CIOs Describe Like-Hate Relationships With Vendors

The least surprising result of this year's customer-satisfaction survey is that CIOs hate their telecom vendors. The most surprising is that companies that always rate badly have done little to improve customers' opinions of them.

CIO Insight's third annual vendor value survey raises all kinds of fascinating questions about the IT industry and its customers.

Does Apple Computer's rise to the No. 2 spot on this year's survey have something to do with its old-fashioned, vertically integrated hardware/software model?

Does SBC Communications' slump from No. 29 to No. 41 have something to do with its purchase of (and subsequent name change to) AT&T?

Why is the average rating for the category "Meets expectations for lowering costs" just 59 percent, the lowest of all the individual categories, and what can the IT industry do to improve that score?

Meanwhile, this year's survey demands some general observations on the current state of the industry, and how it can improve.

First of all, consider the telecom vendors. This underachieving group scored substantially below the norm in just about every category (though they did improve over last year's performance); in fact, only three-quarters of respondents said they'd stick with their current telecom vendor if given the choice.

No one, either on the consumer side or the corporate side, seems to like their phone company much—wired or wireless. The service is ghastly, the costs are high and the bills are incomprehensible.

Want to see how your vendors did in last year's survey? Click here: Are Your Vendors Providing More Value?

Worse, there's little choice, especially when dealing with the big incumbents. Is that why the RBOCs score significantly lower than the independents overall? And what is Sprint Nextel, the highest ranked telecom, doing right? Let's see: It scored much higher then the average of its group in two categories: "Flexible and responsive," and "Solves the business problem paid to solve." A word to the wise.

The survey also overturned one of my own expectations (or prejudices, if you will): my sense that hardware vendors would do significantly better as a whole than vendors of software. After all, hardware seems easier to install, account for and maintain, and CIOs, I assumed, should know what they're paying for. Yet the software vendors fared almost as well as the hardware guys. That suggests to me that software is getting better at delivering business value—after all, six of the top-ten companies on the overall list are software outfits.

We hope and expect that the survey will confirm some reputations, explode some prejudices, and generally be useful to vendors and customers alike as they look to meet each other somewhere in the middle.

This article was originally published on 12-05-2005
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