Many dealers are currently facing a wall of customers demanding year 2000 compliance - while they, in turn, are facing a wall of resistance from manufacturers. In fact, only two weeks ago I saw an article in PC Dealer reporting that one leading US manufacturer had been accused of falsely advertising its PCs as year 2000-compliant by a specialist Y2K software house. While this matter was quickly cleared up, it did nothing to improve confidence levels within our customer base.
Dealers bring users and manufacturers together. Our ability to match customer needs with a manufacturer's products provides an invaluable service to both. But if dealers don't take appropriate steps to protect themselves, their position will be under threat.
Dealers are watching the growing concern among customers as the millennium bomb draws closer to detonation. And as time passes, we are receiving fewer polite enquiries and more official communiques, as managing directors and legal departments demand total compliance of the products we are selling.
We are even witnessing threats from long-standing customers and sales prospects. Insurance companies are leaning on their customers and citing professional indemnity if companies don't address Y2K properly. Quite reasonably, people are so unnerved by the millennium problem that they are going to take whatever steps they can to protect themselves.
As dealers, we are increasingly left to fight these frontline battles for our suppliers, even though we have no control over the products they make or whether their components are Y2K-compliant. This should not be our problem - the manufacturers should take responsibility themselves.
It seems obvious that the Y2K problem, or at least its solution, lies with the manufacturers of the hardware and software. They are the ones that can fix the problem at source and the ones that should logically be bringing solutions to their customers.
Our request is that manufacturers take a more responsible stance and be compelled - by their own code of practice or by legal statute - to ensure that their goods are Y2K-compliant. When customers don't get what they need from their hardware or software, they complain to the dealer.
And if the dealer can't fix the problem, that relationship is poisoned.
Initially, customers might just swap to another dealer, but eventually the whole channel will suffer.
However, we don't need to wait for the manufacturers any longer. We are already advising our customers on Y2K issues, showing them exactly how to comply and helping them out even when they add non-compliant kit to the compliant hardware they've bought from us.
To accomplish this, we need to invest in dedicated tools, such as PinPoint's ClickNet Y2K hardware and software compliance checker, which we can also sell on to customers. Aimed at the network manager, the product is an extremely powerful online database which details levels of PC software compliance, severity of the problem and corrective action to be taken.
A general skills shortage, combined with mounting Y2K problems, is making life a misery for many network managers.
By using this product, we can guarantee to our customers that we only ship compliant hardware. All PCs sold can now be certified internally with the software by checking that the PC Bios will recognise the date change. Compliant PCs are then labelled accordingly prior to shipment.
Ultimately, we need our customers' businesses to survive Y2K - and we want to survive alongside them. Surely manufacturers should want the same thing?
Nigel Ball is marketing manager at Transputec Computers.
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