Compaq will begin trials of its quasi-direct sales programme this week amid accusations that many of its dealers will be excluded from its lead generating operation.
The scheme, called Home and Office, will be rolled out in the autumn, but is being tested now, with Action Computer Supplies acting as Compaq?s fulfilment partner until the end of the trial.
Compaq said when Home and Office goes live, it will use a Web-based e-commerce system (Web Connect) to pass prospective customers? details to its resellers.
Peter Blampied, Compaq commercial marketing manager, said the trial would enable Compaq to make sure its back-office operations were ready for the autumn launch, and that dealers would have to be prepared to take advantage of the leads Compaq would generate.
The move has caused some channel observers to claim that those dealers which don?t actively use the Web will miss out.
Blampied said: ?Our measurements of the channel indicate that about 85 per cent of dealers use the Web on a regular basis. Anyone who hasn?t already grasped the business benefits of using the Web runs the risk of missing the boat. E-commerce is the glue that holds everything else together.?
But Martin Clarke, sales and marketing director of Lapland UK, said Compaq would soon become disillusioned with selling direct when it had to deal with complaining customers. ?Now that there will be a contract between Compaq and the user, I would like to know how Compaq will handle all those problems that it has traditionally been shielded from by the dealers.?
One of the other key elements of the Home and Office programme is that Compaq has struck a deal with Microsoft to buy the small business edition of Office 97 at the same discounted rate available to Gateway 2000 and Dell.
Keith Warburton, executive director of the PCA, called on MS to stop cutting deals with US firms that would only harm the UK industry. ?It?s time Microsoft rethought its distribution strategy,? he said. (See Page 3.)
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