Dell extends proactive automated support to consumer PCs and tablets

Dell’s proactive support services have been a big hit in the channel, but this particular product is designed as a retail play, rather than for solution providers.

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Jim Roth, Dell’s Executive Director of the Support and Deployment Product Group

Dell has extended a version of its proactive support services, which had earlier been implemented on data centre products and then on commercial endpoints, to consumer endpoint devices. At this time, it is available in the U.S. and Canada.

Dell ProSupport Plus initially launched in April 2013 for Dell’s data centre products – servers, storage and networking. This February, it was extended to commercial PCs and tablets, a process which took more time because while the back end to launch this on Dell data centre products was there in 2013, the instrumentation for PCs and tablets took more time.

What differentiates this technology from other OEMs’ support services is Dell’s SupportAssist technology. Traditional support is reactive. The end user detects a problem on their system, and contacts either their IT department or the manufacturer depending on the company size, and troubleshooting begins. In contrast, with SupportAssist’s proactive support, if a failure takes place, the system will phone home, set up a ticket and send diagnostic support itself. The troubleshooting then begins with a knowledge of what the problem is, so that Dell support often has only to call the customer and confirm the address to send the part. The result is the customer spends far less time on the phone, and is up and running sooner.

The new consumer offering, termed Premium Support, does all this as well.

“It is 24/7 support and covers both hardware and software,” said Jim Roth, Dell’s Executive Director of the Support and Deployment Product Group. “Software is important in the consumer space, and our software coverage is more comprehensive than what ships in the factory. We get lots of Microsoft calls, and we handle those, as well as things like Quicken. It’s a one stop shop.

“The exciting angle is really the software element,” Roth added. “It turns support into a software business, not just parts.”

The service includes the 24/7 support, online, and through chat or phone access to Dell. It also covers onsite service for issues which cannot be resolved remotely.

Unfortunately, what it does not include is what Roth called the coolest part of the data centre and commercial endpoint Dell ProSupport Plus coverage – predictive support. Predictive support removes the downtime caused by the device failure entirely because it anticipates a hard drive or battery failure before it happens, and ships out a replacement part.

“What we are launching with this is the proactive not the predictive support, because the predictive support is only on ProSupport Plus, and we don’t have that tier for consumer products,” Roth said.

Premium Support starts at $39 per month on Inspiron models. Roth said that they expect that between 30 and 40 per cent of consumers would purchase the support, which is less than the commercial attach rate for this tier of support, but higher than the rate for the top tier commercial predictive support.

They will not likely be purchasing them from VAR partners however, because Dell views this as a product for the retail channel. Dell select retailer service cards are being launched for this in the U.S., and these will soon be announced in Canada as well.

ProSupport Plus has been a hit for Dell in the commercial space. The data centre program is 24 months old and is already a billion dollar business. While it initially started out as a large enterprise product, it has come quite a way down market.

“Even our smaller customers now want it, because the systems aren’t as easy as they used to be,” said Eugene Alfaro, CTO and VP of Engineering Services, at Silicon Valley-based partner Cornerstone Technologies.

Chris Kelleher, Director of Strategic Alliances for Dell at Insight, said that that ProSupport was a big seller for them.

“Customers love ProSupport Plus, and it’s important to us because you have to have that back end support,” he said. “It is something that started out in the Fortune 500, but now even a medium size K-12 organization is eligible.”

Kelleher also indicated that the relatively new extension of the service to endpoint clients is also doing well.

“Being on clients is valuable for us, and it has been very successful for us,” he said. “ProSupportPlus is a great brand.”