What Brand Means.

I spent a good portion of a weekend a few weeks ago with a customer that was having a quality problem. There’s no point in going in to the nature of the customer or the problem, but suffice it to say it was a bad problem, and by far and away the most expensive kind: one that put the customer’s brand at risk. For those that deliver service via the network (or free software), brand is all you’ve got. It’s not an asset, it becomes the asset.

The quality problem I mentioned was customer specific, and had a very real impact on tens of thousands of consumers. And lest it go unsaid, I was really proud of our Services team. They managed the unmanageable, they guided everyone through the unexpected (me, even). They understood what Service meant, they understood the customer’s brand, and they understood the role Sun played in fulfilling it.

The saying goes, “a brand is a promise.” On a personal level, I’ve always felt that statement was incomplete. A promise is the lowest common denominator of a brand – it’s what people expect. Think of your favorite brand, whether search engine or sneaker or coffee shop or free software, and you’ll know what I mean – a brand is an expectation. If you experience anything less, you’re disappointed. A promise seems like table stakes.

But a brand must go beyond a promise. To me, a brand is a cause – a guiding light. For fulfilling expectations, certainly, as well as dealing with the ill-defined and unexpected. It’s what tells your employees how to act when circumstances (and customers) go awry, or well beyond a training course. My first real experience with that was a personal one.

I was married in 1999. It was a small wedding, presided over by family, in a house in San Francisco. It was the best party my wife and I have ever thrown for ourselves. I heartily recommend throwing a good wedding.

After the ceremony, we gathered up our friends, and drove over to the hotel where we’d booked a suite. We had it all planned out, an evening with our friends, a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, a night in the city before leaving town. They even had a package deal for honeymooners.

We arrived at the hotel, mingled with our friends for a while (I in a tux, my wife still holding the bouquet she forgot to toss), and walked up to the reservation desk after a half hour or so. I said “Hi, we’re here to check in, last name is Schwartz.” Bear in mind, this is long before my name had any value in San Francisco (unless you were a total geek).

The guy at the front desk crinkled his nose, looked at his computer, then looked back at me – “sorry, we’re full up.” I didn’t know what to say, I figured it was a friend playing a prank. So I said, “You’re hilarious. But I have a reservation. We have your honeymoon suite, we just got married.” He said, “Nope, sorry, no more rooms, looks like we over booked, really apologize.” And after taking a few minutes to gather my sanity (and lower my blood pressure), I asked if he could help us find another room or other accomodations. He said, “Nope, but good luck, if you come back in a week or so we’ll definitely have space.”

Uh, right.

So we went to another hotel. Just down the road, we ended up marching in at 10:30 at night, in full wedding garb, still. The restaurant was closed, as was the bar. Everything was. And I went up to the clerk at the front desk and asked if they had any room. He was kind enough to notice the wedding dress, and asked if we’d been at a wedding – I explained yes, I’d just gotten married, and he said he’d take care of everything.

He opened the lobby, turned on all the lights, and recruited a couple employees to reopen the bar, and make us feel at home. They served us until the wee hours of the morning, put up with our noisy reunion, then put my wife and me in a beautiful room, and found other rooms for our friends. They managed to put a handwritten note in our room, “Congratulations,” it said, next to a bottle of champagne. I don’t remember what they charged us – I remember feeling like it was nowhere near their going rate. The following morning, fresh faces at the checkout desk somehow knew to offer their best wishes.

Needless to say, I will now go out of my way to stay in their hotels. I recommend them to my friends. I am a huge fan. Even when their brand breaks their promise, I dutifully fill out my room survey to help them improve. I want them to win, I’m an evangelist. It’s not a promise, it’s a cause. They are the white hats, I’m on a mission to see them succeed.

The other guys? The other hotel? I never think of them. I don’t bad mouth them, life’s too short for that. I just don’t care. I simply reciprocate the attitude of that clerk seven years ago. Careless indifference.

What’s a brand?

It’s not a logo, an ad campaign or a money back guarantee. At minimum, it’s a promise that helps to define those items. Beyond that, it’s a cause that gives definition to the ill-defined, that tells you how to deal with the unexpected or the uncomfortable. It’s what motivates you to hire that fellow at the front desk, and to foster his instinct to feel, “Eureka, I found an opportunity to build an evangelist!”

That’s not about money or resources or training or contracts. It’s a cause. One your employees – and more critically, your customers – willingly join.


