I was having a conversation the other day with Jane Donnelly of VTech Communications about the state of affairs at VTech Tech Support. (She called me, not the other way around).
Jane was telling me about how the flood of technical support calls to VTech regarding the AT&T Synapse business phone system has forced VTech to decide to shut down all phone support to any end user of the product.
On a side note, the AT&T Synapse phone system is not actually made by AT&T, it’s actually made and distributed by VTech. VTech pays AT&T to use the name and logo on the product. I asked a representative of VTech as to why this was and if I recall correctly, his reply was something like this “Everyone knows the name VTech is not exactly synonymous with quality…” Ok then!
From what I could glean from the conversation, it appears that the number of people attempting to either install or modify an installation of the Synapse phone system overloaded their support staff to the point where VTech decided to discontinue all telephone support to anyone who is not a dealer of the Synapse phone system. They further modified their program to keep dealers from selling the product online by requiring that the seller / dealer perform the installation and only in their local geographic area.
Why in the world would a small business owner possibly want to install their own Synapse phone system? I think it probably had something to do with the fact that the AT&T website showcasing the products as well as the product brochures up until (very) recently stated exactly “– it’s simple to install, manage and use, …”. Of course this same language was used in the selling of the product by resellers such as ourselves.
Matter of fact, that’s how the language ended up changing in the first place. I received a phone call from a rep at VTech and it went a little something like this.
rep “Jay, we have an issue with the language on your site regarding the Synapse system”
jay “What language would that be?”
rep “Right here on your home page it says EASY TO INSTALL AND MANAGE”
jay “Gee rep, where could that language possibly have come from?” (in my best astounded voice)
rep ” Well I don’t know but YOU NEED TO CHANGE IT!”
jay “… or ….?”
rep “or some people around here are going to be very unhappy and heads are going to roll!”
jay “rep, let’s look at YOUR website again. What was it.. oh yeah, here it is. Says right here, on YOUR website, easy to install and manage”
jay “let me know when you change your language and we will be happy to change ours to match”
Well not only did they change their language, they also changed their entire partner program to stop all online sales of the Synapse product and save their (apparently) overloaded technical support resources. I suggested they charge for the support, I figured they would mop up with all the phone calls coming in but this was met with a laugh and cancelled contract.
This kind of chaps me for a few small reasons.
First and foremost is the now total lack of support for all of the customers we as a company (http://www.adamtelco.com and http://www.ttechnologyinc.com) worked hard to gain for VTech. It’s a slap in the face to these customers who spent well over $250 per phone unit. All sold using collateral material touting the ease of installation and use along with a 1-800 tech support phone number in the box. Then to just pull the rug right out from underneath them and leave them hanging with a system where there is almost zero local support due to the tiny market share the system has gotten. Also I would imagine it would be a difficult system to resell, considering there is no one around to help them.
Second, it’s an incredible insult to us, as the company they called and asked to be part of their partner program in the first place. I can assure you, it wasn’t us climbing up VTechs leg begging to sell their products but it was them repeatedly calling me and begging us to sell their system. After enough calls, I finally caved in and took a look.
Upon looking, even though the margins were slim, the product looked ok, everything seemed in order so we went to work. A little birdy at a distribution house tells me that we single handedly sold more of them than anyone. We were almost the only company they knew of that sold any at all. I think the count was something in the 40 to 50 range over a few months.
I can tell you something. When I sell 40 to 50 NEC DSX Systems, NEC shows up my place with ice cream cakes and dancing polar bears in russian hats.
It’s apparent that Jane Donnelly and VTech combined do not value their relationships with their customers or their resellers alike. They certainly won’t give you a bonus rebate check for moving pallets of their hardware much less a pat on the head.
In today’s market, you really have to search hard for valuable relationships that are mutual and genuine. I ask you, who do YOU want to do business with?