Memo to the Cloud

Image credit: Jay Cuthrell

Memo to the Cloud

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Disclaimer: I made the jump to cloud and SaaS a long time ago.  I have the scars. With luck, after adding a few more they’ll just look like skin.

In the multi-billion dollar market of all things SaaS and cloud, I am a minor account in my consumption. My clients, however, are not so minor.

So, if you are a SaaS or cloud solutions provider, know this:

Be assured that as a consultant in telecom and infrastructure… and as a regular speaker/attendee at conferences and places where others like me both share and ingest insights – you are under a myriad of microscopes of vicious resolution.

Does this word _“support” _mean what you think?

Recently, I went through a series of back and forth support emails with a SaaS company.  The company involved isn’t important.  It could have been any company.  I pay them.  They provide value. Fair deal right?

That’s enough for this story to continue….Basically, after going back and forth a few times with an anonymous ticket email address I felt that my contribution to the thread was being ignored or, as I like to say, it was met with the death knell of a boilerplate response.

Hi, have we met before?

Here’s a quick heads up for those of you reading this that have a horse in the race: This type of boilerplate response is inexcusable. The boilerplate response says you don’t care.  The boilerplate response screams out NOT MY PROBLEM.

The boilerplate response tactic does come up during lunch sessions at the birds of a feather table at your user groups, your conferences, and the local watering hole that your customers meet at to talk shop.  This is an important concept that a great many SaaS and cloud thinking shops might miss – it’s never been easier for customers to talk about you.

At the risk of going all social media right about now… your customers have become an audience.  In fact, the audience is passing notes, whispering, and sometimes having a conversation in the lobby.

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While the line of cloud, SaaS, managed, hosted, and self hosted gets very blurry – ultimately, the more self service and troubleshooting tools you make available to your customer accounts the more attuned you have to be to avoiding the boilerplate response.

Wait?  Is that a catch-22?  Does this mean that self-service and troubleshooting tools will provide a more robust experience for those parties wishing to ascertain issues closer to the real-time required by a business?  Or, does this mean that I have to invest in a support staff that can simply refer the customer back to the self service tools?

Answer: Yes.  You’re expected to give more visage into the back office AND raise your game in the tier commensurate (I used that word a lot lately) experience delivered by your support staff.

See also: Pick. Up. A. Phone. Call. Your. Customer.

Other things I’ve noticed that are poor practice are any attempt to obfuscate a support resolution path.  Examples include hiding phone numbers, use of no reply emails, reliance on heavy automation that assumes edge cases are always edge cases.  You will fail in ways that go beyond SLA.

Want to add salt to a customer wound?  Don’t provide regular communication regarding changes for contact and support information.  Examples include changing support site navigation, moving a /contact url from something that is front and center to a buried 5 clicks deep approach, and generally forgetting to test your IVR from simulated time zones that are not the ones your developers happen to sit in for day testing.

Try this type of innovation and don’t expect to get a lot of renewals.

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And now… the bottom line

It’s tempting to be clever and think you’ve figured something new to drop out operational costs that has never occurred to anyone before you.  Hint: It’s a trap. Don’t let your automation and refinements obliterate the initial experiences that closed the deal and garnered praise.