1. Cloud and the Customer Journey

    © 2012 Jeff Sussna, Ingineering.IT

    If cloud computing has any one unifying characteristic, it’s the delivery of IT capabilities in service form. Thus the ‘S’ in IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Cloud vendors need to recognize they are in the service business. To provide customer satisfaction, they need to understand the nature of service.

    Services are experienced over time through multiple touchpoints. Customers judge services by the entirety of their experience. Cloud vendors must account for the entire customer journey and all its touchpoints.
     
    The cloud customer journey involves more than just daily utilitization of a given commodity, whether it be virtual servers (IaaS), application containers (PaaS), or end-user functionality (SaaS). The complete cloud customer journey includes:

    • Discovery and Understanding (what is this service? how do I use/pay for it?)
    • Adoption and Migration
    • Administration
    • Usage (the so-called daily commodity utilization)
    • Help and Feedback
    • Assimilation (understanding, adopting, and integrating changes)
    • Integration (with the customers’ processes as well as their toolsets)
    • Departure
    • Communications (changes, outages, breaches)

    That journey takes place across multiple touchpoints, including:

    • Web
    • API’s
    • Mobile
    • Email
    • Phone
    • RSS feeds
    • SMS
    • Social Media
    • Virtual and actual face-to-face contact (Webex, trade shows, etc.)

    As a service provider, the cloud vendor needs to think in terms of the customer journey, not just the endpoint or midpoint of that journey. They need to think this way during design, development, testing, and technical and business operations. Even though the vendor may largely deliver customer experience through software, they are in the service business, not the software business. The difference is subtle but important. The new user experience, the change assimilation experience, and the communications outage experience, for example, all need to be first-class components of the design process and the test plan. To make things more interesting, as the utility commodity functionality evolves, so must the rest of the touchpoints. 

    Good service providers view every aspect of the customer journey as an opportunity to reinforce their brand. Zappo’s response to a major security breach was a prime example. Instead of eroding their brand, it ended up enhancing it. Even the point of departure is a chance to create customer stickiness. An easy “delete account” process makes me feel better about a service, and increases the likelihood I’ll come back.

    Ultimately, the service provider is part of a larger customer journey that defines the customer’s overall “Job to Be Done”. The customer needs to be able to interact with the service provider in the context of their larger goals. For an IT department, evaluating and adopting new services is a non-trivial part of their ongoing work. As is maintaining resiliency in the face of service provider outages. Successful cloud vendors will view themselves through the lens of their customers’ journeys and desired outcomes. They will take this view continuously in all aspects of development and operations.

Notes

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