When I bought my first home, I used a lawyer that a friend referred me to.  The lawyer was great, thorough, responded quickly and took the time to explain things in plain English.

I used him again 2 years later for an investment and found that he was still thorough but not as quick to get back to me or willing to spend as much time going through the legal lingo.  Heck, I had to call him an average of 3x just to get a response from him, and it took nearly 2 years to get my closing documents.

What changed?  Well, news got out that he was good at his job.  He got busy, became overworked, and as a result, his customer service suffered.  Sadly, he couldn’t clone himself!  Also, his early customers expected a level of customer service that he was not able to give, even with additional administrative staff.

I thought about this when I was looking at the CIO study that Red Hat is linking to which indicates Red Hat was the leading vendor to work with.  NOTE: I’m not challenging the results of the study.  I do however find it interesting that the top 2 vendors listed (Red Hat & Apple) have less than the average # of responses who have worked with the vendor in the past 12 months (see 3rd column from right on the 3rd page).  In plain English, even though Red Hat & Apple scored highest in the study, less than 25% of the respondents had experience with these two vendors in the past 12 months. Yes, that means lots of room to grow for these vendors ;-)  But does it also hint at growing pains that may lie around the corner?  Said differently, I am questioning whether Red Hat’s position in the rankings will take a turn for the worse if they are able to attract additional new customers.  Will they fall into the same trap that my lawyer did?  Get too big for a service business to the point that customer satisfaction suffers severely?

Some of you will say, I missing the point; That the reason customers acquire RHEL is because it’s a higher quality product than its competition.  Well, if that is the case and the support experience doesn’t matter, then why pay for RHEL at all?  Why not use CentOS? <devilsAdvocate>Or for that matter, Oracle’s support for RHEL? </devilsAdvocate> To be fair, I’m not saying that RedHat’s success is only due to the level of support and the customer service associated with RHEL. Support, customer service and product quality are all important.  (As is vendor stability & reputation, I’d bet).

I guess I’m pointing out a scaling problem that Red Hat may encounter down the road….unless Oracle buys them ;-)  or Red Hat sees it coming and puts strategies in place to minimize the customer impact?