Filed under General

44 responses to “What Brand Means.

  1. Aw, come on. Please share, not the bad experience hotel, but whats the brand of the good experience hotel?

  2. Speaking of brand, one of your very-visible long-term supporters is getting pretty fed up with the inability to get the machines he wants to order:
    Getting Fed Up With Sun: Can’t Get Systems, Breaking Existing Ones
    As far as I know, this isn’t the first time that Joyent has had issues trying to do nothing more than purchase machines.
    Ben is probably the biggest Sun cheerleader and “fan boy” that I know of, and a situation like this has to be pretty bad for him to talk about it publicly.

  3. Ditto. They did a great job – give them some love so I know where to stay in the city. 🙂

  4. I was wondering when you’d get involved in “the Twitter performance issue”. 🙂 It’s easy for me to see that the Twitter issue is not reflecting well on the Joyent name, and then to some extent, also doesn’t reflect well on the Sun name. Because the relationships between all these companies is pretty well known. Even though neither Joyent nor Sun may be in any way a source of any issues; or even can affect any issues. Still, the names are linked …

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately, those of us who deal with Sun bureaucracy and decision makers usually feel that like we’re staying at the wrong hotel.

  6. Certainly a passionate story and one that evokes inner meaning….but passion does not equal success (or profits or anything else)….passion for a cause (in your explanation the feeling a brand gives) is simply that passion for a brand. Sure passion helps get new customers and retain old ones, sure passion helps get quality employees, sure passion breeds long lasting relationships with partners……but that certainly doesn’t mean that a company can manage their finances well…..and it doesn’t mean that a company has useful relevant products for the markets they are targeting….or at all.
    Most passionate people/groups accept the fact that things they are passionate about have a unique audience, an audience that is usually small, yet easily sustainable. Most any artist knows this (be it a painter, a poet, or a sculptor). On a rare occasion you get passion + a large audience….that is very rare! Walt Whitman, Michelangelo, and Microsoft are all examples of this rarity….

  7. Well, Sun’s brand promise is very similar to what DEC’s used to be – excellent software and hardware, but completely mismanaged company.
    I am trying to buy an Ultra 40M2 for home (I’d like to use the 8-drive capacity to set up a ZFS RAID server for my home storage needs). For my company orders, I just don’t want to deal with Sun and hand over my business to a VAR who knows how to navigate through Sun’s abysmally dysunctional business processes, but in this case it’s not really an option.

    First of all, your site wouldn’t even allow me to log on yesterday all day. How can you maintain any credibility when you talk about RAS, scalability and availability when you can’t even keep your own storefront open on a Monday? The NOT in not-com indeed.

    Now, after managing to add the item to my cart (after ignoring the multiple SSL/non-SSL mismatch warnings, how amateurish can you get?), I try to click on the checkout button. I get an empty page. Well, not quite empty – it does have the Sun banner, and the feedback footer, but nothing in between. How am I supposed to make my purchase?

    This is a recurring pattern with Sun, and it’s amazing your company is still alive despite such epic levels of incompetence at so many levels.

    Want more evidence? Read this:


  8. Ben

    I think you need to remember that applies to Sun itself too. Too often a bad experience with some Sun Software makes it difficult to justify further investment in Sun infrastructure, or worse – a previously good hardware platform is made *less useful* by a new hardware revision without any real reason or explanation. Often the brand is tainted by difficulty in obtaining equipment or documentation – something I’ve experienced from Sun at times.
    I think Ben Rockwood (see http://www.cuddletech.com/blog/pivot/entry.php?id=808) said it more eloquently:
    “I want X4100’s, NOT M2 BULLSHIT. I want lots of them and I want them quickly. I want a SunSolve worth paying for. I want a docs.sun.com that has been updated and more easily navigated than what we had 5 years ago. And most of all, I don’t want to keep hearing that Dell doesn’t have these problems!!! Damnit Sun, lets get it together and fix these things and lets do it NOW.”
    The Sun brand is a great one most of the time, but there are times when certain parts of Sun let the others down, and I think that’s a real shame.

  9. Anon

    What a timely post. As a shareholder I hope your sales and service organizations dont take a ‘not built here’ attitude when it comes to supporting customers who adopt the new APL servers.

