I haven’t been going into the office much lately. No, I’m not sick and I’m not getting lazy. I’ve been on the road engaging with resellers and ISVs at a variety of events – and gathering quite a bit of intel about the POS channel. Let’s look at some lessons learned from the three trips I took during March.
1. POS-as-a-Service No Longer a Mystery
NCR Americas Partner Conference: March 5-7, Atlanta
What stood out to me at NCR was that a large percent of the resellers in attendance had shifted their focus from exploring the as-a-Service/recurring revenue business model to executing on it. When I ask a VAR what products or services they’re offering on a recurring revenue basis, their answer is often complete before I’ve blinked twice. Of course they do payments, gift cards, and maintenance agreements, but often not much more than that.
I found that most NCR resellers – maybe because they tend to be larger, more sophisticated businesses – regaled me with a litany of recurring revenue offerings. Two resellers I talked with during a networking reception expressed an “of course we do” attitude when discussing if they offer cellular failover routers, email hosting, managed antivirus, network management, phone system management, and payment security on an as-a-Service basis.
Instead of longing for the good ol’ days, they’ve accepted the reality that hardware and software margins will continue eroding, and the future is in bundles that combine products and services offered for a monthly fee. They’ve adapted to merchants’ changing appetite where they don’t pay up-front for their POS system. As one astute NCR reseller shared during a roundtable forum, “When you raise prices, merchants look at you like, ‘What are you doing? Technology is getting cheaper. This isn’t the way the world works.’”
The good news for POS resellers who still have a ways to go with recurring revenue is that these leading resellers have charted a course you can build your go-forward strategy on.
2. POS Vendors and Resellers Should Be Friends, Not Fighters
NCC Dealer Conference: March 7-9, Tucson
Before we talk takeaways from NCC, I should point out that the dates I listed for NCR and NCC aren’t a typo; I spent the morning of March 7 meeting with resellers/ISVs and hosting a Critical Thinking education session in Atlanta before packing my bags and finishing my night at the Westward Look Wyndham Resort in Arizona. (Thanks to Jeff Sanders and Beth Barton of Southwest POS for saving me a seat in their row on our flights so we could talk channel coast-to-coast.)
During my nearly two-decade channel career, I’ve heard tons of complaints from vendors about their resellers and just as many gripes from resellers about their vendors. In some cases the vendor/VAR acrimony is so severe it makes congressional Democrats and Republicans look chummy. But there was no discord at NCC. Sure, there were requests for adjustments to the products and there were questions about new offerings, but the feeling was that everyone in the room was in this together. Figuratively and literally, NCC and its resellers are sitting on the same side of the table.
When NCC held a 90-minute session to walk through updates to its hybrid-cloud RHQ software, company owner and lead programmer Doug Harris sat among his reseller partners with pen in hand and a tablet of paper in front of him, asking clarifying questions to understand exactly what VARs and their merchants need.
NCC President Chuck Prince and Marketing Coordinator Mary Harris
President Chuck Prince and the NCC team offer their partners what a reseller truly desires: empathy. Their event featured timely VAR-focused education, and NCC’s new bundles directly address what resellers say is their number one threat: selling against low-cost POS providers like Clover and Square.
Over the years I’ve counseled many retail and hospitality IT vendors looking to build a reseller channel, and I share with them some version of this advice: “Relationship first, business second.” If there isn’t a two-way avenue of trust, then your resellers aren’t going to generate maximum sales. If anything, you’ll just cause each other headaches.
3. No Matter How Good Tech Gets, There’s No Substitute for Great People
Millennium Systems International Customer Service Workshop: March 27-29, Parsippany, NJ
I finished the month hosting a three-day Customer Service Workshop at the headquarters of Vantiv (now Worldpay) ISV partner Millennium Systems International in New Jersey. I engaged with 80 customer-facing MSI employees and we talked about the importance of utilizing their CRM system, online searches, and electronic instructions that are always a few keystrokes away. But none of that matters if you don’t have employees who actually care about your customers.
Early in the workshop I shared this statement (which applies to your team as well): “We’re talking today about best practice strategies and techniques for customer service. But if you don’t actually care about the person on the other end of the phone, none of this matters. If you don’t genuinely care about solving their problems and making their business better, when we take our break in a few minutes, don’t bother coming back and turn over the reading materials I gave so you can use the back for scrap paper. You have to genuinely be excited to help a customer for any of this to work.”
I was impressed that not only did everyone return after the break, but the group was super engaged in our discussions. You know how it is when you’re talking in a group setting; if there are 20 people in the room you hope to have 40 eyeballs looking back at you, but you’re expecting at least some people to be more fascinated with their smartphone than the topic at hand. I was thrilled that I didn’t have to beg the MSI team to pay attention. Some sessions even ran over our allotted time – not because I’m long-winded – but because the group had questions and observations they wanted to share.
The Millennium team reminded me of this passage from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance. Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Reactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values – carefully thought about, selected and internalized values.”
If you attract and retain high-initiative, values-driven employees and offer them ongoing professional training, you’ll be a customer service champion.