ShoreTel To Reward VARs For High Customer-care Marks

To lay the groundwork for the program, slated to roll out in early 2005, ShoreTel this quarter will begin surveying new customers through a third-party firm. Results of these surveys will comprise the baseline customer satisfaction statistics for the new program, said John Combs, president and CEO of ShoreTel, Sunnyvale, Calif.

"A customer's primary concern is, 'Will I be satisfied at the end of the installation?' My primary task is to help partners convince customers that they [will be]," Combs said.

Going forward, ShoreTel plans to survey new customers as well as existing customers that have reached the 12-month installation mark, he said.

The program likely will provide financial incentives to partners that meet the requirements, as well as "disincentives" to those that fall short, although ShoreTel is still working out the specifics, Combs said.

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ShoreTel joins competitors such as Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks in working customer satisfaction incentives into its partner program.

Solution providers said it will help differentiate partners. ShoreTel currently does not segment partners into tiers and offers the same discount to all members.

Sam Bishop, president of Totlcom, a Watsonville, Calif., solution provider, said ShoreTel's incentive program will finally spotlight partners that use their years of experience to keep customers happy.

"We have people who sit down [with customers] to go through, on an individual level, what each person, each department, needs to have on their phones," Bishop said.

While lauding ShoreTel as a customer-driven company, Chip Sulser, executive vice president at Datamart, a Wellesley, Mass.-based solution provider, is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the program. "It might be a little arbitrary, how they measure customer satisfaction," Sulser said.

As part of its push toward customer satisfaction, ShoreTel is also rolling out an individual demonstration certification. After participating in online training, sales personnel must submit a videotape of themselves performing a one-hour ShoreTel product demonstration. Those with qualifying scores receive the certification, which entitles partners to extra rebates.