As the ‘customer experience’ proliferates beyond a single silo into ‘anytime, anywhere and everywhere’ landscape, the fast and furious growth of cloud computing and big data distributed over Software and Infrastructure as Service (SaaS and IaaS) is resulting in a new era of strategic communication imperatives
The good news: With cloud-based services, you are freeing your enterprise from total dependence on legacy infrastructure, reducing much of the ‘Blame Your IT Guy’ infrastructure issues that cause costly operational stalls. Cloud-based services have also allowed for the ability to leverage data and information through secure mobility for anytime, anywhere access. This phenomenon has caused a paradigm shift in how corporate America evaluates IT services. If you can build it, now they say, put it on the cloud. An abundance of affordable, high-powered cloud-based software application solutions are currently available for your organization. Whether its enabling employees to securely access their work emails from any location through Virtual Email Exchange hosts such as Microsoft’s Outlook.com and Intermedia.Net or shortening your sales cycle with Salesforce.com, cloud-based software applications empower us to do things faster, cheaper, all while requiring very little technical knowledge.
But, you may ask, what happens when these services go down? Even though an outside provider promised you that ‘everything is backed up’, when you outsourced your entire email, sales database, proposal tracking and digital asset management to them, your business is completely at their mercy. The ‘friendly, happy cloud’ has now become the ‘ominous dark cloud’ and causes major business interruption.
When things go badly for SaaS and IaaS providers they go very bad. A breach in their strategic communications and reputation management can result in loss of trust, confidence and brand loyalty, even with a long-standing history as a quality service provider. In my personal experience, I have recently had the displeasure to observe two examples which illustrate how ‘dumb’ the smartest engineers can be when it comes to understanding human behavior. While these companies are undoubtedly not ‘dumb’, their inability to plan for ‘human disaster recovery’ proves to be incredibly lacking.
My two recent SaaS and IaaS disaster examples:
1. Our cable internet broadband provider, which covers the majority of the East Coast of the United States, is very reliable when it comes to network speed and reliability. However, when there is a network outage, resulting in internet and email being down, common sense would dictate that you would be informed of the outage through a call, text, or through an alternate email address. Instead, I found that most providers actually tell you ‘please log into our website’ to find out the latest status of your problem.
–“Ok, so my internet access is down. You want me to log in to your website to get information about my internet access, which is down?”
– “Yes, we keep our ‘online incident management’ up to date.”
2. Our NYC-based Hosted Exchange email provider, which normally offers Five-Nines of reliability, experienced a major outage. For over 12 hours, multiple files and email communications between clients and our firm went into the cyberspace vortex cloud, without our knowledge that our partners on the other end didn’t get them until later that evening, seemingly missing important deadlines and appearing unresponsive to client communications. A true customer service nightmare scenario when you’re on a deadline. How did we learn about the outage? The IaaS in question did send an email to tell us that the ‘system was down’ and that we were affected, but alas- we didn’t receive the notification as it was via email, which they host. So how on earth are customers supposed to know their email is down, if they aren’t notified via telephonic message, an alternate email, or social media? Ask the guys that designed a system that can withstand cyber-attacks but can’t communicate simple incident information.
In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing SaaS and IaaS growth is not operational but one of recognizing that service operations and client relationships don’t end when the sales contract is signed. In a world where communication occurs and is expected at the speed of light, it doesn’t matter how reliable you are most of the time. What does matter is whether you have the common sense to test your client persona, brand communications, and customer relationship management to ensure that their trust in the ‘cloud’ doesn’t dissipate into droplets of doubt.