A recent story at Google Apps shows once again that software as a service is harder than most people think.
A customer using Google Apps for their intranet had paid for their own domain through Google and their partner eNom. While their account in Google showed their domain was paid for until 2010, on their anniversary date eNom went ahead and expired the domain. eNom put up a parking page and are now receiving confidential company emails.
Obviously, expiring a domain on a customer and throwing up a spam page is not exactly good customer service. What’s worse is that Google considers this a known issue. Ouch.
Given no options to resolve the issue, the customer had to contact support. The only channel to contact Google is through email, and that has a 24 hour turn around. Double ouch.
When a company fails to deliver this badly, it’s important to make it easy for customers to get ahold of you. For tough problems, I often tell people my name, email address, and phone number so they can “wring my neck” if the problem is not resolved.
I wouldn’t pick on Google if this was a one time issue, but if it is a known issue they definitely deserve some criticism for not helping customers more pro-actively. Once again, I am reminded that the hard part of software-as-a-service is not building the software. 15000 engineers can bang out a lot of code. The hard part is the service. That’s what people are paying you for month after month.
SaaS is not just a new distribution method for software with a lovely revenue stream. It’s a new social contract with the customer that we all have to live up to, whether we’re companies big or small.