  10. Hi Jonathan,
    It is an excellent definition for BRAND. Thanks for illuminating.

  11. As ever Jonathan you hit the nail on the head. I imagine it’s no coincidence then that Sun’s steady, reassuring stream of F/OSS announcements do a very good job of delivering on the promises that Sun’s brand makes.
    I haven’t bought a Sun product for a few years now, but the attitude of the people I encounter working for Sun; the Open Solaris Starter kit I’ve just received and the fact that my Ultra5 is still running well and making itself useful after all these years all leave me feeling like the time when I’ll coming back for more won’t be far away.
    Congrats on the up-coming 25 year celebration and keep up the good work…

  12. Bill. Wizo

    i enjoyed reading your post. i hope i enjoy after hours on the 24th of April.

  13. sms

    I read that story from Joyent and was stuck by the “I don’t want to buy from a VAR because we could be a VAR if we wanted to” or something along those lines.
    Joyent at some time in their operating experience may well become a VAR and one for Sun. Joyent appears to have the experience and seems to have the needed know-how to be a good VAR.
    Brand is a commitment to the entire Value Chain of which the customer is the most important but VARs are customers of Sun and Sun considers VARs one of their most important assets; hence they try not to compete with their VARs.
    Now turn this situation around and lets suppose that Joyent is the VAR and a customer wants to bypass the VAR (Joyent) to get a better price and price is their only concern. After all (Joyent) does not add any value and can not justify their inflated price. Now Joyent is a valued Sun customer and Sun has promised that through cooperation that Joyent will be responsible for customers of a certain size and order. Company Iwanna decides they want to purchase Sun because of certain reasons and can purchase through Joyent but Iwanna wants a better price and wants Sun to change their operating mode with a valued VAR.
    Sun’s brand is at stake. Their customer Joyent expects and deserves that Sun live up to it end of the bargain. After all Joyent has provided that extra service or Value Added Service that has increased Sun’s value to its common customers with Joyent.
    Iwanna insistent that it deal with Sun and Sun alone and that Sun extend all its preferred pricing to Iwanna thus Iwanna puts Sun in the position where it must choose between it Valued VAR and Iwanna who wants to focus on price.
    This is a non-contest the VAR should be respected and serviced first; Iwanna should become more realistic or go elsewhere. If Iwanna believes that Sun, Dell and others are interchangeable on price then Iwanna should go where they get the best price. If Iwanna cannot see any difference between these machines except for price then Iwanna should go about their business and be happy. Iwanna tried to try and bypass Sun representative, Joyent in this case, and Sun directed them back to their representative. If Iwanna believes that a Sun should break their promises to their valued VARs, who are partners as well as customers, then Iwanna is trying to deal with the wrong company for any Company that breaks their word to their “partners and customer” to pick up any business has no concept of what Brand means.
    Not only that, they would have no concept of what loyalty and commitment means. In which case I would be asking the question “What type of Company am I dealing with” for any Company so willing to break contractual and trust arrangements with their VAR is not a company to do business with.
    The fact that Sun stand behind their VARs, easily show that Sun will stand behind their other partners such as Fujitsu.
    That’s my 2 cents.

  14. [Trackback] Jonathan Scwartz, CEO/President of Sun Microsystems, has some sage advice about your brand. Your brand is a lot more than you think it is. This is the best advice on the topic that I have ever seen.

  15. Jonathan,
    Appropriate for this issue,
    “Branding Iron, Messrs. Hughes and Jeanes, ISBN: 0-933199-04-0, Publish Date: 2007.”
    Today, ‘Perception is Reality!’, unfortunately such reality typically lacks supporting premise.

  16. Kevin

    If you’re going get the red-shifting customers, I guess you need to keep people like Joyent happy since they are an exemplar of such. Time to “open up the bar, and let them dance into the wee small hours”? Sounds like your X4100 servers with Intel NICs are “fully booked”.

  17. Will

    Sniff, Sniff….that was very touching.
    No other company in the industry, save for IBM (maybe), has the breadth of technology, services,expertise, hardware, and software (and free at that!!) you possess. My praise is real and beyond reproach ….but so is my criticism.
    Now if someone, perhaps you or one of your minions, could fix what’s really wrong with Sun.
    The enormous amount of unnecessary red tape facing the reseller channel.
    It takes weeks for us to get pricing, and God forbid we forget to “dot an eye” somewhere along the way…..Well, then its back of the line with ‘ya and the whole process starts over again.
    Its just so hard to get anything done, and frankly, sales people are predators. They seek to maximize their return (margins, customer satisfaction etc…) on products that burn the least amount of calories (cycles in computer speak). Margins are a whole separate rant….stay tuned.
    I’ve come to the realization that a shadow government, if you will, exists within the Sun empire. Mind you, it is not the individuals who work there, it is the system they’ve inherited.
    I defy anyone with any real power to change things to sit down with one of our sales reps, follow a ficticious (or real for that matter) sales opportunity through the maze (malaise would be a better word) that is the channel and look me in the eye and say “it is efficient”.
    Bet you a dollar…….
    solaris AT cablespeed DOT com

  18. Come on Jon… If you _really_ understood blogging you would have named the good hotel (and linked to them). It would have made your message better.

