Differentiate your Cloud Service with Customer Service

As more organizations are heading to the clouds for business-enabling technology services, such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS), they’re finding the cloud marketplace crowded with choices. Therefore, cloud service providers (CSPs) and managed service providers (MSPs) looking to differentiate their services portfolio and exceed their clients’ service level requirements should prioritize the service that matters most of all—customer service.

While CSPs and MSPs want, and need, to innovate to help their customers transform their businesses, thus making it seem more sensible to center the conversation around their other kinds of service, customers are looking for cloud partners that can provide more than just technology solutions to business problems. Although the lower costs and higher agility of the cloud, especially compared with similar services provided by the in-house IT department, is one of its biggest business drivers, historically one of the biggest complaints about IT is they don’t listen to the business, thereby not treating them like the internal customer they are.

“There are so many great opportunities to listen to customers that get missed,” Adrian Reed recently blogged. Without good customer service, even the best cloud services risk becoming a bit of bad IT history repeating. Especially if CSPs and MSPs demonstrate that they’re not listening by repeatedly trying to sell customers services they don’t need. “Selling products that the customer doesn’t want or need is going to create a rather transactional relationship and is unlikely to result in repeat business,” Reed cautioned. But because the cloud brings in IT services from somewhere out there, it would appear to be the very epitome of a transactional relationship, where you get what you pay for and pay for it as you go, typically on a monthly subscription basis.

However, therein lies the danger. When every cloud service appears to be the same as every other one, how do CSPs and MSPs establish competitive differentiation? To enhance their current services offerings, or add new, higher value, and possibly more profitable, offerings to their services portfolio, CSPs and MSPs must strive to better serve customers, to be customer-centric.

About MSP partnerships, Julie Hunt blogged, “If you are strongly focused on a customer-centric business strategy (and you should be), find out if your potential partners share your passion for high quality customer and end user experiences. If a partner does not put a high priority on customer success with the overall services platform, you could be endangering your business.”

The poster child for a passionate focus on delivering a high quality customer experience is Zappos.com, the online shoe and clothing retailer. As CEO Tony Hsieh explained in his book Delivering Happiness, the Zappos brand was built to be about the very best customer service. About the hallmarks that made Zappos successful, such as free shipping and free return shipping, Hsieh explained, “It’s not something we have to do, and it’s not something that will increase our profits in the short-term. But because it’s something that creates a great customer experience, we choose to do it, because we believe that in the long run, little things that keep the customer in mind will end up paying huge dividends.”

Selling shoes online and selling cloud services have very different business models but they have one common denominator—customer service is a competitive differentiator. CSPs and MSPs can differentiate their cloud service with customer service by making sure their customers always see a human face in the cloud ready to exceed their service expectations.

This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.