I put forth the following scenario to contest Microsoft’s claim published yesterday in USAToday:
“Hamlin (OneCare General Manager Ryan Hamlin) said he expects the product to be profitable for Microsoft.”
Now I have heard this from Microsoft product managers before. (Most notably the Internet Security Accelerator product manager who told me that ISA Server would lead the firewall market.)
But Microsoft has very little experience in customer support. OneCare will be a rude awakening. This is adapted from a real customer support call I sat in on. (Not for OneCare but for another security product).
Customer: Hello? I just signed up for your service and I cannot get it to work.
Tech: OK, we can help you. Tell me what OS you are running?
Customer: Huh? What’s that?
Tech: Are you running Windows XP SP2? Windows 2000?
Tech: Ok do this for me. Go to Start and My Computer. Click on View System Information up their where you see System Tasks.
Customer: OK. Oh, I am running Windows XP Professional
Tech: Does it say what service pack?
Customer: Service Pack 1
Tech: Ok, you need to be running Service Pack 2 in order to install OneCare and be fully protected.
Tech: I am going to walk you through installing Service Pack 2.
Customer: Um, Ok.
Tech: First I need you to open up Internet Explorer.
Customer: I can’t. Every time I try, I get all of these pop-ups and then it freezes and I have to re-boot.
Tech: You have spyware on your computer. Let me walk you through how to download a file from our servers. First you are going to have to open an FTP session…
Microsoft claims that 70% of all computers do not have basic protection on them. Targeting those 70% with a service business that intends to be profitable at $49.00 a year is foolish. A single support call can evaporate that subscription fee. And let me tell you, end users that have no protection today are going to generate nightmare support calls. I can’t help thinking that the originators of the OneCare concept were wooed by the OnStar commercials they saw. They are beautiful. Hit a button in your car and you hear a friendly, reassuring voice answer you. They are there to solve all your problems.
There are a couple of problems though. First, unlocking a car’s doors from your command center in Detroit is orders of magnitude easier than installing software on a remote PC. Second, car care can be turned in to a menu for a customer support person to follow: “Is the check-engine-now light on sir? OK, do this.” If it were possible to find people that can debug Windows problems over the phone you would have to pay them $100K a year.
Have you seen Greg Kaizer’s comments on a recent incident related by a Microsoft exec?
Evidently Steve Ballmer attempted to help a friend out with his messed up PC. He ended up taking it in to the office and having Microsoft engineers work on it. *They* could not fix it. Imagine how many future OneCare customers are in the same boat.
Tomorrow: The OneCare Business Model Examined.