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  1. Technology
February 7, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:19pm


By CBR Staff Writer

By Emma Nash

The major hardware vendors are becoming increasingly keen to diversify their businesses away from shifting tin towards lucrative service revenues. The latest company to update its service business and attempt to knock pure service companies such as Electronic Data Systems Corp off the top spots is Unisys Corp’s Global Customer Services division which has announced the European launch of its new single point of integration help desk service. In a bid to increase its revenues and make a dent in the service market, Unisys GCS has come up with OneCall: a service that it claims covers all aspects of technical support including total maintenance, management and administration services, the client having to make just one telephone call to access help. Unisys claims it is the first and only type of service available to businesses throughout the world, and Unisys is predicting ‘big things’ for the future, although it is reluctant to reveal details of its plans for growth in the future to outsiders. OneCall offers three levels of service. For small to medium sized businesses there is OneCall Starter that covers basic desktop applications such as PowerPoint, Word and Excel with support staff, or agents as the company is calling them, available from 8am to 6pm during the week, to answer queries and sort out problems. Then comes Select, covering the same things as the Starter package, but aimed at medium sized organizations and offering extras such as reports detailing the customer’s account balance and the number and the types of calls they have made.

Individually customized

The premier OneCall service is Custom, a service that covers just about every thing relating to the maintenance of hardware, software and networks. This is a 24 hour-a-day, seven days-a-week service that is individually customized, incorporating all of the services in the Select package, plus more. When operators in the call center receive a telephone call from a customer, a Unix- based call management system connects the center with Unisys enterprise servers based in Minnesota. Operators will try to solve the problem, with records automatically logged at a remedy server that processes answers that match similar questions or situations that have arisen in the past. If the customer requires a service technician to call at their office, information is despatched detailing the caller’s problem, and a series of similar case scenarios are forwarded to the engineer. Unisys itself has said that it can’t afford to get this one wrong. It has set a goal to become the leader in the service industry, reducing the traditional maintenance side of the business that accounted for 60% of trade in 1995 down to a third in the near future. Speaking on behalf of Unisys at the OneCall launch in Barcelona in January, Steve Downtown, a strategic adviser to Unisys from Coopers & Lybrand, said: The service industry today is running just to stand still. However, a report in January’s IBM System User counted more than 100 companies now active in the automated help-desk arena. Analysts have reported that the market for automated help desk software was worth $250m in 1995, increasing from $105m three years earlier, and they predict an increase to $1bn in revenues by the year 2000. New developments in artificial intelligence and trouble shooting techniques are also contributing to an increasing pace of the service industry. OneCall director for Europe and Africa, Mike Anderson believes that OneCall will stand out from the rest of the help desk services being offered at the moment because it is an integrated service, and the technology strategy involved in OneCall is out in front of its competitors. However, its competitors seem to think differently. Martin Davis, customer services director for the UK at Dell Computer Corp believes that the level of service that Unisys is claiming to provide, is already prevalent in the service industry, and its uniqueness merely arises from the fact that Unisys is applying OneCall on a worldwide basis under the same name. We deliver the same services to our customers with the help of partners such as Hewlett-Packard Co and Digital Equipment Corp, so I don’t think it is unique at all he said. A spokeswoman from Digital dismissed the service as just packaging. Digital already provides this service and our customers know what number they need to call. About a year ago, DEC itself carried out a trial for a help desk package called PC Rescue which was marketed in much the same way as OneCall. The company decided not to continue with it when the trial period was up, because it was not commercially viable and too similar to existing services. Interestingly, the marketing manager working for DEC at the time is now working for Unisys.

Differentiate OneCall

A Dataquest Inc report in January about OneCall’s European launch states: The service is now packaged to provide comprehensive one-stop shopping life-cycle services targeted at a variety of customer segments ranging from the enterprise level down to the small business. It is this packaging that helps differentiate OneCall from similar services offered by other systems vendors. OneCall has been jointly developed by US company Sykes Enterprises Inc who will handle the call-management and help desk facilities. Based in Tampa, Florida, the company employs 2,700 support staff in 15 centers across the US, and now has three call centers in Europe, where all the OneCall requests and queries will be logged and processed. Sykes, which describes itself as a leader in providing third party technical support, is not being widely publicized as being part of OneCall. The two companies say that automation between them has been made possible by the significant investment made by them both. Unisys has experienced poor financial results in recent years, reporting a net loss in October 1995 of $62.4m against profits of $12.9m last time. Over the past five years the company has cut its staff by 40%, shedding 4,000 jobs in 1994 alone. It is now trying to elevate its position in the service business to find a niche that hasn’t yet been conquered, retrieving its reputation and boosting finances. When Burroughs and Sperry merged in 1986 to become Unisys, the company had plans to become a $60bn business – a plan that never really got off the ground. In October 1995, the company split into three divisions, marking its first step towards services. Unisys sees OneCall as the key to its future success. Until now the company has not made any significant impact on the service industry, and will therefore have a great deal of work to do.

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