May 27, 2012
We’ve discovered what we think is a fascinating marketing angle for mnoGoSoftware: the company charges almost $1,000 for a basic desktop search system and then charges for email support. Hmph. But the really interesting point is this statement on the support page:
“We reserve a right to have 20 business days off within a calendar year, for vacation (usually not more than 10 business days off per quarter). During days offs support service won’t be available.
Support users will be notified about upcoming days off two weeks prior to anticipated service interruption lasting more than three days.
“Monthly support users will have their contracts automatically extended to cover any and all days off taken during the support month.”
The company must be doing something right, though, because the site names several awards it has won and lists over 230 Web sites that use its Web search software. They also offer versions for use with Windows and Unix.
Cynthia Murrell, May 27, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
March 30, 2012
Stochastic Technologies’ Stavros Korokithakis has some very harsh words for Google’s AppEngine in “Going from Loving AppEngine to Hating it in 9 Days.” Is the Google shifting its enterprise focus?
Stochastic’s service Dead Man’s Switch got a huge publicity boost from its recent Yahoo article, which drove thousands of new visitors to the site. Preparing for just such a surge, the company turned months ago to Google’s AppEngine to manage potential customers. At first, AppEngine worked just fine. The hassle-free deployments while rewriting and the free tier were just what the company needed at that stage.
Soon after the Yahoo piece, Stochastic knew they had to move from the free quota to a billable status. There was a huge penalty, though, for one small mistake: Korokithakis entered the wrong credit card number. No problem, just disable the billing and re-enable it with the correct information, right? Wrong. Billing could not be re-enabled for another week.
Things only got worse from there. Korokithakis attempted to change settings from Google Wallet, but all he could do was cancel the payment. He then found that, while he was trying to correct his credit card information, the AppEngine Mail API had reached its daily 100-recipient email limit. The limit would not be removed until the first charge cleared, which would take a week. The write up laments:
At this point, we had five thousand users waiting for their activation emails, and a lot of them were emailing us, asking what’s wrong and how they could log in. You can imagine our frustration when we couldn’t really help them, because there was no way to send email from the app! After trying for several days to contact Google, the AppEngine team, and the AppEngine support desk, we were at our wits’ end. Of all the tens of thousands of visitors that had come in with the Yahoo! article, only 100 managed to actually register and try out the site. The rest of the visitors were locked out, and there was nothing we could do.
Between sluggish payment processing and a bug in the Mail API, it actually took nine days before the Stochastic team could send emails and register users. The company undoubtedly lost many potential customers to the delay. In the meantime, to add charges to injury, the AppEngine task queue kept retrying to send the emails and ran up high instance fees.
It is no wonder that Stochastic is advising us all to stay away from Google’s AppEngine. Our experiences with Google have been positive. Perhaps this is an outlier’s experience?
Cynthia Murrell, March 30, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
March 22, 2012
Here’s an interesting observation, or will be if this really does become a trend: Digital Trends asks, “Why Are Companies Defecting from Google Maps?” Writer Geoff Duncan notes that both Foursquare and Apple are reducing their usage of Google Maps. Two withdrawals, however, do not necessarily mean more are on the way. If more do follow, we will know that Duncan was on to something.
The article supplies a brief history of mapping and route-planning services, a field in which Google came from behind players like MapQuest to dominate the market. It helped that Google was giving away the service for free, and even helping third parties use it on their sites. That is Google’s usual path to domination, after all.
There is, however, a reason other companies have not followed Google’s lead in this direction: the mapping and routing process calls for a lot of man-hours, even in the digital age. Last autumn, even Google introduced a paid version. Duncan writes:
“Google first announced plans to begin monetizing Google Maps nearly a year ago, including a requirement that any new services forward display advertising in Google Maps along to their end users, so Google could start generating advertising revenue from the service. The hammer truly dropped in October 2011, when Google finally revealed pricing for Google Maps services. Lightweight usage was still free — subject to terms of service, of course. However, significant load volumes would begin to incur charges: basically, services and applications that generated more 25,000 map loads per day would be charged $40 to $10 for every additional 1,000 map loads. For folks using styled maps — the most intensive and customized option — the initial threshold is 2,500 maps per day.”
