Accent on the S
The ultimate test of an ASP is the user experience. "Customers are holding ASPs to a higher expectation level than they would their own IT departments," says Amy Mizoras, an analyst at IDC. Service providers are rolling out new products to make the ASP experience better and more convenient for both IT staff and application users. Last week, Cable & Wireless a-Services announced that its productivity and collaboration applications (Microsoft Office 2000 and Exchange 2000) are now available via Web browser, instead of requiring a specially set-up PC. The company, launched last September by the big British telecom with partners Microsoft and Compaq Computer, is also letting customers order its services à la carte instead of requiring them to buy a bundle. Simon Angove, a-Services senior director of product strategy, says meeting customer needs is paramount. "We are getting great response, but we are not absolutely inundated with orders," he says. Launching today, April 16, is a portal product from ASP Surebridge that allows customers to track the status of service requests in real-time. "We have nothing to hide from a service perspective," says Pradeep Khurana, the companys founder and chairman. Surebridge spent almost $1 million to develop the portal, which replaces current phone and e-mail services and will be offered for free to customers. "We make money on the happiest customers — the ones who never call," Khurana says. Surebridge also bases employee compensation in part on customer satisfaction surveys. "We ask explicit questions about the way we compare to internal and external vendors," Khurana says. "We have terminated people over that information."
Two companies with illustrious founders, Marc Andreesens LoudCloud and K.B. Chandrasekhars Jamcracker, have announced a sales and marketing agreement. "We will refer customers and prospects to them, and they will do the same for us," says Adi Mannor, ASP solutions manager at LoudCloud, which also reported a $1.90 per share loss for its recently ended fourth quarter.