Cloud vs On-Premise Products: Support Implications

As many Consortium members move their products to cloud-based offerings, the question comes up: what’s different about supporting cloud based products from supporting on-premise products?  Let’s take a look at some common themes we’ve heard from members over the past year.

  1.  While support still consists of answering questions and solving problems for customers, the nature of those questions change in two ways.

First, support topics shift from supporting product functionality to supporting customers with their business processes.  This requires support agents to develop a higher-level understanding of what their customers are trying to accomplish with the functionality or services purchased.  Support staff needs to have a better sense of the context of use and an understanding of the customer’s business.  With cloud-based products, customer communities and social networks can be valuable for both customers and support staff as a way to leverage customer experience. For more on the do’s and dont’s of integrating communities and social networks with support, see the Consortium’s three tenets and the maturity model for social and support.

Second, the restoration of service becomes a key issue. The company (essentially: support) is now responsible for the systems the functions operate on and, in part, the network to access those systems.  Support teams need to have a heightened sense of awareness of the system dependencies and be able to quickly identify and resolve issues in the infrastructure that are impacting response times or availability.

  1. The relative ease of switching between cloud-based products requires an increased awareness of the customer experience at every touchpoint (right). This is critical as the renewal process/retention process in a cloud-based offering occurs in hours and days, not the months and years of on-premise software and hardware.  Here again, a lot can be learned in real time about customers’ attitude and intent through a community and social media monitoring system.
  2. With cloud-based offerings, the vendor has the opportunity to help customers be more productive and make full use of the product functionality.  Because the vendor has visibility to very detailed information about the customer behavior – the clickstream, navigation, and functions being used – there is an opportunity to inform customers of more productive ways to use the product and about functionality that they are not using but might find helpful.  Salesforce.com has a pretty sophisticated process by which they make this information available to customers through both automation and Customer Success Managers.

Introducing cloud-based products does have an impact on support. There is a need to broaden the scope of support knowledge to include business acumen and system operations capabilities. Perhaps more importantly, there is an opportunity to learn more about who your customers are and how they use your products and provide them with “unsolicited, best use” information.  The Consortium has a working group building a Predictive Customer Engagement model that defines the practices and techniques for doing just this; the next meeting will be in Boston at the end of August.  Stay tuned for more details!

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