Following DEC’s controversial announcement of changes in its provision of service under its New Services Portfolio last April, the UK company is keen to explain why this Portfolio was adopted. Under the new system DEC-users can, after a year’s free on-site maintenance, opt for either a Basicsystem support service which offers a vastly reduced service with on-site response not guaranteed, or, for more money, they can continue to get optimal cover through the DECsystem support service with a range of chargeable extras, such as a Software Support Service, and a Media and Documentation Distribution Service, thrown in according to their discretion and budget size. DEC claims that this restructuring was necessary to retain a high standard of support at a time when the majority of users no longer come from a technical background, when new products are introduced at a faster rate, when both hardware and software are integrated into one system, and when operations are carried out in a multi-vendor environment. Consequently, the company has invested UKP500m in customer service support worldwide, including the erection of a purpose-built Customer Service Centre in Basingstoke in 1982. Despite the implication that all this must lead to a rise in the cost of providing support, these changes have also led to a 20% growth in DEC’s service revenue, as well as to an indirect price increase for an undisclosed proportion of users. Hardest hit are those who opt for third-party maintenance, because they are charged extra for the servicing of systems which are dependent on the system that DEC has not been contracted to support. In other words, software products appear to have been selectively bundled in DEC’s maintenance price to attack third-party maintainers. The company vehemently denies forcing people to opt for its proprietary service support, and says that it is negotiating with large contractors aversely affected by the new Portfolio in an effort to smooth out some of the communication problems that have occurred. Brendan Rogers, the UK Services Marketing Manager, was adamant, however, that there would be no change in the basic Portfolio.
Revisited Unfortunately, he was no less adamant that there had been no price increases, a claim he later qualified, saying that nobody had received a price reduction and that the price of support had gone up for some customers using DEC’s own services. So far, approximately half of the company’s British customer base has been converted to the new Portfolio, but there was no firm statement as to whether the majority were happy with the new arrangements. Apparently, DEC has not had so many problems in implementing the restructured support services on the continent where there tends to be a smaller proportion of third-party maintainers. In fact, DEC claims that the scheme was originally successfully piloted in France with input from the French arm of the DECUS DEC user group. The company did, however, say that the service support restructuring was being revisited in the US, and while it was denied that any changes would be made in Europe at present, given the apparent strength of customer feeling, changes may not be far away.