SonicWall: No More Outsourced Tech Support For VARs

SonicWall execs announced that they are focusing efforts to insource all call centers for both tech and sales support, leading to reduced wait times and improved processes.

The announcement, which was made during SonicWall's three-day partner conference held in Las Vegas, furthers the company's mission to simplify business processes and to strengthen partner relations, execs say.

"It's really redefining ourselves as a channel company," said Marvin Blough, vice president of channel sales for SonicWall to an audience of hundreds of channel partners. "We have become much more than just an SMB company."

The insourced tech and sales support will be housed within the new partner excellence center based in Tempe, Ariz. Blough explained that end user customers would still go through an outsourced call center for tech assistance before getting to the second level of insourced support. Partners, on the other hand, would bypass the outsourced call centers and be directly routed to the inhouse support.

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Additional tech support call centers will be located in India and the Netherlands, which will also be completely staffed by SonicWall employees. The overseas call centers will give the company the ability to provide partners and customers with 24/7 access to IT professionals worldwide.

However, beefed up domestic tech support will only be one component of the new channel enhancements. The new center will also be a robust training, lab and testing facility which houses partner management, channel marketing functions and advanced certification training for partners.

Advanced and specialized training will be offered for partners to hone product skills and knowledge in order to progress on an internal growth path. With expert status gained from specialized cross-training, partners' skills could then translate into continued business with customers, execs say.

Blough said that ultimately he hoped the comprehensive center would become a model in which other companies would follow for best practices in channel management.

"I firmly believe people completely underestimate what it takes to build and manage a channel program," said Blough. "When you put all these touchpoints in the same place, we can respond to partners much more efficiently and much more effectively than we could if they were all over the place."

Blough said that any time a support function is provided outside the control of an organization, the quality of the delivery suffers. "The most important thing we can do is to make sure partners are fully supported," said Blough. "If we don't have total control over that support, then I don't think we can deliver a world class program. In order to do that, you have to bring everything in house."

The new support model comes in direct contrast to the company's former tech support system less than two years ago, which relied on outsourced centers and had few internal domestic support staff.

"We were losing knowledge, we were losing intellectual property," said SonicWall General Manager Douglas Brockett.

Today, the company's comprehensive support model for both partners and customers is a blend of internal and external, with significantly increased internal support staff in Sunnyvale, Tempe and Seattle, execs say.

Partners said they also welcomed the idea of the center's enhanced outreach and training programs. "It brings sales and maintenance under one roof," said James Carter, partner at Integrationworks, based in Santa Ana, Calif. "Phoenix is a particularly unique market. There's a big talent pool there."