CRM software maker Siebel Systems said it has asked the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate the leak of internal documents indicating that its customer reviews were less than stellar.
During the week, the company went on the offensive to quash rumours that portray its customer service in a negative light.
The rumours stem from data contained in a confidential, Siebel-sponsored customer survey, which the company sais 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's senior vice-president of technical services, Steve Mankoff, said excerpts from its third-quarter 2002 customer satisfaction survey had been stolen and sent to select parties.
The intent was malicious, he 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," senior director of public relations at Siebel, Nitsa Zuppas, said.
"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."
Mankoff said the report was distributed to 14 members of the company's management team. Since the data was released, one member of that team, whom Mankoff declined to name, had been fired. That man, who had worked at Siebel for about 18 months, was now working for one of Siebel's competitors, Mankoff said, although he declined to name the company.
The software maker didn't dispute the authenticity of the leaked data but said it was taken out of context.
"We're not perfect," Mankoff said. "No company is perfect. In any given survey, what we've seen is a couple of problem areas." Mankoff is responsible for Siebel's customer care and quality-assurance programs. He provides updates to the company's executive management team as quarterly customer-satisfaction survey results become available.
He stressed that, overall, Siebel's third-quarter 2002 customer satisfaction scores were 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," he said.
During the webcast, Mankoff released other information from the report to show positive feedback from Siebel customers.