This is a dirty strategy that is also partly practised by other suppliers in the IT segment (Cisco gives the integrator an additional discount for a customer project who he brings first). Goal is to control the enduser. For the integrator, there is just one escape: changing supplier. This is a typical behavior of market dominators that want to control the whole value chain and do not care about ethical rights of the integrators without whom they would have never become a dominant player.
I would think having a thorough, detailed list of their known customer base would make them more attractive to a prospective buyer, especially if that buyer was someone like a Tyco/ADT. Not Tyco/ADT itself, who just bought Exacq, but maybe someone similar and has interest knowing who all the end users are.
Chesapeake & Midlantic
Makes sense. You can't truly protect the channel without ensuring that someone somewhere isn't sneaking extra cameras out the back door.
Can't the end user object to this? I mean it is THEIR information.
IPVMU Certified | 03/11/14 12:43am
How would this policy "increase the quality and timeliness of both our Warranty and Technical Support services"?
I am asking because I don't see this being mutually exclusive if they do NOT have end user details.
While the concept sounds sketchy and may be open to future abuse, looking at the form, it's nothing really top-secret they're asking for.
I've had situations with other manufacturers' systems where it's expedient for the end user to contact support directly (usually if we don't have a tech on-site at the time, or support personnel need remote access to systems), and it's usually a major production (read: drama) from the manufacturer's end - they call us, "are you sure you want us supporting your customer?", or they tell the customer HE has to have US call them, and then THEY'LL call the customer back... you know what I'm talking about.
We've looked into becoming an Avigilon partner, and in light of other recent experiences, their open policy about ACTUALLY ALLOWING end users to contact support themselves is pretty attractive for situations like this... and I can see where they would want to know who it is that's calling them for help.
The form includes blanks for the partner's name and PO number, which would also help support look up product info that the end user may not have access to - example, if generate PO#12345A for customer Bob's Car Wash, with an Avigilon server and certain cameras... then if Bob phones them up for help, they don't have to ask, "which cameras do you have, sir?", they can just look up Bob's Car Wash and the integrator now, correlate to the PO#, and KNOW what gear (at least what Avigilon gear) Bob has.
On the surface, it doesn't appear to be for anything more than prudent record-keeping. Is there a deeper hidden agenda? I'll leave that to the conspiracy theorists to work out. My only pause would be in agreement with Daniel's question: does the end user get a say in their info being shared? That said, looking at the info being requested, it's nothing that couldn't be gathered from a quick Google search if one simply knows the customer's name.
The question / issue / concern is that giving the customer name (something not otherwise easily accessible) is mandatory.
Let's all give a hand to the Avigilon PR firm intern! clap clap clap
come ON! lol
1. So Avigilon equipment users the land over can call Vancouver for support? That's a unique model.
"...then if Bob phones them up for help, they don't have to ask, "which cameras do you have, sir?", they can just look up Bob's Car Wash and the integrator now, correlate to the PO#, and KNOW what gear (at least what Avigilon gear) Bob has."
hahahaha.... strawman solution to a non-problem. answering that question takes ~ the same time it takes to look up the secret info.
3. "...is there a deeper hidden agenda? I'll leave that to the conspiracy theorists to work out. "
and finally. dismiss and call criticism of the mother ships policy the ravings of lunatics. that's how we know you are just an intern... real PR pros would never close with that weak material.
For manufacturers to know the identities of the end users of their products is fine and is not at all uncommon for our industry. Especially if there are any product licenses involved. But to proclaim that product will be withheld from integrators without the naming of names.... well, that is an Avigilon thing - I don't know anyone else who's made this a stated/published policy.
"Let's all give a hand to the Avigilon PR firm intern!"
Sorry, wrong guess. John will confirm. Do not adjust your tinfoil.
Confirmed. C is no Avigilon affiliate in any way.
It does come off as a PR type rationale, since it avoids the crux of the matter - that it is mandatory. C?
...does the end user get a say in their info being shared? That said, looking at the info being requested, it's nothing that couldn't be gathered from a quick Google search if one simply knows the customer's name.
