Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nov. 14 added 24/7 phone support in its Google Apps for Business for all issues, providing an additional lure for CIOs considering Google's paid collaboration suite as an alternative to Microsoft software.
Launched in February 2007, Google Apps for Business (formerly Google Apps Premier Edition) costs $50 per user, per year, or $5 per user, per month under a flex plan.
The suite includes Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites and several other apps that are offered in the free standard edition. However, the free version doesn't have phone support or the enhanced messaging security available in the business version.
The 24/7 phone support had traditionally come with caveats. For example, it was limited to critical Apps issues. Users who had "non-critical issues" had to contact Google via email for solutions. Microsoft and other rivals have argued that doesn't make Apps for Business a true enterprise solution.
Amit Singh, Google's vice president of enterprise sales and operations, said at the company's Google Atmosphere cloud computing event today that Google will now provide 24/7 phone support to all small, medium and large Google Apps for Business customers for all issues affecting the Apps services.
The support phone numbers are 1-877-355-5787 for U.S.-based Apps for Business users and 1-404-978-9282 for international customers.
"Our customers may also receive support through our Web-based support portal, online help forms, and online help center," added Jocelyn Ding,e vice president of Google enterprise operations, in a supporting blog post. "All support cases are handled directly by trained Google Apps experts."
This olive branch should help the hundreds of thousands of paid Google Apps for Business customers feel more comfortable with being able to tap Google for problems and troubleshooting going forward.
Ding said Google hopes this overture will help boost its approval rating among business customers from to 95 percent from its current 80 percent to 90 percent customer satisfaction range.
Microsoft, whose CEO Steve Ballmer said a month ago at the Web 2.0 Summit that his company is winning against Google in cloud collaboration, took its own potshots at Google Atmosphere, which is targeted for the CIOs the company hopes to lure to Google Apps.
Microsoft executives questioned how competent and committed Google is to serve enterprise customers when 96 percent of the company's sales are generated from advertising.
"I question Google's commitment to businesses,"noted Microsoft product management executive Tom Rizzo, who works on Office 365, in a blog post. "Is their focus really on delivering great business solutions, or is it on protecting their advertising business? I see the answer in the way they treat customers."
He cited Google's abandonment of its Gmail for Blackberry native app last week in favor of Web apps. "That is completely unacceptable if you're a CIO banking on this technology to run your business."
Google, of course, believes that CIOs should be running their businesses on the Web anyway, which is the point of the Google Atmosphere show.
Indeed, Google's Singh said thousands of businesses are switching from Microsoft to Google Apps each day. Some new customer wins include Burberry, Casio, Equinox Fitness, Goodyear, Guardian Life Insurance, Logitech, New York's Museum of Modern Art, Raley's, Softbank, and Trinity Mirror.