Forecast for SaaS clients: It’s cloudy, with a chance of meatballs

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 for the business enterprise.

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 and Intermedia.Net
or shortening your sales cycle with, 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 examples:

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.”

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. 

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