Oct 04 2012

In the Cloud, Service Counts the Most

Don’t focus on the technology. Optimize your service.

The growing cloud-computing trend has spurred the idea of pretty much everything as a service: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, software as a service, and so on.

But when talking about the cloud, most people focus more on cloud technology — the fact that IT resources are served to users through a web-based service — rather than optimizing their businesses for a service-oriented workflow.

In a recent blog post, Jeff Sussna, an IT consultant and BizTech Must-Read IT Blogger, pointed out the danger that cloud vendors face in focusing on the technology instead of the customer service.

As a service provider, the cloud vendor needs to think in terms of the customer journey, not just the endpoint or midpoint of that journey. They need to think this way during design, development, testing, and technical and business operations. Even though the vendor may largely deliver customer experience through software, they are in the service business, not the software business. The difference is subtle but important. The new user experience, the change assimilation experience, and the communications outage experience, for example, all need to be first-class components of the design process and the test plan. To make things more interesting, as the utility commodity functionality evolves, so must the rest of the touchpoints.

Good service providers view every aspect of the customer journey as an opportunity to reinforce their brand. Zappos’ response to a major security breach was a prime example. Instead of eroding their brand, it ended up enhancing it. Even the point of departure is a chance to create customer stickiness. An easy “delete account” process makes me feel better about a service, and increases the likelihood I’ll come back.

Ultimately, the service provider is part of a larger customer journey that defines the customer’s overall “Job to Be Done”. The customer needs to be able to interact with the service provider in the context of their larger goals. For an IT department, evaluating and adopting new services is a non-trivial part of their ongoing work. As is maintaining resiliency in the face of service provider outages. Successful cloud vendors will view themselves through the lens of their customers’ journeys and desired outcomes. They will take this view continuously in all aspects of development and operations.

That speaks to the core point of why many users flock to cloud-based solutions in the first place: Because it makes their lives easier.

So what, if anything, is your company doing to put the customer first, instead of the cloud itself?