HEWLETT-Packard has opened six new branded customer service centres across the country, which the vendor says will support rather than clash with the service operations of its channel partners.
The centres will be run by Visual Group, which was appointed as HP’s national master alliance partner for customer support in October. They will operate as vendor “return to base” drop-in centres and will mainly provide hardware warranty servicing for commercial customers.
Mark Penfold, HP New Zealand technology services group customer support manager, says the centres are designed to improve service delivery for custo-mers and will not impact on channel partners such as Axon, Computerland, Datacom and Gen-i, who also provide warranty servicing.
“There will be no effect on our authorised warranty service provi-ders; it will be business as usual for them, but there are certain custo-mers that will always choose to come to HP directly for their service. We want customers to choose the service provider they feel the most comfor-table with,” says Penfold.
The new centres incorporate the different warranty service arrangements HP and Compaq had in place before their merger, Penfold says. HP’s warranty service centres had been run by Visual Electronics and Visual Tech Systems, which have now merged to form Visual Group, while Compaq provided service through IndeServe and Datacom under the Compaq Care banner.
Visual Group was appointed after a new selection process and removes a potential source of conflict in the channel as the company does not sell products and only focuses on servicing.
“We wanted someone completely neutral,” Penfold explains.
HP resellers can refer customers to any of the service centres or other authorised warranty service provi-ders for warranty repairs.
Andrew Bain of HP distributor Exeed agrees the appointment of a neutral service provider removes potential conflict in the channel and feels the new centres are unlikely to impact on the activities of HP resellers.
“I believe it is as non-conflictual as HP could have made it. Resellers would prefer services to be supplied by a neutral company on behalf of HP,” he says.
Kevin Cantwell, managing director of Visual Group, says having one service provider reduces confusion among customers.
“In the past, people were not sure which product went to what centre. By having one place they can go to, there is less confusion,” he says.
Cantwell states Visual Group has positioned itself as a specialist service provider that is non-threatening and neutral to resellers.
“In fact, we do a lot of work with resellers in our own right,” he says.
Penfold says HP decided to retain only one company to run the centres as monitoring service quality is easier while managing only one service provider.
“It is ultimately about providing a high level of support to customers,” he says, adding the service centres increase HP’s nationwide support infrastructure and provide 270 certified service professionals who can deliver support on all hardware.
The centres are located in Penrose and Albany in Auckland, and nationwide in Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.