Matchmaker Service Helps VARs Service Remote CustomersBy Pedro Pereira | Posted 2005-08-12 Email Print
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A year-old New York firm is playing matchmaker to VARs that need technicians to answer service calls far from their own operations.With VAR-to-VAR partnerships becoming integral to the way the channel does business, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to try playing matchmaker.
Taking a cue from the eBay Inc. model of connecting buyers with sellers, New York-based ComputerRepair.com last year launched a Web-based service that matches channel companies looking for services with others that provide them.
ComputerRepair.com engages free-agent individual technicians as well as full companies.
The technician responding to the call shows up with a work order bearing the name of the VAR that the received original customer call. The work is done and the technician bills the VAR for the service, be it a simple desktop repair or something more complex.
The ComputerRepair.com system, developed by one of the company's founders, Gabe Miano, automates the ad hoc partnering process on which an increasing number of VARs and integrators has come to rely.
VARs have increasingly been partnering with other VARs to supply technical skills or geographic presence they lack, a trend that has become integral to many VARs' core business. The arrangements are a change from only a few years ago when the average VAR would have been leery of sharing customers with a competitor.
ComputerRepair has taken a page right out of the eBay policy book to ensure the work is done properly.
"When you close your service call, you rate the technician and the technician rates the provider as well," Leventhal said. Any service call that fails to satisfy the customer goes unpaid.
"We have a self-correcting marketplace. Anybody that's weak gets weeded out very quickly," he said. Satisfaction rates for the service are better than 99 percent, Leventhal said.
"It's worked out beautifully," said Rhett Butler, national director of field sales and operations for retail giant CompUSA Management Co., a ComputerRepair.com partner.
"We've experienced very high levels of customer satisfaction," he said. Exceptions, he added, "happen on occasion but very rarely."
ComputerRepair.com charges a set per-call fee, making its money strictly by connecting one party to another, not a percentage of the job or other more complex business plans.
"We charge $11 for a client to access our platform to find the technician and put a work order in, and run that work order through our entire system," said Robert Hausman, the company's chief operating officer and co-founder.
Only when ComputerRepair's clientthe VAR that receives the original customer callgives the nod based on the end-user customer's evaluation, does the company pay the technician, Hausman said.
All the arrangements take place electronically.
Even though the company has been in business only one year, Leventhal said it already has 3,000 channel companies as clients and 10,700 technicians in its matchmaking system.
ComputerRepair not only matches VARs with technicians in distant locations, but also gives them an opportunity cut down on their own technicians' idle time, Leventhal said.
When they don't have calls of their own, the companies can send their technicians on service calls for others in the system.
It was the struggle to balance technical staff utilization with appropriate staffing levels that compelled CompUSA to partner with ComputerRepair.com, said Butler.
Tapping into the ComputerRepair.com system allows CompUSA to respond to multiple calls simultaneously in locations where it may not have been possible otherwise, Butler said.
"I can have three events in North Dallas in one day and they will not cause a headache."
Terry Jackson, president of NuFocus Inc., Mishawaka, Ind., said he uses the ComputerRepair.com system 30 or 40 times a month. NuFocus applies the general contractor model to IT services, pulling together the necessary skills to handle a customer project, so the ComputerRepair.com system comes in handy, he said.
The system allows partners to view profiles and load profiles and prices, he said, which is helpful. But it has a limitation, which is the inability to pick specific technicians. So if you used someone in the past with whom you had good results, the system cannot guarantee you will get the same person in a future call, Jackson said.
Still, he said, ComputerRepair.com has a "fabulous model."