Trust vs. Cost? What’s more important to SMB customers

NEW YORK – A new survey reveals that a whopping 80 per cent of small and mid-size customers would rather have a channel partner they can trust over lower prices.

This study, conducted by State University of New York at Geneseo and sponsored by SAP, found that three out of four SMBs view vendors and channel partners as vital to their business and not just as an external resource for technology. About 76 per cent of these types of customers are using the channel for consulting, 79 per cent for gaining insights and advice and 76 per cent to help them anticipate needs and risks.

It’s interesting to note that SAP bases the SME on revenue (under $1 billion) and not headcount or number of PCs.

Dr. Avan Jassawalla, professor of management, State University of New York at Geneseo, and the person who spearheaded this research told CDN that customers are constantly thinking about where to get help to solve their business problems.

She admitted that it’s a broad statement, but these types of customers know IT vendors and channel partners have technology expertise. But, it’s not exactly what they are looking for. “There expectation is to do everything they can to solve my problems from cost, to frictionless experience and better response time,” she said.

What the customer is looking for, according to the results of this original research, is a true business partner.

She added, the help they are looking for is not for today or tomorrow (supplying technology) but for five years down the road.


Jassawalla outlined the concept of the psychological contract when the customer/partner relationship goes beyond what is written in a contract.

“Trust is currency. Customers expects to get what’s in the contract and a lot more. It’s unwritten and unspoken expectations,” she said.

Feelings such as a sense of bonding, trust and commitment are things SMB customers want in a long-term relationship with IT vendors and channel partners.

“Trust is the glue. If you are married for years you might understand this. The trust is built into the contract and there is an end game and there is motivation to stay in the commitment,” Jassawalla said.

Jassawalla’s research, entitled SAP Business Partnership Study, focused on emotional and intellectual factors that drive business partnerships.

Other key attributes SMB customers want in a partnership include:

  • Collaboration 70 per cent;
  • Honesty 81 per cent; and
  • Open communication 78 per cent.

What’s changing in the market is also important. Jassawalla said, from the research, which surveyed 600 American and German customers, is that small and mid-size companies do not want to manage IT anymore.

Her advice to executives of IT vendors and channel partners is to begin to build a shared vision that will break down barriers and create synergies.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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