From NCC’s 2024 Reseller Conference: The Channel’s Prescription for Personal Service

By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA

I’ve been considering leaping onto a customer service soapbox for a while now, and comments shared with me by RSPA members at the 2024 NCC Reseller Conference March 14-15 in Daytona Beach, FL, have motivated me to speak up.

The issue: a dearth of personal customer service afflicts many channel organizations. The comments:

Comment #1: A member was describing his interactions with a vendor that has drifted from personal service to bureaucracy. He described his main contact there as “friendly, helpful, but powerless.”

Comment #2: During the Day 1 general session, Kim Montana, the new VP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Platinum Relations, shared a story from shortly after she started working for the growing payments provider. When she called her company’s main phone number to ensure she understood the automated navigation tree, she was pleasantly surprised when a human in the office answered the phone.

Comment #3: A VAR/MSP who has worked with NCC for just under year praised the ISV for their personal approach. He told me, “It’s nice to pick up the phone and have the person who answers know what they’re doing!”

Comment #4: Another VAR said this about NCC: “These guys don’t know how special what they have is. The product works. It’s easy to integrate. If something doesn’t work, they fix it right away.”

If you’ve been in the retail IT channel for more than 10 minutes, you won’t consider the tactics I just shared to be revolutionary. Let’s summarize:

  • Deploy a stable solution
  • Have a human answer your phone
  • Empower your frontline employees to solve problems

Simple? Yes. Commonplace? Unfortunately, no.

We have a responsibility to provide outstanding, personal service to our customers and our partners not just because it helps our bottom line but because it’s the high character thing to do. Treating customers in a transactional manner devalues them as human beings.

For VARs, the stakes are even higher – and the opportunity is even greater – because they’re competing for business with venture-capital backed brands supported by thousands of employees. If you provide run-of-the-mill impersonal customer service, why shouldn’t your merchant jump ship for a lower price or a trendier system?

We business leaders have a binary choice: create a culture that values people or devalues them. You can lift your organization, lift our industry, and lift our society by ensuring the fundaments of personal customer service are executed in every corner of your company.

Don’t miss the retail IT channel’s #1 trade show, education conference, and networking event July 28-30 in Las Vegas! Visit the RetailNOW 2024 website and register today.

More Insights from NCC 2024

  • The atmosphere at this event is always special because of the incredible camaraderie between NCC and their resellers. That was evident again this year but I also noticed a higher level of engagement with the vendor exhibitors. The vendor fair ran over time because of the consistent high traffic at all the tabletops. This wasn’t just resellers hanging out with old friends; I met VARs and MSPs seriously looking for new solutions to augment their current linecard.
  • I was honored to keynote Thursday’s general session and present lessons from my book The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success. One tactic that especially resonated with the audience (and ties in with my rant about customer service) is that each of us should establish a reputation of punctuality. We can do that by consistently meeting deadlines and finishing takeaways early. If a deadline might be missed, we should contact the affected individuals in advance to alert them.
  • Keynoting Day 2 of the conference was retail expert Michael LeBlanc, Sr. Advisor to the Retail Council of Canada and an RSPA Board Advisor. The part of his talk that especially jumped out to me was his list of the seven technological forces driving digital transformation and modern retail/restaurants: AI, machine vision, cloud computing, virtual reality, 5G/IoT, RFID, and voice/chatbots. Those techs are key to creating a remarkable customer experience. “Merchants can’t be part of the boring middle where their service is fine but not spectacular,” LeBlanc said. “Shopping is not just about a transaction; it’s about an experience. There’s more about going out to eat than getting food delivered to your doorstep. Retail isn’t dead. Restaurants aren’t dead. Boring retail and boring restaurants are dead. Your only choice is to be remarkable.”
  • LeBlanc shared an interesting trend in self-service. Retailers will be shifting to three checkout options: express self-service (10 items or less), unlimited self-service (as many items as you want with an expanded area for consumers to place their purchases), and traditional full-service checkout staffed by a cashier.

Don’t forget to register for RetailNOW 2024, July 28-30 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. It’s Where The Industry Meets!

Jim Roddy is the President and CEO of the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the retail IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by The CannaTech Group, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact