Ingram quick-quote helps automate service-contract renewals and repeatable revenue

An extension may make Ingram's services-contract-renewal site more effective by giving VARs quick price quotes, rather than causing days of delay.

Ingram Micro Inc. is expanding its effort to help partners increase their revenue and customer satisfaction at the same time by automating the awkward process of tracking and renewing service contracts.

The distributor has just gone live with a new price-quoting module from MaintenanceNet Inc., which provides the data-management and business intelligence underneath Ingram's Reseller Services Portal

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The Integrated Quoting Module (IQM) is a process-integration tool designed to help value-added resellers (VARs) sell and renew service contracts. It keeps track of the service contracts for a customer's equipment, and pulls up reminders that can help VARs sell renewals, or suggest replacements for older equipment, according to Justin Crotty, vice president of services for Ingram Micro.

IQM -- which MaintenanceNet will demonstrate at Ingram's VentureTech Network (VTN) services conference in Nashville this week -- is designed to simplify the process further by linking to Cisco's SmartNet connects directly to Cisco's contract-management application to provide a quote in real time as a salesperson works with a customer.

"There's a lot of money left on the table from poorly tracked service contracts," Crotty said. "Vendors aren't doing a good job of tracking that through the lifecycle of a product."

Those contracts are simple products, whose benefit is obvious to customers, that can become an easily renewable source of revenue, according to Scott Herron, CEO of MaintenanceNet.

"It's certainly an improvement on the traditional systems the VARs have had to contend with in the past, many of which they had to build themselves," according to Jeff Kaplan, analyst at THINKstrategies Inc. in Wellesley, Mass. "It's a good solution to meet the needs of companies such as Ingram. The pass-through sales can only help the VARs manage their inventories more effectively."

MaintenanceNet aggregates and scrubs data from vendors and resellers, collecting contract information, product serial numbers and other relevant data, and making it available to VARs who can then go to a customer and suggest renewals, or whole new packages of services, he said.

"We also provide, broken down by each customer, a list of their uncovered assets -- products that a customer didn't buy any service on," Herron said. "Cisco has an attach rate of 50%, and a little more than half of all [Cisco products] don't have services on them. We're going back to the VARs and they're getting 10% to 30% better conversion rates."

Even in their simplest form, service contract renewal reminders give salespeople a good reason to call on customers -- one that benefits the customer as well, according to Shelly Wanserski, inside sales coordinator with Minneapolis-based managed-services provider Agosto Inc..

"It's like car insurance "You wouldn't drive without it; if you have a server or a switch that goes down, and it's not covered, it's just as bad news," Wasnerski said. "It's not a primary source of income, but it adds up. And it's a positive revenue point. You're staying in touch with the customer."

Both Wasnerski and Crotty said the IQM is too new to predict any results. Crotty says that MaintenanceNet "does a great job helping us understand what contracts are out there, where the opportunity is to attach warranty maintenance on our outbound transactions."

Previously, VARs would have to list a customer's assets, send them to Ingram, which would confer with Cisco, which would return them to Ingram, thence to the reseller, thence to the customer, in a process that could take weeks.

"We'd go through an average of seven iterations of a services contract," Herron said.

It's too soon to say what the result will be, Crotty said. But, if overall services revenues should rise by 10% per year, service contracts automated through MaintenanceNet will rise much faster than that, he said.

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Let us know what you think about this story; email Kevin Fogarty, News Director.

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