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Why partners should go beyond SLAs

Radhika Nallayam | Sept. 19, 2013
Anybody who believes that the customer is king is living in a bubble. A bubble that a dull economy and increasing competition have burst.

Anybody who believes that the customer is king is living in a bubble. A bubble that a dull economy and increasing competition have burst. If anything, market realities have only made customers dearer to businesses, putting them on a pedestal. So much so that today, they play God. And pleasing God isn't easy.

Customer satisfaction, however, isn't directly proportional to customer loyalty. You might have given the customer the right solutions, best-in-class support, and a lot of additional sops. But sometimes, that isn't enough to ensure that the customer comes back to you.

In today's highly competitive environment, where the customer is spoilt for choices, building a lasting relationship has become a dream that never comes true.

That could be because partners and vendors alike, focus on the wrong end of the relationship spectrum. For example, they tend to overemphasize the role of SLAs, assuming that the customer only cares about the fine print. On the contrary, some of the long-standing relationships between solution providers and customers are actually built on the strong pillars of trust, commitment, and transparency. And, more importantly, making an effort to build a strong non-transactional relationship.

That's a reality a handful of smart channel partners—like Varad Gupta, the CTO and founder of Delhi-based Keen & Able Computers—are acknowledging.

Up, Close, and Professional

For someone who operates in a market that's simmering with stories of ruthless and shrewd business folks, Gupta isn't your typical entrepreneur.

That's evident from the fact that he's willing to let go of an opportunity and say no to business that comes his way. "I believe that the most important thing in our business today is not winning deals, but to ensure that the customer has the confidence to reach out to you anytime," he says.

Perhaps, in some way, that explains why some of his key customers, like Sheela Foam—the company that manufactures the Sleepwell brand of mattresses—have worked with him for close to 15 years.

From a company that provided hardware support, Keen & Able has traversed a long path. The partnership between the two companies now goes beyond just providing products or support.

Gupta says that the secret behind this long association is that its non-transactional and that the customer's needs beat everything else. "I do not give false promises and tell the customer that my product will give the best results. Whenever I realize that I don't have the best solution, I redirect the customer to the right partner," says Gupta.

That's because, Gupta believes, one wrong product is equal to killing a relationship forever. "Do not always look at individual transaction. You don't need to get all the business from a customer. I would rather focus on not being a person who could not see the forest for the trees."


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