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Google Adds Chat Help For Tech Support

Google addresses the IT gap among its small business customers by expanding Google for Work support options.
Microsoft Office For iPad Vs. iWork Vs. Google
Microsoft Office For iPad Vs. iWork Vs. Google
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Google may have ditched the term "enterprise" when it rebranded its cloud-based offering for businesses under the name Google for Work, but it remains beholden to enterprise expectations. To accommodate business customers in need of technical hand-holding, the company is introducing expanded support options for Google Apps.

When Google began offering web-based applications, it pointed users to webpages for support questions because personal support couldn't easily and affordably be scaled at the rate the company expected its products to grow. Google has also tried to make its products simple enough to have a shallow learning curve.

But as it has attracted paying business customers and expanded the capabilities of its products, the need for support has grown, particularly among small businesses that have little or no in-house IT knowledge.

"Most of our customers say this product is so much easier and they don't need as much support staff," said Peter Scocimara, senior director of global support, in a phone interview. As a result, he said, they are able to redeploy IT staff to participate in initiatives that add more value to their organizations.

But smaller business customers, said Scocimara, often don't know much about technology. "There's a long tail of customers that are a little uncomfortable with terms like domain verification or MX records," he said. "We find that while our large customer contact rate has gone down, the need is still there among smaller customers."

To help customers use its products more effectively, Google on Tuesday introduced chat support for English-language Apps administrators. Those who administer verified Apps domains can initiate chat sessions with Google Support directly from the Help Center. Support in additional languages is planned in the coming months.

Google has also improved help for individual products by making support material and the phone help number available from the gear icon menu in the upper right corner of Apps users' screens. By selecting the "Help" option from the drop-down menu, users will see a link to call Google and will be able to search the Help Center from within the application.

Google has also updated its Technical Support Service Guidelines, which describe and guarantee the availability of the company's improved support options.

Scocimara said that Google began measuring customer satisfaction with its core business products in 2011. That year, Google scored 80% satisfaction with small business customers and 90% satisfaction with large business customers, based on the company's own surveys. Last quarter, for the first time, Google achieved its goal of 95% customer satisfaction for Google Apps for Work, said Scocimara.

Who wins in cloud price wars? Short answer: not IT. Enterprises don't want bare-bones IaaS for the same reasons they don't buy many $299 PCs at Wal-Mart. Providers must focus on support, not undercutting rivals. Get the Who Wins In Cloud Price Wars? issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)