A recent U.S. study found that less than half of IT users are truly loyal customers who want to continue to do business with their IT suppliers.
Of the 2,259 decision-makers and IT staff surveyed, only 47 per cent said they plan and want to do business with their current suppliers.
The survey, conducted in Aug. 2002 by Indianapolis-based Walker Information, revealed that 29 per cent of respondents were likely to continue doing business, but were less than pleased in terms of the relationship. And 21 per cent have low expectations of continuing to do business with their current suppliers and identify themselves as being unhappy to date.
Maureen Mottonen, group vice-president of research for Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., said this survey, if conducted in Canada, might have yielded much different results.
“The relationship aspect is more important to Canadian buyers. The weight a Canadian buyer would put on (the buyer/vendor relationship) is greater than that of the U.S.,” she said.
One reason Canadian buyers might have more loyalty to their software vendor is that conservative budgets make decision-makers want to be more sure the solution fits before buying, Mottonen said. This extra consideration and evaluation time may lead to better satisfaction with the products purchased.
The IDC study results show that corporate users have fairly high levels of satisfaction with vendors – about 80 per cent are generally satisfied. However, just 61 per cent rate product quality positively, and only 54 per cent are positive about the value offered by the products.
The companies evaluated most often were Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Dell Computer Corp., Oracle Corp., 3Com Corp., Adobe Systems Inc. and Seagate Technology LLC. Walker vice-president Marc Drizen declined to disclose how the customer satisfaction and loyalty levels broke out for specific vendors.
However, Walker did note some differences among the IT product sectors. Software vendors may have a real challenge improving relationships with their customers: Their products are seen as having erected more barriers that keep users from switching vendors, and software costs were rated most burdensome. Networking equipment suppliers won the highest ratings for quality and value.
When the survey results are broken out by type of respondent, they indicate that the people responsible for implementing and managing the technology are more keenly sensitive to lock-in issues than those who made the buying decision. While 26 per cent of IT decision makers felt trapped, 30 per cent of IT staff indicated that they can’t walk away from their existing systems.
Drizen noted that the decision makers are also slightly more loyal than the overall survey group, with half indicating loyalty, which may be because they were the ones to choose the vendor in the first place, he said.
IT staff were also least sanguine about the quality of service and support. Only 45 per cent rated non-technical customer service positively, while 17 per cent rated it negatively (the remainder were neutral). Technical support received less than stellar marks from this group as well, with 49 per cent positive and 19 per cent negative.
Finally, in what may be a sign of a time when corporate malfeasance is splashed across the newspapers, just 36 per cent believe the companies with which they do IT business are highly ethical.
Walker Information can be found at http://www.walkerinfo.com.
– With files from Victoria Berry