Quality Awards III: IBM and Sun shine among tape libraries
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Rarely have we found technical support to be a differentiator in the Quality Awards surveys. This year, however, it was IBM's strong showing in technical support that put it into the winner's circle for enterprise products. Its 6.71 score was the highest of any product in any category and easily outdistanced Quantum's second-place enterprise rating of 6.23. Although Sun's 6.09 score certainly isn't trifling, the difference was enough to affect the overall outcome. For the statement "Vendor provides service as contractually specified," IBM users rewarded the company's service with a 7.10, the highest rating in our survey. Sun's ratings for service were solid, though not as spectacular as IBM's. Sun's score was dragged down by responses to the statement "Vendor's third-party partners are knowledgeable" (5.27).
Of course, establishing a good and ongoing working relationship with the customer is key to any technical support program.
"The same technical resource engineer who was with us in the StorageTek days is with us now with Sun," says LandAmerica's Kinsey. Meyer at AMP-Ohio reports similar experiences with his IBM System Storage TS3310: "If I need support, I know how to get to it; I know who to call," he says. Ken Sheffield, a project manager who works with MPS Group's Greatti, calls IBM's support engineers "the best of the best."
Sun had the highest
| rating for midrange products (6.62), followed by IBM (6.55) and Dell (6.08). IBM's midrange score for "The vendor provides service as contractually specified," nearly matched its enterprise score with a 7.08. Sun's best score in this category was a 7.07 for "Vendor's support personnel are knowledgeable." The lowest score for nearly every vendor was for "Vendor provides adequate training."
IBM was able to top the field in one final element of the survey. We ask respondents to tell us if, using hindsight, they would make the same purchase decision again. IBM had the highest positive response in both the enterprise (84.3%) and midrange (82.1%) categories. Quantum finished second to IBM in the enterprise category with an 83.9%, but tumbled to next to last among midrange tape libraries with a 70.3%. We were very surprised to see Sun score only a 68.6% positive response in this area for its enterprise products. We noticed that Sun scored very well in product-related areas (product features, initial product quality, product reliability) and less so in people-related areas (sales-force competence, technical support). This was just the reverse of IBM. Perhaps in mature markets, where product differentiation is less dynamic, it's the people that make the difference.
This was first published in March 2008