Care to "simply" share a list of your customers? Just the names.
p.s. Mere rhetorical flourish, no actual names desired.
As I said right off the top, it does seem a bit sketchy. I could see requiring it IF you want a customer to be able to call directly for support.
There are certainly valid reasons for a manufacturer to want to collect end user details as laid out in the posted form, including what sort of entity the end user is ("Hey, these guys are using PRO cameras in a strip club, we never thought of that as a suitable market!")
But yes, making the sale itself contingent on the partner providing that information is... odd, to say the least.
IPVMU Certified | 03/11/14 01:23pm
At my company, we dont 'require' the end user info in any way. When one of them DOES call for service, it is a simple matter of looking up a serial number to know what the system is and its history.
The 'required' part is way too much of a restriction, and is perceived as a negative in the relationship as seen in the poll results for this discussion.
I am not sure why this is surprising to people. My take on it is this:
- If you don't trust who you are in bed with...get another partner.
- I have been giving this information to my manufacturers for years, including Lenel, OnSSI and RS2. All require it to place an order. Obviously all of these are direct to dealer partners, I am not sure I would be sending my distributers a list of all of my Exacq clients...
- For most of my partners this information is used to provide myself with reports of who is near to expiring on their support or software upgrade agreements. I know Avigilon does not have any official software upgrade plans per say, but maybe they are heading that way.
- I just checked with my ISR and Avigilon has never required a form to be filled out to purchase product or licensing, so this is either new or not enforced.
"This is either new or not enforced."
This is new, starts in April. From their notice, "Effective April 1st, 2014, when you submit a PO to Avigilon we will require a completed Avigilon Partner – End User Information Form to be included with your Purchase Order."
"Keep your customers close and your customer's customers closer..."
From 'The Art of VAR' - Sun Tzu
I'm going to play good cop for Avigilon on this one since they are so pathetic :) Based on our past dealings with Avigilon, they were very disorganized top to bottom. The salesman was saying one thing and the credit department was telling you another. You couldn't use the same PO# twice no matter what even if it was a change order on the same project. When you did issue them a PO #, they kept changing their mind on how they wanted the PO# done. Since Avigilon is obsessed with the mega projects like every other manufacturer out there, they are figuring a national integrator like Stanley will do the initial install, screw it up like they normally do and then the end user has to bring it a new company to fix the mess. This will help their service team down the road for the mega projects for their records for what's in warranty and what is not in warranty, firmware etc. I don't have a problem when a regional sales manager brings the deal in for the integrator and Avigilon requires the end user information.
However, for the smaller deals when the integrator brings in Avigilon on their own accord, the integrator shouldn't be required to disclose the end user information. (Though some integrators post every install they do with Avigilon on Twitter so what’s the point? :) ) Avigilon may not like it when the integrator used their VMS with a couple of Hikvision mini dome cameras instead of their own micro domes to win the deal.
If there is a problem with their system, the end user calls us, not the manufacturer. That’s why the end user is paying us so we can help them with their problem. And what's to prevent the integrator making up imaginary customers or existing clients that do not have an Avigilon system? We've done that before with other companies. Is Avigilon going to waste time going through every single purchase order for every end user? My past experience with them tells me no, they will not do that. Most end users do not care if they are using Aviglion, Bosch, Axis or whomever. They just want their system to work, plain and simple. The manufacturers forget sometimes they just sell equipment.
"This will help their service team down the road for the mega projects for their records for what's in warranty and what is not in warranty..."
Wouldn't a copy of the a purchase order be sufficient for that?
A copy of the purchase order may not be readily available but the MAC address or license (as appropriate) should give a clear indicator of when the product was sold / activated.
Just to play devil's advocate: what if the "legit" end user has since moved on to a different system, blown out their old Avigilon stuff on Craigslist, and some mom-and-pop store bought it cheap and is now looking for help? They have the MAC address or system serial number, that should be all they need, right?
Well, they have already sold ~$400 million equipment total that is not tracked / registered. So what will they do with that? Not support it unless each existing end user verifies they bought it direct from an official Avigilon integrator?
