One of the most successful distributors in the electronics industry once told me something I think about a lot. This distributor, at the time, did not participate in suppliers’ design registration programs because it wanted to put as few barriers between customers and their purchases as possible. This was very unusual.
Design registration programs, in short, require engineers – even if they are buying samples or $100 worth of components – to answer a few questions. “What are you building? Who are you building it for?” are some of the highlights. It takes a little more time and effort for the engineer or buyer.
I recalled this during what I thought would be a simple transaction with my cable/internet/landline service provider. We have a choice of carriers, but we’ve been with this one for a while. This carrier is upgrading its system and requires us to get a new modem. The modem-upgrade kit is free (or rather, “FREE!”). They started reminding us via voice- and e-mail back in October and in November I logged on to the url they sent; clicked “send me my FREE! kit;” and received a congratulatory e-mail for being smart enough to order this kit. Then we waited for the kit.
By January 12, nothing. So I called. First they verified my identity via name, address, phone number (I was on the phone they service) etc. and profusely apologized for missing the order. When they went to see what happened, the service person discovered I was not an authorized user for the account. I was therefore not qualified to order the FREE! kit.
My husband, who was in his office at the time, was. They wouldn’t call him directly; but I could conference him in so he could give a verbal OK to my use of the account (very reassuring security). My home phone doesn’t have an easy-to-use conferencing feature so I called my husband on my cell and put him on speaker. But he couldn’t hear the service person because the home phone doesn’t have an easy speaker feature either. So my husband got annoyed and hung up.
This is way more time and effort than I’m willing to spend ordering FREE! stuff.
I understand it’s important for component suppliers and distributors to get sales leads from engineering orders and capture information from potential and existing customers. Thus the registration programs and processes. Existing customers can presumably cut through most of front-end stuff once they have set up an account with the distributor. I’ve heard different things about different systems.
But I am wondering: in the electronics purchasing world, do customers stay with a distributor because they have established an account there, even if another distributor is comparable? Do new customers with small orders have to jump through hoops? How easy or difficult is the logon process if you are a returning online customer, and do you have to repeat that process if you contact your distributor by phone? Just how easy is your distributor to do business with?
Catalog distributors – aka “high-service” distributors that handle small orders– are growing faster than the rest of the market. They attribute this to always having products in stock; rapid and accurate shipment; and superior online capabilities. I would imagine ease of doing business (and streamlined design registrations) are also part of the equation.
There is a difference, though, between purchasing and engineering. Distribution is increasing its focus on engineering. Once an engineer places an order, though, they usually don’t deal with price negotiations; component availability; and the logistics of shipping parts around the world. How easy is it for purchasing to deal with a distributor once the engineer is out of the mix? Do they get an “authorized user” runaround? I’d really like to hear from buyers.
As an end note, we just received our FREE! upgrade kit and I’m an authorized user of our carrier’s account. But I’m still considering changing carriers — especially if they are easier to do business with.