ImageStream Internet Solutions, Inc. is a privately held company in its 9th year of operation. ImageStream engineers, manufactures, and distributes Linux-based routing products for network and Internet applications. ImageStream products are used by Internet service providers (ISPs), governments, schools, and businesses in more than 75 countries around the world. As ImageStream Internet Solutions moves toward its next decade, market forces pressure require ImageStream, like most high technology companies, to be fast and responsive. The company faces constant change in demands and needs along with the pressures of mission creep in the face of limited resources. It is against this backdrop that ImageStream was faced with potential changes in its core warranty service offerings.
ImageStream primary competitor, Cisco Systems, offers compelled service contracts. To receive technical or warranty support, software upgrades, or security patches on Cisco equipment, customers must have a current Cisco SMARTnet contract (Cisco Systems, 2003).
Customers often feel "compelled yearly to shell out for a service contract [they] have never used" (Lafky, 2003). Jeff Broadwick, ImageStream's Vice President of Sales, says that "complaints about unused contracts and compelled contracts for software upgrades constitute a majority of the issues raised by Cisco SMARTnet customers" (Broadwick, personal interview, November 25, 2003).
ImageStream's sales and marketing staff, financial staff and customers framed the service contract problem differently, based on the forces influencing their critical thinking processes. Internally, ethics and corporate philosophy influenced the sales and marketing staff, leading to persuasive and logical arguments against service contracts. Economic concerns influenced ImageStream's financial team to make scientific and logical cases for implementation of service plans. Externally, customers and potential customers' persuasive arguments were colored by various cultural, financial and ethical influences.
ImageStream's sales and marketing staff traditionally defined service contracts as win/lose situations. In most cases, electronic equipment...