboration solutions and establishing secure remote working practices.
At the same time, the firm has been helping customers “keep a firm handle” on costs around remote working. That’s according to Matt Elrick, practice lead architect, workplace and collaboration.
Insight UK’s Matt Elrick
“We offer rapid remote management tools for cloud services, providing data-driven analysis and guidance on how to reduce costs. We have been smoothing the path to remote working, so employees continue to see IT as a help rather than a hindrance over the longer term, regardless of wherever they are working, from home or in an office.”
With employees forced to work from home, there has been a corresponding sharp increase in cyberattacks. Some estimates note an 80% spike in phishing and malware attacks alone in March.
As a result, cybersecurity MSP Effective Cyber Security (ECS) designed a free external scanning service for customers. It includes a dashboard that enables customers to translate technical data into everyday language. It highlights vulnerabilities, ranks them in order of criticality and recommends remedies. All the work is done remotely, with additional telephone support if required.
“Everyone is having challenges at the moment, whether you’re on the front line doing amazing work saving lives or working frantically behind the scenes to keep your organisation secure and ticking over,” said ECS co-founder and CTO Simon Gray. “We wanted to help those often invisible IT staff, who do such an important job in keeping a company’s crown jewels safe yet are only really noticed when something goes wrong or doesn’t work.”
Cybersecurity is also top of the agenda at channel firm EACS. It is providing customers with free access to webinars with cybersecurity and privacy vendors, as well as cloud data protection. It also is offering free and discounted software application subscriptions from the likes of Sophos and Bitdefender.
In addition, it has established a system where it can sell refurbished hardware to customers, then offer to buy it back later in the year.
“This means that our customers are able to have the hardware they need to continue operating like business as usual at this difficult time, while giving them peace of mind that any investment now doesn’t need to be long term,” said Steve Dickinson, head of supply chain at EACS.
Communication with Customers
Richard Wyn Griffith, director of solutions, services and marketing at Softcat, explained that communication has played a key part in the company’s customer engagement strategy.
“We keep customers fully informed on orders, stock and deliveries, as well as additional advice and expertise through emails, blogs and personal one-to-one conversations. The aim is to …
… stand side-by-side with our customers and help them achieve their own business continuity, in whatever form that takes. Our sales team has been provided with additional coaching, training, information and tools so they can have conversations with their customers on solutions for remote working, digital workspace, asset intelligence, data protection and cybersecurity. Finance solutions are also an important part of our consideration of the wider situations many customers find themselves in.
Softcat’s Richard Wyn Griffith
“Empathy, consideration, transparency and active listening are all skills we asked our team to use during this time.”
Support for Health Care Workers
Meanwhile, SCC, Europe’s biggest independent IT solutions provider, has been delivering some sizeable projects free for NHS customers. One example is its partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH). This helped the health care provider launch a new national personal protection equipment (PPE) training website.
CUH had an urgent requirement to provide critical training on how to correctly put on and remove PPE. A new website was built prior to U.K. lockdown measures. The company needed to launch it as quickly as possible. CUH asked SCC for support in architecting and deploying the infrastructure required to host this website in AWS.
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Within 48 hours, and at no cost to CUH, specialists from SCC’s public cloud practice built and deployed the infrastructure. Teams in the U.K. and Vietnam volunteered their time outside of working hours to enable additional and enhanced features for the website.
Finding a Balance
For partners, it’s about finding a balance. They must serve customers but also ensure they themselves remain in a strong position to survive the crisis. This can be tricky.
CAE Technology Services’ Justin Harling
“The biggest challenge is having to respond to a wide number of issues being experienced across a very diverse customers base,” said Justin Harling, CEO of CAE Technology Services. “This is while having a responsibility to all our people to make sure we continue to have a viable business. It is important that we still operate on commercial terms as we have critical services to provide.
“Communication has been key, setting realistic expectations and delivering support that customers need,” he added.
Harling said calls to CAE’s service desk more than doubled while it was implementing its own remote working. However, availability of both equipment and professional services has allowed customers to adapt and deploy quickly.
In addition, he said credit control is working closely with customers to understand exact requirements.
“Generic demands for longer payment terms are a source of frustration and are potentially damaging for the wider economic picture. Where there is engagement to support business goals, the conversations are productive, and support can be mobilised from the whole supply chain,” he said.
Laying a Foundation for the Future
Many businesses may come out the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic with a different view as to how their organisation will operate moving forward. The experience has shown that many employees can work from home and are just – or even more – productive.
This will lead to questions from customers as to what a permanent flexible workforce might look like. It is up to the channel start laying the groundwork for this prospect.
“There is a significant opportunity to transform working practices that extends way past the current situation, but it requires the full range of expertise from a partner,” said Harling.
“It is easy to get caught up in response and be limited to eye-catching, short-term measures. The focus is delivering the support needed now, but with time and effort being put into how this drives transformation. This is what will best prepare organisations to rebound and come out of the current state more successful.”
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