  19. Aron

    Yes indeed, Brand is very much as you describe. When I was new(ish) into IT I worked for a director who just loved Sun products – the software, the servers, his workstation was a Sparc, and goddam those things just ran forever. The only issue was when he eventually rebooted the servers he couldnt remember all the tweaks he did over the past year 🙂
    Anyway his delight in Suns products stuck with me, and now with things like open source Solaris, open source Java – it is icing on the cake. As you know thin and fat clients were destined to take turns at dominance and I predict next year the pendulum will swing towards Swing on the desktop, and with it the Sun Brand will continue to prosper.

  20. Very inspired by your article. Just a question, how do you make a whole corporation of employees be able to deliver those promises they made and to improve Sun’s brand?

  21. Ryan

    This past year I have become very passionate about everything Sun after working with Sun App Server 9, NetBeans 5.5, reading about your hardware and Solaris 10. Your support staff have been incredible. Most support I receive has been quick, and free (mailing lists). Once two Sun engineers offered to VNC into my computer to understand the issue I was having so that they could make the product easier to use and create better tutorials. They spent two hours with me at no charge, solved my problem, and wow’d the whole office. What surprised me was that I could not buy a support contract. My initial request was passed around through a few people then forgotten for a month until I complained. It was then passed through maybe another ten people, I talked to at least four on the phone, and nobody knew who could help me. They passed me onto the next person, who passed me on to the next etc… I plan on buying some hardware within the next 6 months to see what it’s like. Hopefully that purchase won’t be such an ordeal. That issue asside, I love what you have done with the company and products, I bought some shares, and am looking forward to working with your products long term.

  22. I’m beginning to think I’m booking into the wrong Sun hotel TBH. Repeated support issues/failures have annoyed management to a level that is hard to solve (issues largely resolved finally but trust has been lost). Now, with the split of msging from JES it’s looking like a 300% increase in our license cost for the next year (waiting for the final paperwork on this but it’s not looking good).
    Exchange here we come :-((

  23. Anonymous

    Brand is very important in today’s world as many individuals buy based on brands. That is why it is unfortunate that Sun does not put the resources in place to get their brand to the masses. AS Sun transitions to the SMB space their brand is not strong. Most “mom and pops” that I contact and mention Sun either don’t know what I’m talking about or say Sun is not in that space. Here is a GAP that needs to be addressed if you truly want to target this space going forward.

  24. Jeff Brennan

    Your post couldn’t be more timely.
    Last night, Intuit/TurboTax had their eBay moment. At 9PM CST, I tried to file my 2006 taxes (spare me the lecture my father has already provided on waiting until the last minute to do something) and TurboTax gave me something close (my version) to the following:
    “We’re sorry but due to the amount of demand for our service, we are currently unable to file your 2006 return. Please quit the service and try again after 4AM PST. Please do not call our customer service line because we can’t do anything about the problem and we’re not that interested in your complaint. Would you like to file an extension (which we can’t do electronically either)?”
    I would have copy/pasted it to provide the actual quoted text, but I was so befuddled, I couldn’t move my mouse correctly.
    Needless to say, the “cause” that TurboTax and I have shared since 2001 has been diminished.
    Please call the Sun Intuit sales team and have them ask the customer if they know how to spell scalability. Use my email if needed.

