Study: IT users lack loyalty to vendors

In a finding that may not surprise veteran IT industry observers, a nationwide U.S. study has found that less than half of IT users are truly loyal customers who want to continue to do business with their IT suppliers.

Walker Information of Indianapolis surveyed 2,259 decision makers, influencers and IT staff in August, and asked them to evaluate enterprise and infrastructure software, network equipment, servers and storage systems. Less than half of the respondents -- 47 percent -- indicated a desire to continue doing business with their current suppliers, while 29 percent felt trapped in that business relationship, and 21 percent said they plan to dump the vendor for someone else.

The study results show that corporate users have fairly high levels of satisfaction with vendors -- about 80 percent are generally satisfied. However, just 61 percent rate product quality positively, and only 54 percent 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 percent of IT decision makers felt trapped, 30 percent 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 50 percent 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 percent rated non-technical customer service positively, while 17 percent rated it negatively (the remainder were neutral). Technical support received less than stellar marks from this group as well, with 49 percent positive and 19 percent negative.

Finally, in what may be a sign of a time when corporate malfeasance is splashed across the newspapers, just 36 percent believe the companies with which they do IT business are highly ethical.

Walker Information can be found at www.walkerinfo.com.

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