HP has stepped up its campaign to woo partners to its Agency Direct program, but systems integrators claim the referral scheme is buying more direct business for the vendor at the expense of its partners and customers.
The past couple of months have seen HP contacting partners by phone, as well as sending them unsolicited contracts, in order to sell them the benefits of the Agency Direct program. Agency Direct offers a one-off margin of about five per cent to partners who refer customers to HP's direct sales force via a 1300 number or the Agency Direct area of HP’s online store, www.hp.com.au/agencydirect.
Product available through the Agency Direct is largely Compaq, but the website says the HP store is “coming soon”. HP is still ironing out merger issues for Agency Direct, with participating partners required to sign two contracts - one with HP and one with Compaq.
Sydney-based Systems Integrator Linear Logic was approached to join Agency Direct in March. Managing director Greg Nelson said the vendor was aggressively promoting the program.
“We’re getting four times as much mail from HP,” he said.
Another Integrator, Blue Apache in Melbourne, had signed up despite having some reservations about the program. “We’ve since had two calls asking why we’re not using the program,” managing director, Chris Marshall, said. “But I don’t know whose business it would suit.”
This lukewarm response to Agency Direct was echoed by Linear Logic, which used it “almost as a last resort”, Nelson said.
“So far we’ve only used it a couple of times. We use Agency Direct occasionally when we’re fighting on price,” he said.
As well as offering little value to partners, Nelson argued that the program was eroding value for customers as well. By reducing the business partner to the role of referral agent, Agency Direct severed the service tie to the customer and could end up costing them more money, said Nelson.