Microsoft Increases Investment in Reseller Channel

Redmond, Wash., April 7, 1999 — Picture this. You are a technology provider, reseller or consultant, and you’re out in the field supplying implementation, upgrade or migration services for one of your key customer’s business-critical Microsoft applications. And then, unexpectedly, something goes wrong.

Perhaps it’s an interoperability issue with third-party software, a problem with incompatible hardware, or any number of seemingly innocuous annoyances that are common in the technology world. Today, however, you can’t identify the solution as quickly as you need to. Hedging your bets by continuing to search for a fix could add to your cost in terms of consulting hours and may possibly escalate the problem in the process. Meanwhile, your customer is watching the clock – and lamenting the business that is slipping away while the company’s order processing is at a standstill.

It’s not a pretty scenario, but one that is familiar to many technology providersTechnology providers, particularly those with small operations, were once faced with a very tough choice when confronted with this situation. At a price tag of $195 per incident for Microsoft phone support, the provider could go for the quick fix to the problem by making the call, but would have to face a shrinking bottom line. He or she could also post a question on one of Microsoft Direct Access’ online technical support newsgroups – a perfectly adequate resource most situations – but not always accessible from the field or immediate enough to avoid offline time for your client.

Fortunately, technology providers are a vocal bunch. When Microsoft recently commissioned a survey to find out what the reseller channel needed most to better sell Microsoft solutions and serve their customers, the resounding cry was “more technical support!” Microsoft has answered their call by creating Direct Access Business Critical Phone Support.

Business Critical Phone Support is free phone support available for technology providers in North America, enabling them to solve their customers’ mission-critical issues quickly and cost-effectively. Business Critical Phone Support is part of a $30 million investment in free phone and online support for technology providers worldwide, giving technology providers immediate and unlimited access to Microsoft technical support professionals to solve any technical issue that affects a function critical to their customers’ business. If you are a technology provider interested in taking advantage of this resource, you need only to visit the Microsoft Direct Access and register for a special ID number and password.

“This new support offering is the No. 1 request we’ve received from the channel, and we’re extremely pleased to deliver on that request, providing a resource that will directly impact the success and satisfaction of customers using Microsoft technology,” said Nigel Burton, director of small-business and value-added provider programs at Microsoft. “Business Critical Phone Support is one of several significant investments we will make this year to meet the technical support needs of channel professionals.”

“There are many times that we need help answering business-critical problems, and free phone support from Microsoft is the answer!” exclaims Bob LaGarde, CEO of LaGarde, Incorporated.

LaGarde, Inc. is an Internet-oriented software development firm headquartered in Topeka, Kansas. They specialize in Internet development services for clients who have nationwide and worldwide information management needs. The company serves Fortune 500 clients as well as small and medium-sized companies wishing to leverage the capabilities of the Internet to grow their business.

In addition to providing solution development and consulting services, LaGarde, Inc. produces commercial Internet software applications. Of these, their pride and joy is their StoreFront product. StoreFront is a Microsoft FrontPage based e-commerce application utilizing Microsoft’s Active Server Pages technology to provide a highly creative, robust e-commerce application development environment. The product has been wildly successful since its release and is currently selling in over 40 countries worldwide. However, LaGarde has learned quickly that although his company is not actively implementing all of their StoreFront solutions, that fact doesn’t reduce the number of troubleshooting calls that their technical support division receives when an end user is facing trouble.

As LaGarde explains, “The problem is that in the shared Web hosting market, there are a lot of newcomers who aren’t fully trained in NT/IIS configuration and administration. We are constantly getting caught in the middle when we have an end-user that has a problem with a mission-critical e-commerce application. Even though we may not be primarily responsible for dealing with those problems, it reflects very poorly on our product if the Web hosting representative can’t help these customers with their solution. Free phone support is the ultimate fix for us, because we have a chance to intermediate, bring Microsoft in to help fix the problem, and not have to pay a dime out of our profit on the software. This makes both our company and Microsoft look great.”

LaGarde also notes that free phone support may be even more critical to his business in the near future as his company anticipates the release of some of Microsoft’s most pivotal products. “It’s obvious to us that as we begin to look at implementing our product solutions with Office 2000 and Windows 2000, as we are today with SQL 7, there’s going to be a learning curve. We are talking about a lot of new capabilities around messaging, integrating new applications into database engines – all things that will bring a lot of variables in the beginning. From our standpoint, Microsoft has really timed this new phone support perfectly.”

Business Critical Phone Support is just the latest in a vast assortment of resources provided through Microsoft Direct Access for technology providers. Direct Access, launched in 1997, was created to provide technology providers worldwide with free technical and sales and marketing tools to help them build their business on Microsoft solutions.

In addition to the new phone support offering and the online newsgroup support, Direct Access offers a number of other resources, including: Hands-On Training Kits and online sales centers that give technology providers an easy, cost-effective way to learn about, evaluate and distribute Microsoft technology; the Year 2000 Resource Center, designed to help technology providers develop business processes and consulting services to aid customers in addressing Year 2000 business issues; Direct Access quarterly briefings, local training events that give technology providers an opportunity to hear directly from Microsoft Corp. about current products, and new technologies and revenue opportunities; and the Direct Access Newsletter is a free weekly e-mail service that delivers the latest Microsoft channel-related news and information to more than 460,000 current subscribers.

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