The October 2004 issue of Information Security Magazine offers an excellent study by Ed Skoudis. I saw Ed speak at a Computer Associates sales pitch a few weeks ago and he gave me preview of the new article. Now the whole study is available online. In Ed's words:
"As a follow-up to our technical review of desktop AV products, Information Security investigated the state of the AV industry's customer support, putting five vendors to the test: Computer Associates, McAfee, Symantec, Sophos and Trend Micro. We graded each on the entire support experience, putting the greatest weight on the ability to solve our test problems...
AV support has a long way to go before it achieves what we consider acceptable levels. It's not hard to figure out what's needed: The prescription for success is more or less distributed among the vendors we reviewed.
Sophos technicians displayed the technical savvy and problem-solving ability we expected from all of the vendors. Realistically, scaling that type of support to larger vendors like Symantec or McAfee would be a tough task, but stepping up the caliber of their support staffs would provide a competitive advantage.
CA demonstrated a model for quick, efficient response, without frustrating delays. Symantec's calls were clear and its technicians easy to understand; there's no excuse for poor audio quality or support personnel who are hard to understand. All the vendors need to improve their online help--if customers can solve problems themselves, they'll be happy and the vendor will have fewer calls."
I believe Ed's article is invaluable to anyone responsible for customer-facing operations. His findings should be a wake-up call for those who manage customer expectations and experiences.
I was struck by the poor service given to people paying for commercial software, since lack of "support" is frequently cited as a reason to avoid open source solutions. Why would a person be willing pay to wait on the phone for half an hour or more to receive incorrect advice, when an open source solution might exist? Open source anti-virus isn't really an option for a corporation, but there are solutions for home users (like Grisoft's AVG).