Cloud Business Featured Article
Cloud Providers Won't Escape Customer Service for LongJanuary 14, 2013
By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor
Are cloud providers unprepared for enterprise customers? That sounds like a silly question, but it is not. Cloud providers have almost never devoted much in the way of resources to customer service. The automated, self-serve nature of the cloud is part of why it works; automation and self-provisioning at scale are key elements of the cloud provider business proposition.
“Dealing with people individually seems contrary to the idea of the cloud,” wrote InfoWorld. “Many public cloud providers assumed they could just put a layer of Web pages between them and their customers, and all would be right -- no phones to answer, no planes to board.”
This worked during the early days of cloud services when the industry largely germinated out of small business use. Small business customers were used to do-it-yourself options, and cost made small business owners accept sub-part customer service.
Since the typical small business had a limited budget, it was not surprised when it had to survive with less. But enterprise customers are not used to sub-par customer service. Reliability is the name of the game for large, less nimble organizations where stability is valued highly. They're accustomed to real people talking to them on the phone, account managers in their offices, and cell numbers for support engineers on call around the clock.
In other words, they want public cloud providers to offer the same level of customer service as the larger enterprise software providers. But cloud providers are not ready for this need. It isn’t part of the deal, enterprise customers. Don’t you realize that the cloud is about automation and self-service?
No, of course enterprise customers want support. But the industry is not developed for that, which means cloud providers will need to ramp up customer service, thinks Linthicum.
“As public clouds push into larger enterprises, they will have no choice but to provide a richer customer service experience,” according to InfoWorld. “Large enterprise IT demands that level of service, and public clouds won't be able to penetrate the large enterprise market without it.”
Putting systems in place to provide enterprise customer service will take time, though. More important, it will take money.
To establish such systems, cloud providers will need to cut into margins or raise prices. And since most cloud service is the definition of a commodity, this will not be easy.
To establish such systems and personnel, they'll have to raise their prices -- and no one is doing that these days. While ignoring the problem may work in the short run, eventually customer service will have to be addressed.
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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