Just saying, it may be part of the thinking behind this. Obviously tracking existing systems is problematic, but you have to start somewhere...
IPVMU Certified | 03/12/14 01:15am
existing equipment is tracked by sn to the partner who purchased it...
IPVMU Certified | 03/12/14 01:24am
At face value i am not a fan of this idea... I am not comfortable with giving that customer information out nor should one disclose it without permission. I have a customer who just sold their business and system to another company, would we have to fill out that document with the new company as the end user?
Any competitive business has critical confidential information, and there is very little information more critical to an independent integrator than their customer lists.
During competition and selection phases, but also during the course of the work, disclosure of this sort of information can cause serious damage to a vendor.
In most industries, a confidentiality agreement is critical. Prior to even entering discussions, businesses establish non-disclosure agreement to protect the business interests of both parties. At the exploratory phase, some of these agreements preclude even acknowledging the identity of the other party.
Under several of our agreements with customers and vendors, we would simply be unable to utilize Avigilon as a supplier under the stated terms.
Does Avigilon even sign an NDA which legally binds them to protect integrator confidential information?
more often than not, the relationship, longstanding or not belongs to the integrator. By disclosing it to anyone outside the organization we run some measure of risk of that relationship be compromised. It is not that we don't trust Avigilon; we, by nature don't trust our competition. Why should our firm hand over sensitive information to a vendor when the vendor does not do the same?
Looking at the form, Avigilon seems to be requesting this information at the PO stage. This assumes the end-user has already agreed to the work being done and materials are being ordered to fulfill the job.
How much risk is there that a competitor would waltz in and jeopardize the relationship with the end-user at that point? It seems to me the likelihood of something like that happening is very small to non-existant. Why would the end-user jeopardize the relationship at that point and risk legal action that could potentially double their project cost, or worse?
Maybe I'm just naive, but I don't see much downside for the integrator here.
Downside is if the company ever starts doing installations or direct sales themselves, like some companies that have VMS systems have been claimed to do. Or if Avigilon get's bought by someone like a Tyco/ADT who offers installation services, now your supplier is a competitor. Or they don't even have to get bought, they can sign a contract with some nationwide company as their "Certified Preffered National Installer".
You're thinking now, but you have to look long term where your business relationships might lead.
There was a good discussion about project registration recently. If integrators are registering their projects, wouldn't the manufacturer have most of this information already anyway?
I don't even think national companies becoming "Certified Preferred National Installers" are the biggest threat here. You already have companies in your neighborhood certified on the product, with local manpower, marketing, and connections. All it takes is one RSM to have a buddy at an integrator in your region to let someone get even a foot in the door in your account. Let's not pretend this doesn't happen.
In the past I dealt with some VMS companies who asked for this information, by the way. It never felt great. Generally we gave company name and a contact name, but put our own info down as numbers to call. We saw no reason they should be calling the end user without us knowing, so if they wanted to contact them, call us first.
IPVMU Certified | 03/12/14 02:32pm
When registering the project, the integrator gets the benefit of lower pricing. Don't want to register your project? Fine, you just don't get any breaks on price.
Also project registration is done a proposal/bid stage, when means there is no guarantee the names it holds are, or will ever be, an actual customer.
Avigilon's stance here is different: "Tell us the details, or we don't process your order."
Ethan - What if the integrator goes belly up or is just isn't reachable when support is needed? Where does that leave the end-user if the manufacturer can't validate a legit customer is calling and can't/won't support them?
Uh, they say, "Okay, I'm sorry to hear that. Can you go to this screen and read me the license key so I can look up your information?"
IPVMU Certified | 03/12/14 02:50pm
What is required for purchases that are done for stock items? Such as cameras that are put on the shelf for replacements or for additions to systems? Does the installer fill out their own company information then? If that is the case you can use your company information for all orders and then just receive it as inventory.
