If 1987 was IBM’s Year of the Customer, 1988 is to be the Year of Customer Satisfaction, at least for IBM France. During a recent face-to-face with angry System 38 users, reports 01 Informatique, Daniel Stern, the company’s manager for field sales and business development, responded with apparently sincere concern to an awesome list of complaints which included woolly commercial organisation, confusion over the location of customer engineers, verbal browbeating over non-renewal of contracts, deterioration of technical support, delivery delays, and general lack of information regarding IBM’s mid-term strategy. Overall, users agreed, support services now were nowhere near as good as those offered 10 years ago. Principal cause for complaint, however, was the frustration experienced by all users when endeavouring to extract clear and precise product information from the company, in particular in relation to the forthcoming Silverlake successor to Systems 38 and 36. Often, they claimed, sales engineers offered misleadingly optimistic availability dates and prices in order to keep the competition at bay, which in turn created enormous difficulties for companies trying to plan for the future. Stern’s justification for the problems suffered by users centred on fluctuations in the value of the dollar, and the difficulty of meeting the increasingly complex demands of the market. He offered proof that IBM France has already taken customer complaints to heart in the shape of the plan announced last year to retrain 1,200 administrative staff and redeploy them out in the field, and to limit staff movements within field sales offices to 20%: these changes should, he argued, have a noticeable effect on service to customers in 1988. The response to the Silverlake issue was noticeably less glib: he was unable to confirm rumours heard by users that Silverlake would be announced in June and available in the October of this year. It’s not surprising that users are confused: many UK observers look for the impatiently-awaited line to be announced in the second week in April.