Cloud computing's Achilles' heel: Poor customer service

Although many cloud providers see value from removing the personal touch, they may discover that customer service is key to success

I'm consistently taken aback by many businesses' disregard for customer service. As long as customers push back on companies that treat them shabbily, enterprises willing to cut service will find themselves out of business or forced to merge with establishments that treat their customers better.

Giving short shrift to customer service remains an issue in the cloud, which is based on the notion of automation and self-provisioning at scale. Dealing with people individually seems contrary to the idea of the cloud. 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.

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The truth of the matter is that small businesses drove the initial growth of cloud computing. Because typical small businesses can't pay much for cloud services, they weren't surprised when they couldn't get a person on the phone. The cloud providers that courted small businesses continued to grow without much of an investment in customer service.

These days, larger enterprises are investing in public clouds, and 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.

The problem is that many of the public cloud providers are not set up to meet this level of customer service. They simply don't have the people or the systems in place. To establish such systems and personnel, they'll have to raise their prices -- and no one is doing that these days.

But as public clouds push into larger enterprises, they will have no choice but to provide a richer customer service experience. Large enterprise IT demands that level of service, and public clouds won't be able to penetrate the large enterprise market without it.

This article, "Cloud computing's Achilles' heel: Poor customer service," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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