That’s a lot of maps, and the vast majority of sites using the service would remain un-charged. For behemoths like Foursquare and Apple, however, it seems that it may have made the difference; the trial period ended shortly before these companies (mostly) jumped ship. Only time will tell whether other Google users will follow their lead.
Stephen E. Arnold, March 22, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com <http://www.pandia.com/enterprise-search>
March 19, 2012
You must read “Google Enterprise chief Girouard Heads to Startup Upstart.com.” I wondered if a simple executive shuffle many months after a de facto demotion was news. Apparently the poobahs and “real” journalists find a Xoogler worthy of a headline. I have a different view about Google and the enterprise. I write about Google’s latest adventures in my Enterprise Technology Management column, published in the UK, each month.
Google pumped quite a bit of time, effort, money, and Google mouse pads into its enterprise initiative. In the salad days, Google could not learn enough about the companies dominating the enterprise search space. As I researched my Google monographs, I was picking up from interview subjects anecdotal information about the paucity of knowledge Googlers had about what enterprise procurement teams required.
In one memorable, yet still confidential interaction, Google allegedly informed a procurement manager that Google disagreed with a requirement. Now, if that were true, that is something one hears about a kindergarten teacher scolding a recalcitrant five year old. Well, that may have been a fantasy, but there were enough rumblings about a lack of customer support, a “fluid” approach to partners, and a belief that whatever Google professionals did was the “one true path.” I never confused Google and Buddha, but for some pundits, Google was going to revolutionize the enterprise. Search was just the pointy end of the spear. The problem, of course, is that organizations are not Googley. In fact, Googley-type actions make some top dogs uncomfortable.
Based on my research, which I shifted to the back burner, I learned:
- Google was unable to put on an IBM type suit. The Googley stuff opened doors, but the old Wendy’s hamburger ad sums up what happened after the mouse pads and sparkle pins were distributed: “Where’s the beef?”
- The products and services were not industrial strength and ready for prime time. The notion of an endless beta and taxi meter pricing, no matter how “interesting”, communicated a lack of commitment.
- The enterprise market likes the idea of paying money to be able to talk to a person who in most cases semi-cares about a problem. AT&T makes tons of dough making clients pay four times an engineer’s salary to get a human on the phone any time. Google delegated support down to partners. Won’t work. A Fortune 100 company wants to call Google, not send an email.
- Pricing. If you are not sure what the ballpark cost for indexing 100 million documents using a search appliance, ensuring 24×7 uptime, and backing up—navigate to www.gsaadvantage.com and look up the price of a Google Search Appliance. Now figure out how much it will cost to process an additional one million documents. How’s that price grab you?
When Larry Page assumed control of the company, I wrote about the wizards who were reporting directly to him. The head of the enterprise unit was not one of those folks. My conclusion: game over.
Like AOL, the notion of having a Google person on staff is darned appealing to some, but as the AOL experience makes clear, a Xoogler is not a sure fire money maker.
Here’s the quote I jotted down from the GigaOM story:
Still, market share and revenue may never have been Google’s goal. By offering a lower-cost option to the Office/Exchange tandem, Google forced the market leader to respond, and that may have been the point all along.
Baloney. Google expected to have big outfits roll over and wag their tail. The US government did not roll over. Most big IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle customers did not roll over. More important, the new wave of enterprise service and solutions providers did not roll over. Why? A lack of focus and a dependence on online advertising, legal hassles, privacy chatter, and a failure to deliver competitive products and services made the enterprise initiative a tough sell. Betas may be great for market tests. For the enterprise, a beta may be a hindrance.
