Acer, Dell reject poor product label

Acer has rejected the claim that cheap may mean nasty after the release of a survey by market analyst, IDC, that rates the low-cost producer bottom for product quality.

The survey of large enterprise users of PCs stated that vendors must look at product quality and how they met the needs of their customers if they were to enjoy sales success in what IDC expected to be a stagnant year for the market as the desktop market matured.

The survey also found business users rated HP and IBM as best for quality, with Acer and Dell, bottom.

Acer marketing director, Raymond Vardanega, said he was extremely surprised at the survey.

He based his comments on sales growth and the company's own quality control methods.

Acer had grown rapidly over the past three years, Vardanega said. Quarterly notebook sales grew 50 per cent - three times the industry average.

He also also cited enterprise customers such as Hills Industries, Telstra, Australia Post, Woolworths and Energy Australia, all of whom "would vouch for quality or else they wouldn't be buying from us".

"Based on our very large roll-outs [of PCs], we have the best quality," Vardanega said.

Acer claimed to be the only major vendor to open and check every single PC, notebook and server, and it had a lower failure rate than other vendors.

"I attribute this survey to peceptions rather than reality," Vardanega said. "Very few customers have experience with every single vendor." While accepting that Acer came from a background as a "poorer performer" Vardanega said the vendor was addressing this perception by introducing customers to the Homebush, Sydney, assembly plant, which could produce 30,000 notebooks a month and was slated for expansion.

"We show customers where their PCs have been assembled and tested," he said. "We introduce them to other customers from a reference point of view. Our customer churn rate is so small. We have a lower failure rate and faster address rate than our competitors.

"In the last three years, we have shown we are a top three vendor and have beaten the top US brands with many customers. They [the American brands] spread fear, uncertainty and doubt to the customers, when it is not true. There is nothing else we can do because the proof is our success, the facilities and our customers."

Dell, number two in the Australian market, according to IDC, also cited its sales record to refuteg the survey.

"Quality is of paramount importance to Dell, as is ensuring our enterprise solutions match or exceed business needs," a spokesperson said. "Dell also collected two awards last year for our excellent customer service and support."

IDC's report focused on Desktop PC buying criteria, vendor preference, market trends, and forecast analysis affecting the enterprise market in Australia - firms with more than 250 PC users.

The key findings from this study were that the combined retail/wholesale and education/healthcare sectors will be the strongest areas of growth for the coming 12 months.

IDC found the top three Desktop PC purchase criteria for end-users in this market space were consistent product quality, ability of the product to meet customer needs and customer service and support.

It was critical for vendors to realise what these customer perceptions were and how important customer selection criteria was, IDC analyst, Mike Sager, said.

Acer and Dell rated well for value, Sager told ARN, but price was the fourth most important criteria for selection. Instead, Acer and Dell had to focus on higher positioned criteria, such as warranties and customer care.

Sager said Acer, with its fast-growing sales, should be very concerned about what end-users perceived.

Noting Dell, Sager said a direct sales model was not to blame for quality as HP still had a good reputation for quality, despite the fact its division HP Direct produced 40 per cent of HP sales in the US. But Dell did not score as well as HP and IBM for customer care - an issue that could be partly related to its channel method.

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