Keen competition on mainland forces computer maker to shift market focus With its Asia-Pacific enterprise sales on the rise, computer maker Dell has opened in the mainland the first of three support services hubs planned for the region. The new Dell China Enterprise Command Centre (ECC) has been set up in the coastal city of Xiamen, in Fujian. The centre is to provide high-level, around-the-clock-support for the company's server and storage systems customers on the mainland. The move to buttress its support services on the mainland follows a decision to focus more on selling to the business sector, where Dell posted a 41 per cent year-on-year increase in server sales in the second quarter. The Texas-based computer giant said last month it was concentrating less on the low-end personal computer market on the mainland, where it has experienced intense pricing pressure from Chinese PC suppliers, such as Lenovo and Langchao. Later this year, Dell plans to open an ECC in Japan. Another command centre is expected to come online early next year in a still unspecified location in the Asia-Pacific. The mainland launch last week came less than a year after Dell opened its first such facility in the United States. A European ECC, to open later this year, will be located in Limerick, Ireland. As these command centres opened, multinational corporate customers with operations inside the US were expected to have a better view of their operations around the world, said Gary Cotshott, Dell vice-president and general manager of its services division. Based on crisis-management best practices, Dell's ECC strategy relies on a set of advanced technologies to provide real-time tracking of customer issues, technicians and service parts. The command centres also use live weather and news feeds to identify and mitigate potential delays in customer service. By monitoring weather and traffic patterns, and other planned or unplanned events, teams of trained problem solvers can make parts and service delivery more efficient. In the US, Dell estimates that its ECC has helped to achieve a nearly 25 per cent improvement in resolving the company's initial customer issues since it opened last November. With a centralised base of operation in strategic locations, Dell's troubleshooting experts visually track and manage service delivery from beginning to end while helping to reduce reaction time and customer down-time during any number of critical situations. 'Our customers have benefited from Dell's ability to use tracking and mapping tools, enabling us to work around obstacles that might otherwise cause service delays,' Mr Cotshott said. US customers who have signed up with Dell's ECC programme include Boeing, ConocoPhillips and Eastman Chemical. International Data Corp group vice-president and general manager of information infrastructure at research, John McArthur, said: 'Service and support are critical factors in the supplier-selection process for computing hardware and software to run the business.' Also, Dell's ECC strategy would ensure the company was able to compete with IBM and Hewlett-Packard, both large global information technology organisations with more established computer hardware, software, research and development, and services operations in China and around the world. Dell started its direct-sales operations in a number of mainland cities in 1998, with manufacturing located in Xiamen. A year later, the company set up an Application Solution Center in Shanghai. The facility was designed to help Dell's business customers and independent software vendors in the mainland with proof-of-concept validation, performance tuning, application porting and benchmarking on Dell systems. Although IBM and HP were ahead in selling to China, Dell has managed to become competitive in recent years in the financial services, telecommunications, oil and petrochemical, manufacturing, education and government sectors.