Stephen E Arnold, March 19, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
February 21, 2012
Remember when Oracle was grousing about the cloud. Well, the company has gone bonkers for digital meteorology, excelling in cloud moves.
Have you been wondering what Oracle will do with RightNow? Oracle purchased the maker of cloud-based customer service software last fall for about $1.5 billion. ComputerWorld reports, “Oracle Outlines Plans for RightNow Integration.” Writer Chris Kanaracus checked out an Oracle webcast on the subject; he states:
Oracle executives outlined the company’s bid to reinvent the notion of CRM (customer relationship management) software, discussing how RightNow’s applications will work as part of a continuum involving Oracle technologies for e-commerce, natural language search, customer segmentation and other areas, many of which it also procured through acquisitions.
Specifically, RightNow’s applications will fit at the end of the customer experience chain, tracking product usage, maintenance, and recommendation scenarios. Before that, Oracle has the life of a sale covered. FatWire helps consumers research purchase decisions; Social Network and Siebel Marketing help target marketing endeavors; Endeca provides search technology used to find a product; and ATG Commerce furnishes the e-commerce foundation to complete the purchase. The company’s financial and supply chain software follow, leading the transaction to RightNow’s doorstep.
Oracle intends to make these integrations very soon, though no date has been given.
Founded in 1997, RightNow operates out of Montana with a client roster that is almost 2,000 organizations strong. It’s official mission: to “rid the world of bad experiences.” Now that’s the way to aim high. With Oracle’s acquisition of the quirky Taleo, storm fronts are on the move.
Cynthia Murrell, February 21, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
February 20, 2012
To answer the question, search vendors are actually doing better than we expected.
Search vendors are forever chasing customer support clients, but what about the vendors’ own customer support? InfoWorld asks, “Which IT Vendors Offer the Best and Worst Customer Service?” The article reports on a survey recently conducted by the Temkin Group. Writer Ted Samson explains:
Tech vendors looking to bounce back from the recession might consider investing a few more dollars in improving customer service. According to a survey of IT professionals, most tech companies are offering merely an adequate customer service experience. Yet IT shops tend to steer their limited budget dollars toward vendors that offer not just the best products, but also the best customer service experiences. Even as large enterprise providers consolidate, IT still has clout — and is using it.
There were some intriguing results. The worst of the bunch included Fujitsu, which not only powers Perfect Search, but through its partnership with OpenText also affects Fulcrum Biometrics, Nstein, Collections Server (formerly BASIS), Livelink Discovery Server (formerly BRS), and others.
Microsoft’s business applications took number one (Fast), with IBM (OmniFind, Content Analytics) placing third. Other noteworthy rankings: Oracle at number eight, HP (Autonomy) at number nine, and Google just failed to make the top ten at number eleven.
Interesting. And what about those out of date Web pages and “press one if…” messages.
Cynthia Murrell, February 20, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
February 14, 2012
MarketWatch declares, “Attivio IT Knowledge Expert Solution Improves Support Staff Service Performance and Reduces Cost-Per-Ticket.” Noting the bevy of information sources IT staff have to root through, Attivio presents their tailored data management software as the solution. The press release tells us:
IT Knowledge Expert connects the dots between the multiple databases and repositories used by IT support specialists to resolve incidents, identify problem-solving root causes, manage system changes and avoid “system collisions” in ways traditional solutions cannot match,’ said Sid Probstein, Attivio CTO. ‘Our customers are seeing reductions in mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR) of up to 40%, as well as significant improvements in cost-per-ticket and customer satisfaction.’
Sounds like it could be promising. Attivio is not the first to apply their information wizardry to the IT sector; many search vendors seek revenue there. Will Oracle and other dominant players fight back? Probably.
Attivio’s Active Intelligence Engine has won a number of awards for its delivery of actionable information. The highly customizable platform pulls and analyzes data from a wide variety of sources. We have seen a number of vendors use the phrase “connect the dots.” Do these systems connect dots or merely provide a collection of dots which a human must assemble?