<<Avigilon's stance here is different: "Tell us the details, or we don't process your order." >>
I agree with you it does sound like a drastic measure, but one other thing that comes to mind is that they want to prevent their products from ending up in places other than customer premises and showing up in places like some deep discount online vendors' inventory. Not that this can completely prevent that from happening, but it would act as a deterrent.
If that's the case, it's just another measure they might be putting in place to protect their channel partners from unwanted competition, but I do see how it could be perceived in a negative way.
If they're going this route, it seems unlikely they would allow that kind of practice. What they would probably do is limit integrator inventories to a percentage of their installed base using measures like historical defect rates and warranty claims information.
John - Are there any other details in the communication about their rationale for implementing this or is it limited to that statement?
"but one other thing that comes to mind is that they want to prevent their products from ending up in places other than customer premises and showing up in places like some deep discount online vendors' inventory."
They can address that with the offending online dealer direct. I have also heard of manufacturers buying the product sold online, looking at the serial number to see who it was originally sold too, them reprimanding and possibly back charging the dealer or distributer who did it.
Requiring an integrator to declare ahead of time who their customer is would not prevent an online sale as Avigilon would probably still have to aciquire the prodict to find out who the integrator was.
I had an Avigilon user contact us about trying to help them find someone to service their Avigilon equipment that was not functioning or needed servicing. They wanted to switch integrators because of response times or prices. Maybe this is a way of protecting the Avigilon dealer of these types of clients.
you mean the type of clients who want to actually be serviced in a timely manner?
Actually his main complaint was the pricing, which probably led to the slow response times.
On the bright side, this provides some assurance to integrators that they won't be pressured or required to purchase and stock inventory they don't need in order for Avigilon - <edit>or some of their reps<edit> - to improve their end of quarter results. :)
Poll result breakdown:
- Integrators overwhelmingly oppose this: 70% to 15%
- Manufacturers are split down the middle - about 1/3rd think it's good, 1/3rd bad, 1/3rd not sure
It aligns with each party's interest. Integrators get little benefit while assuming future risk. Manufacturers potentially get significant benefits, both short and long term.
IPVMU Certified | 03/13/14 01:23am
So you're saying voting seems to mirror the general political landscape.
IPVMU Certified | 03/13/14 01:03pm
It's just one step closer to requiring an annual software maintenance fee. Once registered, the end user/installer cannot call in for support unless the software maintenance has been paid. This has happened in alot of the access control manufacturer's and some of the VMS companies.
Its the mandatory nature of the policy that I see as a problem. The integrator should have the ability to allow its customers to access factory direct for support for clients they feel it would benefit and who they have solid control of the account with. Other clients may be newer thus not on as solid footing &/or don't have technical expertise to even go near the system for tech support reasons. Only the integrator is in a position to make those decisions. Additionally, I worked for a company that started out as an integrator then changed to a selling through "channel partners only" mode and then back to an integrator. They absolutely would mine the database of customer informaiton you gave them when they were in channel support mode, to give as leads to thier new direct sales force who may go into your client selling on the "you can have a direct connection to the factory for all your support AND, bonus.....we can provide you with lower pricing because there is no reseller markup". Don't think that can't, won't & doesn't happen. Again - it should be a decision made by the integrator whether to share that information. I definitely will not be selling Avigilon products until/unless they reverse this policy.
"The integrator should have the ability to allow its customers to access factory direct for support..."
I'm not sure I agree that by disclosing client information, the integrator would lose control over the client relationship. It's not as if Avigilon is forcing them to have the client contact anyone.
If the agreement between the integrator and the client is that the client contact the integrator for support, why would that suddenly change because basic information about the client is being provided to the manufacturer?
As far as Avigilon bypassing the integrator and going directly to the client without the integrator's knowledge, that would be a huge departure from their channel policy up to now and would spread like wildfire throughout the industry. I don't believe they have any interest in that happening since how they manage their channel has been one of the ways they've been able to differentiate themselves from their competition for as long as they've been in business. Changing that would turn them into a me-too company in a lot of people's minds, including their investors'.
