One of the most important criteria for evaluating vendors of automated library systems is customer support: the support which a vendor provides after the contract is signed and includes system installation, implementation, and ongoing maintenance. An objective tool for measuring such support is the customer support ratio: the ratio between the number of support staff and the number of installed systems. The following ratios have been calculated using data supplied to LSN by vendors for the Annual International Survey of Multiuser Integrated Library Systems which was published in the combined March and April issues:
|7.||Pacific Automated Library System||1:5|
|10.||Advanced Computer Concepts||1:6|
|15.||LGB & Associates||1:7.66|
All other vendors which provided data had more than 50 sites per customer support staff. (1:50+)
All ratios of 1:10 or better are considered to be excellent and it would be inappropriate to conclude that a ratio of 1:2.25 (CARL) is substantially better than a ratio of 1:7.4 (Ameritech) without looking at the nature of the customer base. (The former customer base consists of a small number of large systems, while the latter consists of systems of all sizes.) Also, in the case of Endeavor, the customer base during 1995 was so small that the calculated ratio is skewed. The larger, more complex accounts may require more support. However, as the ratio expands beyond 1:10, there is reason to contact customers to determine if there are any deficiencies in support. The author recently did so in the case of DRA, which has a ratio of 1:14, and learned that customer support was deemed to be very good or excellent by all of the institu-tions contacted.
We seriously doubt that customer support can be anything but minimal if the ratio is 1:20 or greater. As to the vendors with ratios of 1:50 or greater, its difficult to imagine what kind of service they can be providing.