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Ingram Micro offers outsourced call-center services to partners

Ingram Micro wants to make life easier for partners by offering outsourcing services, including outsourced call-center services, financing, accounting and sales, to partners and vendors. Some VARs say the offering is better suited to smaller VARs that don't need the help.

Ingram Micro Inc. announced this week that it is expanding the business outsourcing services it offers to its value-added resellers (VARs), vendors and other partners.

The company plans to play matchmaker between channel companies interested either in outsourcing their own call-center and other services or in reselling the services of an outsourcing services provider. Ingram Micro plans to offer outsourced call-center services, finance and accounting, purchasing and sales support, and promotional and event support.

Ingram Micro executives said the services are an offshoot from the company's own experience outsourcing its internal functions to service providers in North America and in more than 10 countries overseas. A statement announcing the plan, released in April 2005, said it would affect or eliminate the jobs of 550 U.S. workers and save between $10 million and $25 million in operating costs per year.

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"What we started two years ago was our own internal outsourcing strategy that encompassed three different locations in the U.S. and Canada," said Rich Donohue, vice president of strategic development and execution for Ingram Micro North America. "That strategy consisted of the successful redeployment of over 500 different tasks scaled over 30 different departments. What we used as our own internal outsourcing strategy is what we are now offering to our partners and our vendors," Donohue said.

Among the tasks VAR partners can tap into are outsourced call-center services that can support inbound and outbound sales, customer service and technical support. Financial, purchasing and sales services include routine accounting and ledger work, sales support, purchase orders and invoice processing, promotional tasks and warranty services.

Southwick, Mass.-based Whalley Computer Associates Inc. signed up two months ago, asking Ingram Micro to arrange outsourced call-center services to follow up 2,000 emails promoting Whalley's Hewlett-Packard Co. blade server and storage networking services.

"The outbound telemarketing company in Manila that Ingram Micro utilizes made outbound calls to follow-up on all those emails," Paul Whalley, vice president of Whalley Computer Associates, said. "The emails were sent three times and the calls were made three times, and from that we received seven opportunities that we expect will close."

"There is no question that the cost of telemarketing from their people in Manila was less expensive than the telemarketing that I've done with other companies here," Whalley said.

While the outsourced call-center services are attractive, most of the financial and other business-process outsourcing services are more suited for smaller VARs who need accounting, promotional and other services, Whalley said.

"I just don't see that this outsourcing program is going to apply for larger partners," agreed Rich Baldwin, president of San Diego-based Nth Generation Computing Inc., an Ingram Micro partner.

According to Baldwin, successful VARs manage without outsourced call-center, marketing, financing and promotional services, which are often done more effectively in-house than by a third party.

"I think if you were to talk to the VARs that are really successful in the industry, you're going to find that they all do most of these things better than the distributor," Baldwin said.

In the meantime, Ingram Micro executives said the company will be offering the program immediately to partners who want to take up the offer, and will help manage the relationship between partners and the outsourcing services provider.

Fees are based on the needs and requirements per engagement, the company said.

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