Time to Rethink Your Service Model
Emerging cloud /“XaaS” business models inevitably mean that a significant portion of enterprise IT workloads will migrate to or be developed within public, hybrid, or private clouds. To address this increasing demand, IT companies are working to forge strong partnerships with Cloud Service Providers. But at the foundation of these partnerships there has to be a customer service organization that delivers innovative, proactive, and rapid support tailored to meet the demands of Cloud Service Provider business and operational models – demands that pose severe challenges to most enterprise-class customer service organizations.
Embrace the Cloud Service Provider Challenge
So how do Cloud Service Providers challenge the traditional enterprise support model? The answer lies in what I am calling “Trickle-Up SLAs (Service Level Agreements).”
Here’s how they work: Cloud Service Providers host workloads from multiple customers on the same ‘box’ (this phenomenon is not going anywhere with the advent of the Software Defined Data Center). Struggling to compete on price against public cloud titans, many service providers are differentiating by competing on quality of service, and they do this by signing very aggressive support-related SLAs with their customers. When SLAs are broken there is a cost to the provider, and when there are many customers on the same box this cost is multiplied many times over. When things go wrong that the Cloud Service Provider is unable to fix themselves, they turn to their IT vendor’s support organization for help. This is how service provider SLAs have “trickled up” to the IT vendor.
How do Trickle-Up SLAs play out?
For just over a year, I have had the pleasure (and challenge) of leading EMC Customer Service engagements at five of EMC’s Cloud Service Provider partners. On a recent team call, a Service Account Manager at one of our service providers reminded me of recent support ticket concerning a failed power supply. Fortunately, the affected product comes with a back-up power supply, and the risk of “dual failure” was quite remote, so we accordingly assigned this ticket a “sev 3” status – which means it would be replaced “Next Business Day.” Sound straightforward? It wasn’t.
This particular service provider had a “dual redundancy” SLA with their end-users, and a 48-hour turn-around time would mean 48 hours of being in violation of their SLA with dozens of customers – costing them money. We expedited the ticket and got an engineer onsite ASAP to meet our partner’s expectations and commitments. Trickle-Up SLAs are forcing us to take a hard look at standard operating procedures and make changes that will enable us to support these customers in a scalable way.
So what can you do to address service provider demands?
At EMC, we’re listening to and working closely with our Cloud Service Provider partners to design, pilot, and launch new offerings and capabilities that satisfy their most demanding requirements. Here are a couple of simple ways to start thinking about how to better meet their requirements:
- Check your assumptions: Take a close look at every part of your customer service value chain and think about how your customers, and your customer’s customers, are affected. The example of the failed power supply above highlights service providers’ extremely low tolerance for risk – and that was reflected in their “dual redundancy” SLA. These SLAs trickle up to the IT vendor and Customer Service – always on the front-lines – will feel the first impact from the tighter requirements.
- Listen to the customer: EMC is fortunate to have some passionate
partners who are not shy about telling us how they feel. Find opportunities to expose your teams, especially those that don’t traditionally get out in front of customers, to direct contact with Cloud Service Providers. It won’t take long for them to understand the paradigm shift from enterprise to service provider customer service requirements and to start driving changes on the front lines and to the back office processes that most directly affect customer experience.
Acknowledging and educating your teams on the impact of “trickle-up SLAs,” hearing the service provider tell it to you in their own words, and then documenting and broadly socializing how teams on the front-lines have adapted to these demanding expectations will go a long way toward helping your organization better embrace the Cloud Service Provider challenge.