Siebel squelches rumours about customer satisfaction

CRM software maker Siebel Systems Inc. went on the offensive Wednesday in an effort to quash rumours that its customer satisfaction reviews were less than stellar.

The rumors stem from data contained in a confidential, Siebel-sponsored customer survey, which was unlawfully leaked to traders, analysts and reporters. Siebel scheduled a conference call after Briefing.com posted a note on its investment research site, referring to the leaked material:

"We are hearing chatter that an internal SEBL memo citing negative customer satisfaction reviews is floating around trading desks; however, we have not seen this memo and cannot confirm that it exists," the posting read.

Siebel executives confirmed that excerpts from its third-quarter 2002 customer satisfaction survey had been stolen and sent to select parties. The intent was malicious, the company said.

"Someone has taken, selectively, eight pages of the 75-page report, clearly marked ‘confidential,’ and over the past month systematically leaked it to members of the financial community, press and analyst community," said Nitsa Zuppas, senior director of public relations at Siebel. "It’s confidential, proprietary information. It was clearly stolen and leaked. It was a violation of the law, and we have the FBI looking into it."

The software maker didn’t dispute the authenticity of the leaked data, but says it was taken out of context. "We’re not perfect. No company is perfect. In any given survey what we’ve seen is a couple of problem areas," said Steve Mankoff, senior vice president of technical services at Siebel. Mankoff is responsible for Siebel’s customer care and quality assurance programs; he briefs the company’s executive management team as quarterly customer satisfaction survey results become available.

Mankoff stressed that overall, Siebel’s third-quarter 2002 customer satisfaction scores were extremely positive. "What’s happened is that some of the negative slides – the only negative slides, which were taken out of context of the message I was trying to deliver – are the ones that were basically stolen and leaked out," Mankoff said.

Mankoff then backed up his comments with ample evidence of positive feedback from Siebel customers.

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