Red Hat to focus on core products and service, says new CEO

Red Hat's new CEO plans to keep the company focused on its core Linux OS and middleware business while also improving the service it offers to customers.

Red Hat's new CEO plans to keep the company focused on its core Linux OS and middleware business while also improving the service it offers to customers, he said Thursday.

"It's a very exciting time for Red Hat, we have a very bright future in front of us. Our business model is strong and our growth remains very, very robust," said Jim Whitehurst, who was speaking in Tokyo during his third week in the job.

Whitehurst came to Red Hat from Delta Air Lines where he served as chief operating officer for two years. During that time he gained experience of being a customer of major IT vendors and says he knows well what is expected of companies like Red Hat.

"From a user perspective an absolute focus on service is critical. Based on talking to customers so far, one observation I have is that we need to re-double our effort working with our various partners in service," he said.

Because much of Red Hat's business is done through resellers and the channel, there can sometimes be disconnects in customer service. For example, Red Hat might end up telling a customer to contact the partner while the partner refers the customer back to Red Hat, he said.

But is Whitehurst the right man to be talking about customer service? After all, he came to Red Hat from an industry that is the subject of frequent complaints from its customers.

"I think airlines only beat out cable TV operators in customer satisfaction surveys so I'm certainly not going to defend the airline industry's record on customer service," he said. Experience at Delta taught him the need to pick a small number of things and do them well to improve overall satisfaction, he said.

"The Delta situation was the fastest major bankruptcy ever and during that situation our customer service numbers actually went up quite significantly. We did it by focusing on a couple of things. In the airline industry it's clean airplanes and on-time, those were the two things we focused on. I know those sound like two little things but they significantly impact the customer experience," said Whitehurst.

For Red Hat he said he is still working on which areas will be the priorities that he focuses upon.

"I understand the importance from the customer's perspective of excellent customer service in IT," he said. "As an industry, information technology is not known for excellence in serving our customers well and I have been adamant from day one that everything Red Hat does will be viewed through the eyes of the customer."

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