  25. Gil

    Bill gives out guest surveys…..there’s 3 brands Sun might weave into the family….Greenplum, MySQL, EnterpriseDB…..hum and maybe Looksmart to distribute StarOffice downloads….ah la Google with their just announced spreadsheet. SavaJe has SeeBeyond potential, excellent choice JS

  26. Very good entry on “Brand”, but lack of execution.
    I request a “Branding” for the next entry.

  27. A really well written piece on brand. Meeting customer expectations means keeping your brand steady. If you want to build brand you need to exceed customer expectations. And if you aren’t interested in building brand, you shouldn’t be in business.
    I have similar stories about a certain hotel where the cleaning staff made a real difference (they put my colleague’s beer on ice while we were out at a training course). And I know Sun has pulled out the stops for the company I work for on a number of occasions, leaving me with a positive image of Sun. And your team has done a good job on follow up even on smaller issues (although maybe it’s true to say there are no smaller issues because they stick in people’s minds just as much as the big issues).
    On the other hand, one of your competitors has a great “configure it yourself” website, but has under delivered a couple of times so I won’t trust them anymore for my PC purchases. You guys interested in selling PC laptops?

  28. PJ

    Just like Ben Rockwood I have been evangelizing about Sun and its products within our company but there comes a time when Sun needs to deliver it too. It has great products (Solaris, Java, NetBeans, etc.) but horrible support (sunsolve and 1st level Sun support really suck).
    Why is it so difficult to make an intelligent informed decision about Sun HW products? For example what do we need: x86 or SPARC machines (depends on the workload is not the correct answer especially when we are being charged top $$$). Similarly why should we shell out a minimum of $10K for a Storagetek 2500 when I can get away with a JBODs and ZFS. Productizing a SUN HW server is time consuming because of the QA process and ending a product line especially a popular product line just does not make sense.
    — PJ

  29. its a very good article. but, how can you deliver the message to all your employees and expect them to follow it all the time. different people will have different attitudes at different times of the day, and when the number of employee is large in an establishment, its difficult for the management to maintain there standards. I would like to see you walk in to that hotel (the bad one) and advice that person about his mistake . that would make you a good corporate citizen. Its a very good article and it showed me my mistakes.

  30. The only “Sun Hotel” is Ricky’s Hyatt.
    If your badge # is < 10,000, you know what I mean.

  31. Anonymous

    poor explanation of Brand !

  32. SUNW Private Investor

    [Yawn]. Is it over yet? We can talk all day about branding and customercentric theories, but when I hear customers can’t get the right product at the right time from employees with the proper knowledge and authority to deliver…well, you can understand my feeling of living in the penthouse of the Hotel California for years.
    As a shareholder for years, I’ve stuck with this same hotel (aka house of pain). Oh, I’ve been inspired by the remodeling recently, but some of the same old-management issues still swirl. Like I argued a bit ago, the flies would come from the KKR deal and PIPE financing–bring nothing of value for shareholders rather countless days of churning the stock, marking it lower and lower. After all, how else does Wall St. perpetuate its record quarterly trading profits after such a nice run in the general markets? Response: It takes a stock like SUNW and squats its big fat resources on the bid or ask as necessary to suit itself. It has nothing to do with fundamentals or even sentiment. From the day the deal closed it’s been easy going…all downhill from a high of $6.78. In fact, if you listen to Wall St. (I don’t) they’ve already prepared enough cable to rest the stock price on the bottom…right next to the Kursk. Then…do it again.
    Look, I read and enjoy your blog. In fact, when I don’t reply it’s simply confirmation of general acceptance and content. But when matters require a shot straight from the hip, I’m chiming-in. Quick and to the final point. As a long-term, private investor with several million in in the game, tell me…when will we (you and I) spend a good portion of a weekend discussing a “quality of investment” problem?
    Regards – SUNW Private Investor

  33. Gumbo

    CEO Jon..
    You sounded like you read my comment before. I have no quarrel with your present blog. Take in all your good services and a smile, and your customer will remember you always! It will STILL be better if you start making money and YOUR SHAREHOLDER will remember you always, too! You can take all in and you will be more satisfied than to just leave your shareholder out of the loop or, should I say network ( is the computer)! Just do not rub your shareholders the wrong way! You know the right way, the only way!!

  34. Gary C

    Great story.
    I think you may have BASM as Mr. Kobrick might conclude.
    As a long suffering stockholder that’s very encouraging.
    Best wishes,
    Gary C.

