After sales service
With more customers demanding better after-sales support and services, vendors and distributors have been compelled to develop comprehensive Return Material Authorisation (RMA) policies that ensure clients’ expectations are met.
With more customers demanding better after-sales support and services, vendors and distributors have been compelled to develop comprehensive Return Material Authorisation (RMA) policies that ensure clients’ expectations are met. In the Middle East, the issue of grey imports and high rates of fake IT products entering the market has made RMA an important aspect of managing products after the initial sale.
Product warranty is in the spotlight as the market is facing a fresh set of challenges dictated by the unscrupulous behaviour by some resellers in the market who knowingly bring into the authorised IT channels grey imports and counterfeit products that end up being sold to unsuspecting customers. Channel partners are the very individuals tasked with bringing revenue for their own businesses as well as that of vendors and distributors, and yet some have chosen to risk their reputation by indulging in under-hand methods.
With grey marketing continuing to be a nuisance in the channel, having an effective Return Material Authorisation (RMA) policy could go a long way in managing products brought in for repair, under or out of warranty. And with competition in the region intensifying and the pressure to meet targets constant, vendors and distributors that are winning with the after-sale client are those that have developed comprehensive RMA procedures that ensure end customers experience minimal disruptions when they bring in their product for repairs or to be swapped out.
Farhat Khan, product manager, Optimus Technology and Telecom, said RMA services are a crafted solution of handling the returns process from return authorisation and validation to disposition of the return. Khan said options provided by Optimus include acceptance and redistribution, rework or disposal. He said Optimus’ exacting processes allow for cost effective rework of the returns, which may include substituting new components in the package or providing hardware testing and validation.
“As one of the major distributors in the market with a variety of products, our RMA procedure is in-line with the respective vendor policies. Each vendor has its own policy which we have built in our processes to enable in the market place,” he said.
Nicholas Argyrides, managing director at regional distributor Empa Middle East, said Empa’s RMA policy is essentially an extension of all the vendors’ policies. Argyrides said it is based on the following factors: warranty, which usually varies from one to three years as provided by the vendor; policy of whether to issue a credit note, item replacement or repair, and exceptions, when a credit note can be issued if replacement is not convenient or readily available.
Argyrides said in the business technology products category, defective equipment is a minor but unavoidable possibility.
“RMA policies are critical in providing high quality customer service and streamlining returned materials processes between end-customer and vendor via the distributor and reseller channel. As a big chunk of the IT distribution has been commoditised, an effective RMA procedure can also give a competitive advantage to the distributor over their rivals,” he remarked.
At regional distributor Spectrami, Anand Choudha, managing director, said the company works closely with its vendor partners and its RMA policy is broadly aligned with the guidelines of respective vendors in such a way that it can offer immediate replacement of hardware.
Choudha said after-sales support is one of the most critical parts and having an RMA policy in place helps define the extent of support a distributor can offer to channel partners and end-customers in case of the break/fix model. “Without a stable and effective RMA policy, it is difficult to provide confidence to either channel partners or end-customers,” he said.
Venkat Subramaniam, customer services manager, Westcon Group MENA agreed and said the company has well-defined RMA terms and conditions. Subramaniam said as a policy, RMA requests are only registered for products which have been originally sold by Westcon and Comstor. “Requests are reviewed against our own and any applicable manufacturer regulations for product returns, and an RMA ticket number is issued,” he said.
Subramaniam added that based on this RMA ticket the requests are logged with the respective vendor partners. “RMA requests are classified into two categories; ‘dead on arrival (DOA)’ and warranty repair. Each category has its own defined service level agreements and conditions,” he said.
Subramaniam explained that for DOA, the company expects that the fault should be reported within 10 days from the invoice date. “The defective unit is shipped back to us after receipt of a DOA approval and a replacement unit is then consigned to the customer,” Subramaniam said.