Symantec's Growing Pains: Can Automation Fix Renewal Woes?
One of the things Symantec Chief Operating Officer Enrique Salem told Wall Street analysts recently is that the company is looking to take some of its experience in automating consumer subscription renewals to its small and midsize business customers. Symantec Channel chief Julie Parrish July 16 clarified that statement, saying such a system would certainly tell customers to renew with their VARs and would not circumvent the customer-VAR relationship. Still, it brings automation into the process.
In some ways, such a move makes sense. As companies get bigger, it gets harder for them to apply the personal touch with masses of customers. That's why VARs are so important to so many vendors with markets that include SMBs. VARs are in a position to provide that personal touch to small businesses while at the same time selling them products.
But Symantec is concerned that not all VARs are doing what needs to be done to renew those Symantec licenses at SMBs. Maybe those VARs could even be pitching an alternate security product. Who knows? To shore up a complex system where customers may fall through the cracks, Symantec is looking to take the concept of automated license renewal it has used with consumer customers and have it also be used by SMB customers. Parrish says partners would still get their piece of the deal. And the renewals would be less likely to fall through the cracks -- a big concern in the competitive market of security.
Except for this: Symantec's automated consumer renewals aren't so intuitive. Symantec came preinstalled on my personal Sony Vaio notebook when I bought it in 2005. Every January since then I've been cursing Symantec because I pay for the renewal and then I spend two or three days trying to get the thing installed and then trying to get a person on the phone to fix the part that doesn't work. It's not intuitive. It is labor-intensive. It is frustrating. I personally know others who have had similar problems with the renewals. Now Salem, who used to run the consumer side of things for Symantec, wants to bring renewal automation to the SMB part of the business at Symantec.
I can tell you the end of the story for my personal Vaio notebook. This year, not wanting to deal with all that anymore, I finally uninstalled Symantec. I initially replaced it with free AVG. When AVG started charging recently, my in-house IT guy got us a three-user license for a CA product, which is now protecting my Vaio.
Symantec has enjoyed a reputation as a channel-friendly company over the years. As it grows even larger, through acquisitions and organically, it needs to make sure the new business processes and systems don't tarnish that reputation.