Google improves support for Google Apps users and claims 80% customer satisfaction rating: What about Office 365?

Yippee! Yesterday Google announced that they will provide phone support for business users of their Google Apps application suite. The announcement went on to explain that the usual level of support up to now was via email with 24x7 phone support limited to critical issues. Of course, any problem with something like email or documents rapidly becomes a critical issue to a user who can’t get to their data (or thinks that they can’t), but that’s another day’s work.

I read this as Google catching up with Office 365. After all, Google was hardly likely to let their Microsoft rivals boast better support and in fact Google Apps now offers better support for small businesses who might otherwise use Office 365 Plan P, which can only log support calls with Microsoft and can’t call the support line direct. Plan E customers have immediate access to 24x7 phone support, so they receive equivalent support to that now available to all Google Apps customers (see this post for more details on Office 365 plans). Let’s hope that Microsoft now responds by matching Google’s support.

The interesting thing that I took away from the announcement was the paragraph saying:

A support metric that we’re especially passionate about is customer satisfaction. We measure customer satisfaction by asking for feedback on a seven point scale at the time we close a support case. As measured on this scale, 80% of our business customers and 90% of our large business customers indicate that they’re more than satisfied with their support experience. While we’re proud of these ratings, we want to do even better. Our goal is to achieve an overall satisfaction rating of 95%.”

I love the way that Google shares both their current customer satisfaction rating and their target. While no detail is provided as to how the satisfaction rating is determined or whether it is “adjusted” in any way before publication (to take account for extreme cases, for instance), it’s liberating to see a major cloud provider putting its record out for the public to see. Just like Gmail’s achievement in setting an SLA target of 99.984% in 2010 for others to emulate, it’s good to have a customer satisfaction rating for potential purchasers to measure competing cloud application suites against each other. And getting to a customer satisfaction rating of 95% would be a stunning achievement as it means that Google has to make up fifteen percentage points from its current level. It can certainly be done, but it probably means that Google will have to execute flawlessly over the measurement period and have no major outages or any other problem that discomforts customers.

All of this is interesting. Microsoft has certainly thrown a lot of criticism, some justified, towards Google in the recent past including some interesting claims by Tom Rizzo that focuses on Google’s uneven record in persisting with products that they bring to market. However, Microsoft has some defending to do as its record in cloud delivery is spotty with both Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) and Office 365. Of course, it’s early days yet for Office 365 and we shall just have to see whether Office 365 can meet or match Google’s record for service availability and customer satisfaction.

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