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Wireless dealers aren’t feeling the love from Canadian carriers

An IDC Canada report shows Canada's wireless dealers aren't getting the support they need from Canada's carriers, at a time the carriers need the dealer channel more than ever

New entrants to Canada’s mobile telecommunications landscape are shaking-up the market, but a new report from IDC Canada says wireless dealers may not be getting the support they need from the dominant carriers such as Bell Mobility, Rogers Communications, Telus and MTS Allstream.

According to the research, the Canadian wireless dealer channel is struggling with its wireless carrier business relationships. Half the dealers surveyed told IDC the quality of their relationship with the carriers has deteriorated over the last three tears, and 38 per cent of dealers considered their wireless carrier relationship to be a business priority in 2010. And from a support perspective, only 11 per cent believed their carrier was meeting their needs.

Paul Edwards, director of SMB and channels research for IDC Canada, said the wireless ecosystem is in transition and that’s showing in the relationship that the wireless leaders have with their various carriers.

“Clearly there are some aspects of the relationship that the dealers feel are very important to the success of their business, but where they feel they’re getting lower value delivered from their carriers,” said Edwards. “It’s kind of a wake-up call for the carriers.”

The findings come at a time when new wireless competitors such as Wind Mobile and Mobilicity are entering the market and are eager to get in front of customers. While some carriers are opening their own retail spaces, highlighted by Bell’s purchase of The Source and the purchase of the Black’s chain by Telus, the independent wireless dealers that offer devices from a number of carriers remain an important route to market for the carriers.

“The wireless dealer channel is more of a differentiator for these carriers than it ever has been before,” said Edwards.

The purpose of the study, said Edwards, was to help identify those areas of the dealer/carrier relationship that dealers feel are important to their business success, and where the carriers need to do better.

The study showed the areas where dealers place importance, and feel carriers need to do better, include marketing, sales and financial resources, such as pre-sales marketing, MDF programs and co-op funding. Technical support was seen as less of a concern.

Despite some carriers expanding their own company-owned channels, Edwards said he saw no evidence those carriers are favouring their own direct channels over the dealer channel.

“My advice to the carriers is not to favour those because they’re part of their company. You have to look at the dealer network holistically,” said Edwards. “It doesn’t make good business sense in terms of the perception to your network of dealers.

He added the newer wireless entrants haven’t yet really expanded strongly into the dealer network. Some have opened their own retail storefronts in urban centres focused on the consumer market, but while there hasn’t been competition for mindshare with the independent dealers yet he said he could see dealers looking to carry some offerings from the new entrants that offer contact options not available from the legacy carriers.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.