Apart from the stated objectives, which are "to validate the purchaser for future support and warranty requirements and will enable us to increase the quality and timeliness of both our Warranty and Technical Support services", I'm guessing they're hoping their integrators will be as interested in protecting the channel going up as Avigilon as been serious about protecting it going down.
I guess I still don't see the big deal as I have been required to provide this information to Lenel and OnSSI and RS2 and several others in the past in order to place a licensing order. Is it just that most of the responders to this thread are not part of a direct to dealer VAR program and as such have never heard of this before? We all know that integrators, while competative with one another, are a very tight group when it comes to some outside entity (manufacturer, distributer, etc.), messing with us [INSERT CHARLIE DANIELS SONG "IN AMERICA" HERE]. Look at the recent thread about Anixter selling direct as an example.
If Avigilon were ever to use this information in a manner inconsistant with the current business models it would be stomped on pretty hard by us integrators. That being said, if they just took the information and started selling direct we would have no real recourse at that time.
Trust is the key issue here and it seems to me that if you don't trust the people that you are partnered with you had better decide if you want to continue the relationship. There has to be some sort of trust or you will be spending all your time trying to protect your farm and not growing your crops.
"As far as Avigilon bypassing the integrator and going directly to the client without the integrator's knowledge, that would be a huge departure from their channel policy up to now and would spread like wildfire throughout the industry."
The historic issue is not primarily the manufacturer selling direct. It is the manufacturer providing this information to local rivals.
This is the main reason integrators are overwhelming voting against this move. No integrator wants his customer roster including what products were sold when provided to a rival. It would be a huge advantage for the rival to target them. And it would not be the first time that a manufacturer RSM shared such information with a rival dealer who was moving more product.
I've worked for manufacturers, I've worked for integrators, and I worked for a manufacturer that was their own integrator.
This is coming to a manufacturer near you. If you are an integrator, you should work with manufacturers that will partner with you closely and who you trust. "End User Pull Through" is reality, and it's not going away. There just isn't any money in hardware any more, China has made sure of that. If you are buying a $39 camera that works as well as a $150 camera, the savings came from somewhere. (Hint: it came from the slave labor at the factory.) If you expect high quality manufacturers to stay in business, then you will have to expect them to make money. The only thing worth anything any more is knowledge. Major manufacturers have a ton of knowledge, but its damed up behind the integrator firewall. If you are an integrator, and you work with your manufacturers to help them unbottle their knowledge and get paid for it, you will both profit.
"And it would not be the first time that a manufacturer RSM shared such information with a rival dealer who was moving more product."
If the RSM is doing his job properly and keeping close ties with the integrators he serves, isn't it likely that person would have a lot of this information already? I'm not sure how providing or not providing this same information at the corporate level would make things any better or worse for the integrator.
Agreed. I certainly have been given such informaton before, but my RSM did not have to go to a database to tell me, he offered it up over lunch or in a meeting. Many times I have had this from my distributers as well, which always made me think which of my accounts they were telling others about. Their job is to sell product, they dont get paid on friendship and you can't take good deeds to the bank. If I am not installing their cameras in an account their job is to find someone who will...plain and simple. Part of the issue is that many integrators try to be everything to everyone. Find a partner, stick with them and they will be loyal to you as well.
Once it is in a database, it is even easier, regardless of RSM turnover, etc. It's also more comprehensive as the RSM won't know every last project but can by looking it up in a database.
Having the information in a database can also help a new RSM get a better understanding of his client base more quickly and improve the services he provides them. It works both ways.
I agree with Undisclosed F Integrator that all this boils down to a question of trust and that relationships need to be re-evaluate if that's lacking.
<edit>And if an RSM is lacking in the ethics department, that would also be something I would want to discuss with other corporate representives.<edit>
That being said, if they just took the information and started selling direct we would have no real recourse at that time.
I don't know, I imagine there would be some sort of legal action taken if this started happening. Whether it succeeded or not would be another question, but "stomping", as you say, comes in many forms.
There has to be some sort of trust or you will be spending all your time trying to protect your farm and not growing your crops.
I like it!