Compaq UK has outlined its plans for selling into the direct market but insists that the move will represent only a small fraction of its total sales, with the bulk still going through its indirect channels.
David Petts, director manager of Compaq?s newly opened call centre in Glasgow, said that research the company had conducted showed that it was seen by end users in the small-medium enterprise and micro-business markets as remote and distant.
Compaq is taking steps to address that perception, he said. That market was so big that Compaq could ill afford to ignore it. ?If we didn?t change, we could end up with problems,? he admitted. ?We need to understand what is happening in the marketplace better.?
While Compaq will introduce build-to-order and configure-to-order schemes, it will not - unlike IBM - allow its channel to build PCs, Petts said. It had considered that plan but felt that pitfalls, in the shape of reliability and other issues, made it undesirable.
Petts said that the call centre in Glasgow will act as a hub for taking direct orders but these will be filtered by the staff, so that orders for anything other than vanilla boxes would be passed on to channel partners, using a Web-based system for pushing and tracking leads developed in the centre.
Petters admitted Compaq currently finds it hard to reach home and small business users and so needs to sell direct - but keeping the power of its brand. ?There is a part of this market which currently we?re not able to reach. Some of them are swayed by the offers available at the time. It?s people who want a brand that we need to address better,? he said.
?We are selling direct to the sophisticated, knowledgeable consumer,? he added.
While in theory customers can buy as many PCs as they want through this direct arm, in practice Compaq's pricing and pre-sales advice will steer larger buyers to the advantages of using the indirect model.
Compaq was also improving its relationship with its existing channel, said Petts. ?Compaq is now the company that wants to talk to you. Our contact with the indirect channel up to 1997 has not been the best. Now we have opened up channel management and will help them to sell our products."
He added: ?We need to do a collaborative cell and spread that across the widest audience.?
The call centre will act as a method to link the resellers together, creating what Petts described as a large, virtual organisation.
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