Sunday, 27 November 2011

No Hope for PC Sales People

How do YOU service your customers? When asked to quote to supply from a fixed minimum specification do you quote for items that may be in your current stock? Do you offer goods that nearly but not quite come up to the specified level of quality and performance? Do you offer other items based on your assumption the items requested are 'too expensive' so downgrade the clients specifications hoping a lower price will fool the customer into making a purchase? Do you take more than 24 hours to output the quotation?

If you answered yes or maybe to any of these questions, I suggest you close your business.

Customers EXPECT to be provided with quotations for the products THEY specify, not for those you may want to sell them... Give me a quote for 'alternative products' and you will not get my trade, now or ever. I will also never recommend your business to anyone! Similarly, take more than a reasonable amount of time to provide me with the quotation and you have lost me as prospective customer.

PC Vendors Suck

The computer component retail trade is a prime example of this poor level of client relations. All the questions asked in paragraph one seem to be the norm for this industry. A recent exercise I undertook to test the response from a range of PC component retailers provided results which support this contention. Requiring several items of hardware to replace a broken PC system, I did the research into the components required, and obtained trade prices from the regional distributor. I then proceeded to approach a number of retailers for a quotation...

Specified Equipment:
  • Gigabyte X58 series motherboard
  • Intel Core i7 3.4GHz processor
  • Transcend 4GB DDR3 DIMM modules (x6)
  • Seagate Sata2 Hard drives (7200 RPM type) 500GB and 1TB
Six different vendors were asked to quote for the equipment with the following results
  • 2 failed to quote (after 2 weeks)
  • 2 quoted within 72 hours
  • 1 quoted after 72 hours
  • 1 quoted after 6 days
A totally unacceptable response time.
  • All quoted for the specified Intel processor; prices offered ranged from R3295 to over R4000 Trade price is R2269 - lowest markup over 50%
  • None quoted for the specified RAM (Transcend) or did not specify the make and model. (Transcend RAM has a 5 year warranty at a similar price to other makes)
  • None quoted for the specified motherboard. In fact none offered any models from the Gigabyte range. (I will only use Gigabyte and Intel motherboards). None offered a product that met or exceeded the quality and performance of the specified item.
  • 3 of the responders failed to specify the make and model of the hard drive offered. One offered another brand.
Quoting for 'alternative' brands and models is not acceptable where these have been stipulated. At the least where this is unavoidable, a higher specification item should be offered.


None offered the 3 year warranty on Gigabyte motherboards and Intel processors, instead offering a 1 year warranty. Yes, this is up to the dealer, however it seems stupid to offer less than the warranty they get from the distributor. Of course, the 'alternative products' they tried to promote do not have a 3 year warranty, only 12 months!

Poor Customer Service in a Tough Economy

We constantly hear traders complaining about the state of the economy. In the computer component industry the boom times of the early and mid 2000's are long gone. Back in mid 2000, vendors collecting stock from one of SA's leading distributors would have to take a number, and wait in line, regularly with more than 100 others in front of them to collect orders. The average time spent collecting pre-ordered stock ranged from 40 minutes to 90 minutes. These days there is seldom a need to queue; if this is not indicative of a slow down in the industry, nothing is.

Business operators that fail to meet customer expectations have no place in the marketplace today. There is no excuse for trying to push alternative items. If the vendor is not able to supply a particular brand, they must inform the prospective client immediately, and request permission to offer other makes or models. Would YOU consider buying a Mazda 3 if you were in the marketplace for a BMW M3? I doubt it.Simply because they both have a "3" in common doesn't make them similar in quality or performance.

Possibly this is a poor analogy: When we set out to purchase a particular motor vehicle, we know what the dealer's range is - they provide the information in large and clear signage. In the PC component industry we seldom have this information displayed by vendors - they don't have clear and easily visible signage (if any) proclaiming they sell products from 'x' manufacturer, 'y' brand. (I do - I sell only Gigabyte and Intel motherboards and Seagate hard drives for example, and make this very clear).

One sale worth 4 

Interestingly enough the value of the sale of the specified items equates to roughly the sale of 4 sets of components for the entry level type of products that makes up the bread and butter for most of these outlets. One could surmise these dealers are so busy shifting 'low end boxes' they have no need for the sale. I doubt it; in the case of some of the sample dealers, I regularly pass a couple of their shops and the most noticeable thing is the LACK of customers in the shop.

A Professional Approach Pays Off

I have sold mid-range to high end PC systems since 2000. To date I have not received a single complaint from a customer that the supplied equipment failed to meet the requirements. Customers who have required additional items and support over the years have returned time and time again.

I have also not had a single Gigabyte or Intel motherboard fail within the 3 year guaranty period. (The mentioned system based on a Gigabyte board failed after nearly double the estimated minimum number of operational hours - life expectancy!).

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