Oracle's UK users have reported a sharp rise in the number of customers unhappy with the quality of support in the last year.

The findings, from over 600 respondents to the UK Oracle User Group’s annual customer survey show that one in five users are unhappy with some aspect of Oracle support while the firm's software licensing sales methods drew criticism.

Ronan Miles, chairman of the UK Oracle User Group, said it was notable that levels of satisfaction with Oracle software had increased “across the board.” But he also warned that the survey had highlighted two obvious negatives for users.

The quality of service provided by global support desks came in for particular criticism – with those saying they were dissatisfied with the service offered by these helpdesks more than doubling from 7% to 17% in the last year.

“Staff working on offshore desks were singled out for poor English by a growing number of users,” said Miles.

There was also a clear fall in satisfaction with Oracle licensing arrangements. Just 15% of respondents said they were ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ with their licensing options, down five percentage points on 2006, while users saying they were ‘unhappy’ or ‘very unhappy’ increased to 32%.

Miles said the figures did not tell the whole story, however. “The sentiment among users is not that they have an issue not with licensing per se but with how Oracle is sold,” he said.

At the start of the year Oracle established a different sales structure that separated out its sales for applications and its sales for the technology and development support needed to make those applications work.

“This decision means that two Oracle salespeople are getting involved with every customer, and that has not gone down well with everyone,” said Miles.

“I think the prompt for this move by Oracle was down to it thinking in terms of two areas of expertise: applications and technology. I am not sure why Oracle thought this approach would help customers, but personally I wouldn’t have done it that way.”

Elsewhere, however, other aspects of Oracle’s business were better received. Oracle University registered a big jump in user satisfaction, with 44% of respondents saying they were ‘very happy’ with it – up 16 percentage points on 2006.

“Oracle’s online tools for support are universally loved. These attracted no negative comments at all, though only half of users use the tools currently. The question for us is why the other half don’t use them.”

More than half (54%) of Oracle Consulting customers also said they were ‘happy’ with their overall experience, and 76% said they would recommend the service to other organisations.

Uptake for more recent versions of Oracle software was also tracked by the user group, with the number of customers operating on version 9i rising to 45% from 28% last year. Miles added that there had also been a “huge increase” in 10g being used.

Satisfaction with Peoplesoft and JD Edwards platforms also increased in the past year. PeopleTools was the most popular Peoplesoft product, with 65% saying they were happy with it.

Oracle’s Fusion middleware product stack is still only known about by just over half of UK users, however – 54% said they had heard of Fusion this year, up from 51% in 2006.

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