  35. JoAnn Garcia

    I received a customer escalation from a frontline employee within the GSC today. Customer was upset and wanted to speak with a manager about their on-line purchasing experience for Staroffice 8. We charged, but did not deliver.
    The gentleman opened up his conversation by asking me, if I had read our CEO’s blog on Brand? I shared with customer that the blog had been brought up in a meeting I was in the past three days and I planned to do just that. The conversation that proceeded was one of the most gratifying customer escalations I have had to deal with in my career. Customer shared openly how much he loves Sun. He’s an advocate and he wanted to provide us an opportunity to fix the bad buying experience. Imagine that! I took all the pertinent information, gave customer my name, advised customer they’d receive an email from me summarizing our call. And a promise to contact customer tomorrow by 1pPST with an update. I owe this customer experience.
    What timing! I just participated in a 3 day Hello Sun sunshot, Day 1 reviewed Brand Identity. I couldn’t agree more with your BLOG. We must have the coolest CEO on planet earth! Oh BTW, the guy who reviewed Brand Identity sported a ponytail, too. :^)

  36. a

    I don’t seem to understand why the company on one side reaches a certain high with all the innovations, world class products, positive attitude and on the other hand ends up side stepping all of that by getting into situations like the one with joyent. It seems that tsomehow, the last mile execuition is not at par.

  37. Jonathan ,
    I think you got brand and relationship mixed up. You go to the hotel and recommend it because you have a good relationship(as a result of your experience) with the Manager there. Consider that the Manager was to leave and the Manager from the stinker hotel was to join your fav hotel as a manager would you still go to the same place ?
    This is the way I look
    1. Brand is a promise for a new entrant to a market. example when I moved to California I started wearing a lot of jeans. Not being a Jeans buyer earlier I choose Levis just because it has the brand a promise of being the best.
    2. Once the customer is establised the brand can be an expectation -if the promise was delivered , and the expectation will move to other products from the same brand, example shirts from Levis,etc
    3. But most likely it is the relationship to the place you buy – in terms of routine stop at sears , you know the store manager or some other wierd relationship like there is a good restaurant in the neighbourhood that will make you buy from the same place.
    The role of Brand is to maintain the customer relationship via association , expectations and promise but the human interaction in a sale can negate or elevate the brand to the next level

  38. Kelvin Huang

    In a certain way, I agree with your view about Brand. I had a similar experience and it’s also about hotel. We went to Ottawa and Quebec last year. I made reservation one month ahead due to the travel season. We had some wonderful time in Ottawa and arrived at Quebec City around 10PM. With no patient, the receptionist told me that my name is not on the book list, he claimed that he couldn’t do anything since the hotel was full. I drove along the city, all hotels were full. My 7-month old son started crying, we stopped in front of one motel to change diaper for him. I knocked their office door and asked for some hot water. The motel was full as well. Fortunately, one guest hasn’t checked in yet, but the owner (it’s a family motel business) told me that he can’t give it to us unless the guest doesn’t come before 12AM. That’s why he still kept the door open and he was waiting for the guest. I checked time and there was about 1 hour left. So I decided to look around then come back if I still couldn’t find a place (I thought we would be doomed if the guest checked in). It’s dark and I lost my way back to the motel when it’s about 12AM. The owner told me that the guest didn’t come and he helped me to find my way back. Its 2AM by the time we arrived at the motel. It’s a single room and I was sleeping on the floor, but I was very happy because my baby had a good rest.

    I will definitely go to the motel if I would travel to Quebec again, and I recommended it to all my friends. They built their brand and reputation beyond the promises and services they provide to their customers.

    I would like to bring up one issue at this point. I sent two emails to Prometric two weeks ago, and I didn’t get any response back yet, which makes me think about IBM and Lenovo. I waited more than one month to get one DVD disk for my notebook. It a good approach to do business with professional partners in certain areas. But it seems that those partners can suck your reputation away with the poor services they provided (maybe caused by the gap?).

    The problem is that I have two accounts in Sun certification database: one account has SCJP certification registered in China, and new account registered in Canada with SCBCD and SCWCD passed records (SCEA I passed and SCJWS failed records as well), I didn’t get my certifications due to the account issue. I know I can solve the problem by myself with $200 and a few weeks time to pass SCJP for my new account, but I don’t want to do things that I don’t have to at this moment. For now, I don’t even know with whom I should contact since I got no response from Contact Us.

    Anyway, I hope SUN’s brand can be reflected by your/SUN’s actions on this matter…

  39. Anantha

    I’m glad you (Mr. Schwartz) brought about this subject. I’m an avid Sun fan (my previous comments to your blog will shed light on that bias).
    Along this line I can unequivocally state that the Sun Online Service (http://www.sun.com/service/online) is the most broken system I’ve ever seen. We’ve multiple Sun servers procured over a period of time with 3 years prepaid Platinum support nothing less would be acceptable for us.

