Hoping to improve its standing among a group that provided almost 30 per cent of its revenue last year, HP has unveiled an expanded program of products and services for small and medium-size business (SMB) customers at the HP Partners America Conference in Los Angeles.
The new services are also under close watch by the Australian office of HP, who intend to sell those that are applicable to the local market through the indirect sales channel.
Last September, HP announced a $US750 million initiative geared at marketing and research and development efforts for the SMB market. Customer feedback since that announcement has led to the creation of new services packages that are delivered through HP's partners or directly from HP services to SMB customers in North America, vice-president and general manager of customer support business, M.L. Krakauer, said.
The company announced a variety of new SMB services for its US partners, including:
- HP Proactive Plus for SMB is a support program for HP servers running operating systems from Microsoft. Customers can request help for five incidents over a one-year period for $US1175, and receive help for an additional incident if the service is ordered by July 31.
- HP Learning Curve provides unlimited access for one year to online resources such as instant chat with a technical support representative for $US149. Access for an additional person is included for free if this service is ordered by July 31.
- HP IT Professional Help Desk for SMB allows customers to access Level 2 and Level 3 help desk support through HP's professional services organisation. For $US1550, customers can seek help on up to five incidents, and can receive help on an additional incident if the service is ordered by July 31. Level 2 support generally requires a more advanced IT staff member, while Level 3 support is reserved for the most critical and difficult problems.
- HP ProLiant System Minder Solution for SMB monitors ProLiant 300 servers for crashes, maintains the system remotely, and patches the operating system for $US3650 a year or $US308 a month.
Think global services, deploy local
Manager of service channel partner management (SCPM) for HP Australia, Mike Bazely, said his team was in the process of evaluating the new services to see which are applicable in Australia.
"Out of the 24 staff we have managing the sale of services through the channel, four of them are dedicated to looking at the services and solutions coming from global and Asia Pacific, and assessing how to take them to market here," he said.
Bazely said the process took time as he wanted to ensure the end result for local resellers was a service that would sell.
"We are being careful not to waste our time with solutions that won't work here - often a solution developed for overseas won't fly in this country," he said.
Bazely said there were exciting developments in the pipeline - including the possibility of launching HP-branded services that can be co-delivered by partners alongside the HP Services team.
HP had taken great strides in improving its relationships with the SMB market since its acquisition of Compaq Computer, an analyst with The Yankee Group, Helen Chan, said.
The company's focus on improving its relationships with channel partners after that merger would help it a great deal in the SMB market, where companies preferred to buy products from local resellers, she said.
"If you're trying to sell technologies users haven't used before, that requires consultative selling," Chan said.
Part of HP's plan for the SMB market was to show owners of small companies who did't have a technology background what the latest products and services could do for their business, and that was hard to do without a strong partner program, she said.
HP thinks it had an advantage over its competitors such as Dell and IBM because of its close relationship with partners and its roster of technology experts ranging from imaging and printing to servers and storage, director of sales and development for HP SMB Americas, Chris Ogburn, said.
SMB customers would pay more for products that came through partners who could help them set up and configure their new equipment, an analyst with IDC, Ray Boggs, said.
These customers didn't want learn the intricacies of network management, and would appreciate the value of service packages that allowed them to implement IT products while keeping their main focus on their growing business, he said.
Services packages such as the ones HP announced also boosted its standing among its channel partners, Boggs said.
These smaller resellers were used to selling low-margin hardware products such as printers and PCs, and services were higher-margin offerings that also gave the resellers more opportunity to sell additional hardware while engaged with the customer, he said.