Compaq: DOAs Count

Partners cry foul as DOA parts are factored into performance ratings

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Solution providers said changes in Compaq Computer's service provider program will ultimately hurt the vendor's brand and reputation.

Last week, Compaq began factoring in DOA parts when determining a service provider's overall performance rating. For example, if a hard drive did not work when it arrived from Compaq, it is now included in a service provider's customer satisfaction and performance rating that helps determine service compensation. Previously, DOA parts were not counted in Compaq's rating metrics.

'I am frustrated. . .I bet the farm with taht company, and it seems decisions are made in a vacuum.' -- Steve Harper, Network Management Group

"Compaq is hurting itself. It's not going to accomplish what it's looking to do, which is reduce costs," said John Azzinaro, president of Networking Technologies and Integration, a Kenilworth, N.J.-based solution provider. "It gets harder [to sell Compaq every day. What they're doing is alienating the resellers. They continue to chase a fight with Dell in price instead of asking what's the value-add."

Compaq adjusted the metrics slightly to compensate for an expected percentage of parts failures, said Walter Mello, director of North American Compaq channel service delivery.

"The exception process was a tool used very infrequently by the majority of partners," Mello said. "The usage did not justify the extensive administrative activities and system resources for both partners and Compaq."

But the change holds solution providers accountable for things beyond their control, said Jen McCadden, president and co-owner of Universal Connecting Point, Rochester, N.Y.

"I should be measured by what I do, not by what Compaq does or does not do," said McCadden.

Factoring in the DOA parts was one of several changes Compaq made to its service provider program within the past two months. Compaq now requires that service provider technicians be certified by the vendor to be eligible for warranty reimbursements, which contradicts other changes made by the manufacturer, Azzinaro said.

"Not only am I at some cost to certify my technicians, but on the other page, they're telling me it's OK for untrained customers to open the box and replace parts," Azzinaro said.

Last month Compaq expanded the list of parts it expects end users to replace themselves and lowered reimbursement rates for service providers who replace those parts. It also lumped warranty services on consumer products,which solution providers said traditionally bring lower customer satisfaction scores,in with commercial products.

"To accommodate the training requirement, Compaq has made a significant investment in free, online training, and offers free renewal testing," Mello said.

Compaq would not say how much money or resources it would save with the changes. Compaq's customer satisfaction scores have not dropped since the changes started, Mello said.

Meanwhile, solution providers must adjust their businesses accordingly.

"They don't require the end user to be certified [to replace a part, but they want every one of your techs [certified. The investment becomes huge if you have five, six or seven people to take the tests," said Steve Harper, president of Network Management Group, Hutchinson, Kan.

Solution providers said they remain loyal to Compaq, which dominates the SMB market, but the changes are not well thought out by the manufacturer.

"We continue to lead with Compaq, but I am frustrated when I bet the farm with that company and it seems decisions are made in a vacuum," Harper said. "I can't imagine a dealer council put a seal of approval on these things. I don't think [Compaq is thinking the whole process through."

McCadden added, "We have significant clients entrenched in the Compaq platform. We wouldn't make a decision to switch brands, but we need to be in a position where we both work harder together."

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