    The website functionality is completely broken. For a company preaching single sign-on, the authentication between Online Service portal and SunSolve is completely broken. The Online Service portal is slower than molases in winter (Sun Store is no F1 race car either.)

    In this Web 2.0 age the two most important customer facing websites: store and support are a total disappointment. As such your brand will suffer for the front desk (website) is pretty useless.

  40. ?

    Jonathan, you still owe us the “I love Solaris T-shirt” from CEC? So, what’s a brand? A brand is as good as the people behind it. Keeping a promise, treating employees just and fairly, and most importantly, a good customer experience. You always talk about these things in your blogs but the reality at Sun is not like that. Customers are not happy, employees are afraid to express descending opinions…fearing retribution from their direct manager. Customer are unhappy because they are placed on-hold trying to reach someone for support or not getting a prompt reply from the solution center not knowing that the people that talk to are EDS employees (what do they care about Sun…they just want a paycheck).
    HAPPY EMPLOYESS = HAPPY CUSTOMERS! and apperently it’s not happening at Sun.

  41. Scott

    What you’re referring to here isn’t about Brand – it’s about Experience!
    You’ve had one bad experience (albeit a particularly bad one) with a single employee at a single hotel of one particular brand, and as a result you’ve decided that the Brand itself is bad. The simple fact is that once a company hits a particular size, there will always be employees and situations like this – just as there will be employees and situations like you found at the second hotel.
    Thankfully the majority of Sun customers are obviously more forgiving that you were – because if every one of Sun’s customers went to another Brand as soon as they had a single bad experience, then Sun would have been out of business years ago.

  42. QC

    Interesting insight John. In my humble opinion, brand is only as important as the people behind and along side. It is the passion to be the best they can be beyond ordinary. To exceed customer’s expectations (surprise ’em), to work like it might be your last day ( i know utopia). But it’s about attitude for the long marathon run. If you don’t want it, kindly get out of the way. I got work to do
    & 🙂 ]
    BTW, I would like to stay at the same hotel with my wife someday….give us a hint !

  43. Craig Gibson

    It has been interesting reading some of these comments. I have always loved the Sun brand and pushed for Sun kit where possible until things went horribly wrong with our deployment of E4500’s (Evidently there was a recall of HDD’s which we never heard about – even though all our kit is on Platinum support.) The response from Sun was very disappointing to the point where management just decided to dump all ties with Sun and move exclusively to HP kit. All we have left is 8 V880’s. The local support and drive of the VAR’s is also disappointing. If you dont call them, be sure that they wont be calling you. The only way I know about new products is via the web.
    Every now and then you get to deal with a person who believes in the brand, but for some reason they never last long, and soon you have to get used to a new face and start all over again.
    Software? Lets not even go there. Bandwidth is at a premium here. You rely on DVD media. Ill have to wait till the next Solaris / Netbeans days to see if I can get updated DVD’s because all my other attempts via the channel have failed.
    Scott – you are right – one bad experience doesn’t kill a relationship, but eventually it gets so bad that its inevitable no matter how strong the brand. 😦

  44. chris

    I think that what’s being brought up here is the light that experience casts on brand. My experience would be going to the Sun hotel to buy a workstation, after attempts at the “Call me now” and “Chat Now” failed I called the phone number. It took a week to get my questions answered and to finally get a quote. I still have questions that the rep has never gotten back to me about. I purchased one workstation. I figured that because I’m a nobody trying to buy one item that I don’t matter. I’m in the “at night after work” pre-startup phase and getting things together, slowly bootstrapping myself. I decide to purchase something else direct. The online store is down and after a couple days of this I get an email acknowledging the bug and I get someone on the phone to complete the purchase.

    So if the Sun hotel has no interest in my money should I go down the road to the Dell hotel? If I call their 800 number I’m not cast off to the whims of the local rep, someone is there to take my money right now. I used to work with Sun equipment and like the product, I went to the Blackbox demo and think you guys have killer technology going on (except for the Sun store). Now I’m looking to buy a single server and I get a headache thinking about negotiating another purchase from Sun. I work in healthcare and see things that your products could help us with in ways that our current HP and IBM environment doesn’t. If the brand is the product + experience then, following your logic above, I shouldn’t say anything to the director about a new way for us to manage desktops on our inpatient units. Why would I tell him about the hotel with the snooty clerk?

    Customer service, it’s a pre-web concept that will still apply when Web 4.0 is the thing.

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