IT Decision-Makers Speak Out

For many companies the primary goal of CRM is creating and maintaining customer loyalty. Walker Information, a research firm specializing in customer loyalty issues, has released a benchmark study that reveals the loyalties of IT customers. Walker polled more than 2,000 IT decision makers, influencers, and staff from corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government. Respondents were asked to evaluate the enterprise software, infrastructure software, network equipment, server, storage systems sectors.

Walker found that although 80 percent of respondents are "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with IT vendors, only about two thirds rate the overall quality of their suppliers' products and services as "excellent" or "very good." More than half of the respondents see the value of offered by their vendors as being "excellent" or "very good," and 58 percent rate the total cost of ownerships as moderate or better. Additionally, although two thirds of respondents would recommend their suppliers, only 38 percent plan to increase their business with those vendors. In fact, more than half have negative perceptions of the nontechnical customer service provided by their IT vendors. Customers are more satisfied with the purchase process itself, with 68 percent giving favorable ratings.

How do these perceptions translate into loyalty? Only 47 percent of IT customers are truly loyal to their IT vendors. In other words, these respondents plan to and want to do business with their current suppliers. Nearly one third of IT customers feel trapped in their business relationship. These respondents are likely to continue doing business with their current vendors, but are less than pleased with their existing relationship. And 21 percent of IT customers are at high risk for switching to the competition. These respondents have little intentions of continuing their supplier relationships and are unhappy with their vendors to date.

According to Jeff Marr, Walker Information's group vice president and a leading researcher on this study, IT buyers may not be overwhelming loyal because they often feel "they are at the mercy of the provider." Marr suggests that vendors who are in tune with customers' after-sale service needs, their strategies, and their usage cycles could earn more loyalty.

Another area that could affect loyalty is corporate image. Generally, respondents regard their vendors favorably in this area. Seventy-nine percent view their vendors as industry leaders and 71 percent believe their suppliers are innovative. Two thirds feel their vendors are financially sound and 69 percent agree that their suppliers are trustworthy. About half of respondents view their suppliers as having strong leadership.

Overall, the likelihood that respondents will remain with their current vendors is high. Only 20 percent of respondents plan to actively seek new suppliers, and only 29 percent are open to considering offers from competitors. Walker suggests that this may be due to the high cost of switching. But what it ultimately translates to is a full 75 percent IT customers plan to continue their supplier relationships.

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