consumer

Post image for Consumer Clouds – A Comfortable and Easy On-ramp to More Complex Business Clouds

I have multiple personalities. No, I’m not schizophrenic but I do have alter egos. During the day, I live and breathe cloud computing with my job as Technology Evangelist at GoGrid, a cloud infrastructure provider. And then the rest of my hours when I’m awake, I’m a dad, husband and technologist, trying to figure out how it all fits together without busting at the seams. This site, HighTechDad.com, represents many years of trying to figure out how technology integrates into the family, what works, what doesn’t, what to look out for and how to make sense of it all.

It hasn’t been easy, balancing it all out. But there is a light peaking through the clouds, a convergence if you will – consumer clouds. My previous posts in this series pursued an exploration of more corporate-oriented cloud computing topics: how to choose the right cloud for your business, ways to make the cloud work for you, debunking some cloud computing myths and my predictions of what will come in 2012 for cloud computing. And that last link brings up the topic that I want to explore a bit in this article – that of consumer-oriented clouds and how they are becoming embedded in our daily lives whether we know it or not. But also, I want to discuss how consumer clouds act as a trickle-up catalyst for corporate and business clouds

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Believe it or not, what we think of cloud computing now has been around for a long time – well before the term was coined. The most common and prevalent form of cloud computing is that of cloud applications. These have had different names: software as a service (SaaS) or even Application Service Provider (ASP), which is what SaaS evolved into. But even nowadays, we use cloud applications without giving them second thought. These are tried and true forms – think hosted email services, photo sharing sites or even online banking. When you use these services, you are using cloud-based (or server farm) applications specifically designed to provide a single activity or function.

But why are consumer clouds important, and especially, why are they important for businesses and corporations? I would pose this hypothesis. People chose to use the things that they are comfortable with. Unless you are a natural risk-taker, most likely pursuing something completely new is scary. Would you try something new in your work environment without knowing about it? You are putting your job at risk if you do potentially. But let’s say you have been using a particular technology or service at home, with your family, or personally. Over time, you become comfortable and confident in it. And once you have done your due diligence personally, it is much easier, and more feasible to bring into your work environment.

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How many times have you had a bad customer service experience? More than 50% of the time? I will bet that you think that it’s much higher than that even. Most of us tend to remember poor customer service experiences than good ones. It’s easier to gripe and complain about someone NOT doing something to your satisfaction than it is to praise those who DO do something good that makes you happy. The old saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” normally holds true from a Customer perspective; from a Customer Service perspective, you must listen for the squeak.

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In this day and age of tight budgets, your brand is even more vulnerable than before. People expect compensation, free trials, and superhuman efforts to resolve issues of a product or service. But even that sometimes is not enough. Paying for something now means that it must last longer or perform better than in the past, or at least that is the perception. I would dare say that if you purchased the same product 10 years ago as you did now, people now expect it to be better, stronger and not break down compared to before. Our value perception has changed because we expect our money last, regardless of whether the product has changed or not.

To that end, Customer Service is now a critical component to a brand. When you buy a product, you expect someone to be there backing it up with help and support. Buying a product or service now without good Customerjuggle Service is foolish at best. The sale does not end with the purchase, it must be bolstered and enhanced with Customer Service. Many companies are opting now to provide paid-for support and shying away from free support. This does work provided that the price point is reasonable and if there is some level of support or service provided for free. But, simply paying for service is not going to guarantee you quality service. There are some companies that pride themselves on their Customer Service, but they set that high benchmark as part of what you purchase with the product (e.g., Apple). On the flipside, there are companies that seem to just do Customer Service simply because they are required to and do the bare minimum at best.

We have all had positive and negative Customer Service experiences. A while back I wrote about my experience with Tivo and how hard it was for me to cancel my account. I also wrote about some interactions I had with repairing a PowerBook with Apple. I must say, however, my Apple support experiences have always been more positive than negative. But do these experiences represent ALL Customer Support experiences with a company? Many times, the positive ones are due to interacting with a star, someone who is truly great at their job. But, there aren’t many stars out there, unless the company they work for has taken time to create and nurture an environment for them to thrive and shine.

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