Cynthia Murrell, February 14, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
February 4, 2012
Digg asks, “Under New Leadership, Will Yahoo Find Its Way?” Our view: nope. The CEO shuffle doesn’t seem to have helped the waning company the last three times they tried it.
Installed January 9, Scott Thompson is Yahoo’s newest captain. The article reports:
Thompson, who was previously president of eBay’s PayPal unit, might be Yahoo’s last hope for becoming relevant again as a player in online display advertising, a market which the media company once dominated. Private equity firms and others — such as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.com — had recently been showing an interest in buying Yahoo, which had been evaluating a number of strategic options.
The company’s challenges revolve around an identity crisis, asserts the write up. Could the frequent leadership turnover has anything to do with that?
With his technical background, Thompson is a unique choice for the Yahoo CEO chair. Perhaps that will help him succeed where others have not. A priority for the new boss, he has said, is to balance customer and merchant needs, something he worked on at PayPal.
How does the new Yahoo CEO deal with sagging revenues? Navigate to “Flickr Lays Off Highest Level of Customer Support.” We learned:
Yahoo has laid off at least five employees at Flickr, including the highest level of customer support: the people who fix bugs like the mistake that obliterated power user Mirco Wilhelm’s 3,400-odd photos last year.
Thompson will have to take more substantive action if the company hopes to catch up with outfits like Facebook and Google. Investors and users are unhappy, so the great turn-around may have a narrow window.
Cynthia Murrell, February 4m 2912
Sponsored by Pandia.com
January 22, 2012
I stumbled upon a interesting post where blogger Tyler Nichols lamented the way that customers mistreat and inherently devalue free services in the article “I am Done with the Freemium Business Model.”
According to the post, Nichols obtained this opinion after creating a free Letter from Santa site over this Christmas holiday. Despite the 1,000,000 page views and 50,000 free Santa letters created, Nichols noticed that his customers refused to follow simple directions and fagged his follow up thank you letter as spam.
Free customers are higher maintenance than paying customers. I think it’s because they aren’t paying, they show little or no attention to directions. I focused on making the UI of the site drop dead simple and easy to use. I created a pretty thorough FAQ to answer 99.9% of the questions people might have. I even linked to the FAQ in the email response they got with their download links to the letter they created. I still had hundreds of free customers ask for help with simple questions that were answered in the FAQ.
It’s no surprise that paying customers place a higher value on their products and services than the one’s that receive it for free. But we wonder if this frustration over the freemium business model will inevitably spill over into open source search. We are monitoring, which is a free activity.
Jasmine Ashton, January 21, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
December 13, 2011
Now here’s an interesting view of Google. Ars Technica reports, “How effective is the Google Apps support ecosystem? The customers speak.” The article was prompted by the implementation of a new phone support system aimed at business and education users. The feature is to provide support for issues with its core services like Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar.
Writer Jon Brodkin notes that a dedicated phone line could be a great leap forward from the haphazard mix of support options Google has offered in the past. The article asserts:
Google’s reputation on customer support has never been stellar, so we decided to talk to a few Google Apps business and education customers to find out how good or bad it is in real life. The answers ranged from ‘We’ve never had to call support’ to ‘their tech support sucks.’ In the middle ground, several customers told us Google support is usually good enough for break/fix issues but falls short when it comes to requesting functionality customers believe is missing.
Keep in mind that these people are speaking pre-help line. We don’t yet know how well that will work out. However, Brodkin’s write up is full of examples of frustrated Google users trying to get the help they needed when they needed it. The stories suggest that implementing a round-the-clock phone line is just the beginning of what Google needs to do to truly support its users.
Our view is that Google should provide the type of customer support available to Adwords’ customers to users of other Google services.
Cynthia Murrell, December 13, 2011
Sponsored by Pandia.com