Channel stoush brews across the Tasman

Despite attempts by computer vendors in Australia to quell discontent amongst their New Zealand channel partners, many still believe they are being passed over for their Australian counterparts.

In a special investigation conducted by ARN last week, several computer resellers and distributors in New Zealand revealed they feel that until the local subsidiaries of big vendors are granted proper autonomy from management in Australia, Kiwi consumers will continue to be dominated by Australian interests.

Companies complain that New Zealand customers and channel partners receive inferior service compared to their Australian counterparts while business decisions made in Australia have often led to supply shortfalls, and in isolated instances, loss of business.

Antony Brett, national sales manager with NEC distributor Insight Technology, believes that there is some sort of complacency towards New Zealand on the part of major vendors operating out of Australia.

"There's nothing inherently wrong with dealing out of Australia but many companies tend to ignore the cultural differences on either side of the Tasman.

"NEC Australia has complete control over which products enter the New Zealand market," Brett said, while "NEC NZ doesn't even get a shot at it."

Brett referred to the NEC personal digital assistant (PDA), the Mobile Pro which was knocked back by NEC Australia as unsuitable for the Australian market.

The decision was based on an assumption that if the Mobile Pro was inappropriate for Australia, it would likely not succeed in NZ either.

Brett claims this would not have been the case and that the Mobile Pro would in fact have been very successful in New Zealand.

"The ideal scenario would be for the vendors and channel partners to manage themselves from out of New Zealand."

Gary Brown, technical manager with Wellington-based networking and telecomms integrator The Business Centre said that many of the big computer companies actually have online services displaying the status of an order.

However, he claims that on several occasions, when checking his company's order, it had been "shunted down the priority list" beneath bigger orders, typically from Australia.

Ericsson often doesn't carry a lot of stock in New Zealand and this has had a huge impact on the Business Centre to the point where the company has had difficulty meeting installation deadlines, Brown said.

"Customers dilly-dally around but when they make up their minds, they want it installed yesterday," Brown said.

More seriously though, many New Zealand channel companies reported poor service by large computer companies compared to Australia.

Insight used to handle 1800 customer support for 3Com in New Zealand before this was folded into Australian operations.

Whether or not this had led to a decline in service standards, Brett was not prepared to comment.

One irate reseller who asked not to be named, said: "If you're Joe public and want support for the name brand computer you've just bought, you might as well be farting against thunder."

Chris Bergin, national sales manager of New Zealand's Renaissance Software, said that the current imbalance between Australia and New Zealand has led to supply shortfalls.

In fact, the company has on more than one occasion been asked to ship goods back across to Australia to patch supply shortfalls there, Bergin said.

"On our common products we try to have about 30 day's stock. We lose business if we can't supply the goods."

The products most likely to suffer shortages tend to be PCs, servers and printer lines, he said.

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