iYogi Refers to Incident as ‘Tylenol Moment’
Avast, an antivirus maker that claims more than 150 million customers, is suspending its relationship with iYogi, a company that it has relied upon for the past two years to provide live customer support for its products. The move comes just one day after an investigation into iYogi by KrebsOnSecurity.com indicating that the company was using the relationship to push expensive and unnecessary support contracts onto Avast users.
In a blog post published today, Avast said it came to the decision after reports on this blog that “iYogi’s representatives appear to have attempted to increase sales of iYogi’s premium support packages by representing that user computers had issues that they did not have.”
“Avast is a very non-traditional company in that positive referrals and recommendations from our user base drive our product usage,” Avast CEO Vince Steckler wrote. “We do not distribute our products in retail, via computer manufacturers, or other similar channels. This model has served us well and has made us the most popular antivirus product in the world. Last year we added over 30M new users on top of almost 30M new users in the previous year. As such, any behavior that erodes the confidence our users have with Avast is unacceptable. In particular, we find the behavior that Mr. Krebs describes as unacceptable.”
Steckler said Avast had initial reports of the unnecessary upselling a few weeks ago and met with iYogi’s senior executives to ensure the behavior was being corrected.
“Thus, we were shocked to find out about Mr. Krebs’ experience. As a consequence, we have removed the iYogi support service from our website and shortly it will be removed from our products,” Steckler said. “We believe that this type of service, when performed in a correct manner, provides immense value to users. As such, over the next weeks, we will work with iYogi to determine whether the service can be re-launched.”
Steckler added that Avast will also work to ensure that any users who feel they have been misled into purchasing a premium support receive a full refund. The company asked that users send any complaints or concerns to email@example.com or even to the CEO himself, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
iYogi executives posted several comments to this blog yesterday and today in response to my reporting. After Avast announced its decision to drop iYogi, Larry Gordon, iYogi’s president of global channel sales, sent me a formal letter that was unapologetic, but which promised that the company would endeavor to do better. Gordon called the incident, a “Tylenol moment for iYogi and the leadership team.” His letter is reprinted in its entirety below.
I have enjoyed reading your blog, except for the last post; for obvious reasons. But even all the latest comments provide iYogi with opportunity.
I’m the president of global channel sales for iYogi, and I am writing to communicate our model for providing freemium services. As you probably know, remote tech support is still a new service category and creating a market and meeting consumer demand for subscription-based services required an innovative marketing approach. So we invented a “Serve to Sell” model for ourselves. Similar to antivirus products, and now mobile games, we want as many people to try our service as possible, and then we use that service-experience to upsell our subscription-based all-you-can-eat tech support, which many think is a pretty good deal at $169/year. We call it “try it before you buy it.” It works well. The trick, of course, is not to turn anyone off in the sales process.
For this reason, we have focused on creating a terrific service experience; we audit 30% of our agent engagements through KPMG and have CSAT rates that our amongst the highest in the world for any type of CE service or product, not just tech support. But this is the new world of total transparency. Any type of flaw or snafu can be broadcast and amplified. It’s thumbs up or thumbs down. That is why we need to be perfect. And need to get better.
In the last five years we have grown rapidly and now have close to two million subscribers, across four geographies and deploy over 5,000 tech experts. At this scale of operations, it is likely that given all the variables of a services business, a customer could experience an over enthusiastic or an erroneous sales pitch from a tech agent, as described in your post.
We market to consumers through the Internet and partner with high-growth technology companies like Avast. While technology in some respects is becoming simpler and easier to use, in some cases and for some people it has become more complex. It requires assistance with setup, installation, integration or application support. We have worked with Avast for almost two years and assisted 363,605 of their customers. They can also seek support through the Avast forum, but these customers choose voice and remote support as well. Despite the recent turn of events, we believe that this model is a perfect complement for the major freemium AV player and has enhanced their brand’s engagement with this group of consumers. This view is endorsed by the customer satisfaction scores for Avast customers over the last nine months that show over 95% of the respondents are satisfied, with a large majority being extremely satisfied (84%). 4% are not satisfied and we need to do a better job with them, and will figure out how to fine tune the agent sales process even further. The technical process has not been a question.
Which brings us to the opportunity we face. This is a Tylenol moment for iYogi and the leadership team. We have a great offering, our guys do great work, and we have helped millions of people for free. We have kept them safe. We have saved them time and aggravation. We are the only guys doing this. We have also made a mistake and will improve to keep it from happening again. We know how to do it. It will cost us some time and money, but it will be well spent. Like the makers of Tylenol we think that we can improve even more. Keep an eye on us, just like our partners and customers do. Tell us again how we are doing a few weeks from now.
President, Global Channel Sales