Service check

After-sales service and support are gaining increasing importance among enterprise end-users in the region. Sean Robson finds out how vendors across the Middle East are responding to and addressing this growing need.

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By  Sean Robson Published  June 29, 2008

After-sales service and support are gaining increasing importance among enterprise end-users in the region. Sean Robson finds out how vendors across the Middle East are responding to and addressing this growing need.

In the past, not many Middle East enterprises paid attention to the after-sales service and support that IT vendors provided. However, this has changed dramatically in the last few years, with organisations taking support into consideration even when making purchasing decisions. And most vendors in the region have responded to answer the need.

"Juniper offers a wide-range of support services under the name of J-Care Technical Services. All of the packages have standard deliverables of 24/7 access to the Juniper Networks technical assistance centre , unlimited device software downloads, access to Juniper's online support site, and a variety of hardware replacement options," explains Taj El-Khayat, the head of enterprise channel group for the Middle East and Africa at Juniper.

We ask ourselves, are the partners happy with the products and services they are receiving from us, and are they able to make money? Ensuring loyalty is about making sure our partners are successful.

Many vendors offer a hierarchy of assistance, which starts with the call centre. If the call centre operator is unable to resolve the issue remotely, either an engineer is dispatched or the relevant replacement parts are delivered to the customer.

"We offer two levels of support. One is a unique lifetime warranty which takes the form of telephonic support. This is provided by a call centre in Dubai. This is further enhanced with a parts and warranty swap out," explains Louis Helmbold, senior consultant with HP Procurve.

The call centre handles queries in two levels. "The call centre is open seven days a week from 8am till 6pm. It has two layers. The first involves taking call details and handling the relatively easy questions. The second layer sees an engineer deal with the more technical issues," says Helmbold.

Trapeze Networks approaches support a little differently and have tweaked its offerings in order to empower its resellers and end-users in the region. "We provide technical training for all our end-users free of charge. We do this in order to equip them with the necessary tools to solve the first level of issues by themselves," says the company's MEA regional manager Feras Zeidan.

Alongside this offering, Trapeze also provides maintenance and administration training, 24/7 local support in the UAE and Saudi Arabia for clients, as well as what it terms a ‘safety net', which is an extended maintenance and warranty contract.

Rise of the partners

Service and support go hand in hand with long term partner loyalty and this fact alone ensures that the partner's role is a position of power. The mesh or teamwork between vendors and their partners or resellers is an extremely important one and it is the general consensus of vendors that this partnership is crucial to their current and continued success in the region.

"We empower the channel to complement our efforts. We have specifically designed programs that focus on service, which enables our key partners to support our customers on our behalf. One of these programs is Juniper Networks Authorised Support Centres (JNASC)," comments El-Khayat.

Motorola operates a little differently as they centralise their services and support at the first level. "This allows a single point of contact for all customer inquiries and enables consistent performance management as well as minimal issue to resolution cycle times," notes Toni Junghaenel, a senior customer service manager at Motorola.

"While our customer services are reseller independent, all the resellers have access to them and can easily include them in their service portfolio. On top of that, our resellers offer a comprehensive variety of additional services." Junghaenel continues.

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