Hurd says HP will listen to customers

Hurd says HP will listen to customers

Hewlett-Packard president and chief executive officer Mark Hurd told customers the company's goal is to listen to them more and respond to their needs more quickly.

In a keynote address at the HP Technology Forum, which made only passing reference to the scandal that has rocked the company for the last two weeks, Hurd said "HP has made a lot of progress, but we've got a lot more to do."

HP is on track to record about US$91 billion in revenue and an operating profit of $8 billion to $9 billion in fiscal year 2006, he said. That leaves $83 billion in costs that the Palo Alto, California-based company still needs to scrutinize for efficiencies.

HP announced in July 2005 a restructuring that would result in the elimination of 15,300 jobs to save $1.9 billion in operating costs by the end of its fiscal year Oct. 31. Hurd told the Houston audience that while cutting some jobs, it is creating others and reinvesting in other areas to develop new opportunities for growth.

"We want to spend money to realign our IT and make those investments so in the long term we save money," he said.

Hurd's one applause line in his presentation was his admission that HP needs to be more responsive to customers during the sales cycle: "When we actually show up at the account, we actually get more business than when we don't. We're working on that right now."

To be more responsive, HP has cut the length of contract terms and conditions by two-thirds to make them easier to understand, said Ann Livermore, executive vice president of the technology solutions group, in her keynote.

Hurd took only a handful of pre-screened questions from the audience and after his speech was quickly escorted out of the convention center and into a waiting Lincoln sport utility vehicle. Aides and security guards prevented a reporter from approaching him with questions about the HP board scandal.

State, federal and congressional investigations are probing allegations that HP hired a private investigations firm to find out who was leaking news of HP board deliberations to the media. The private agency allegedly obtained private phone records of directors and reporters under false pretenses to find out who they were calling. Media reports said investigative methods also included physical surveillance of people and an attempt to install surveillance software on a reporter's computer.

Hurd made only a brief reference to the scandal in his keynote. When he mentioned that Jack Novia, HP's managing director of the Americas region and senior vice president of the customer solutions group, was throwing out the first ball at a Houston Astros baseball game Tuesday evening, Hurd said: "I asked him not to embarrass the company, given the press coverage we've gotten over the last week."

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