Age of the Customer

On October 24th I had the pleasure of hosting a webinar titled “Talking Smack! How Customer Experience Affects the Bottom Line”  with customer experience expert, Christine Viera, VP of customer experience product marketing at Oracle. One of the concepts we briefly discussed is customer expectations are extremely high, and customers are empowered more than ever before.

I wanted to dive deeper into the reasons why this is the case and why businesses need to take notice and take action.

There are three new truths in business:

  1. Quality is a commodity.
  2. Information is democratized. And, because these two things are true…Quality Control Approved Stamp Shows Excellent Product
  3. The customer is empowered like never before.

Let’s take my first point, “quality is a commodity.” In our world of being a managed Cloud Service Provider for business-critical applications, there are five things that our customers absolutely demand:

  1. Availability
  2. Performance
  3. Security
  4. Compliance
  5. Recoverability

Now, while I would like to think that HOSTING is special because we offer solutions that deliver on all five of our customer’s demands for business-critical applications in the cloud, I know that our competition can also deliver on similar demands – they HAVE TO. It used to be that availability and performance were the only table stakes to be a web host, but customer demands continually increased and now you have to offer more to meet expectations.

Additionally, our industry is built from the invention and innovation of each other:

  • Versions of Windows and RedHat are the same across competitors.
  • VMware does not make a special virtualization product specific to HOSTING.
  • My Dell R820 is just like everyone else’s Dell R820.

For a managed Cloud Service Provider to differentiate, it is almost impossible to do so based on the quality of the data center, infrastructure, software, or managed services.  And for those that do find a differentiator based on technology, it is typically short-lived because the market can duplicate it.

These challenges are not specific to cloud computing and managed Cloud Service Providers. For example… the Galaxy S4 and the iPhone are practically the same phone. While the platform and operating systems are different, the use and features demanded by customers are nearly identical. Both offer a vivid touch screen, email, navigation, social connections, business apps for productivity, addictive games, and something to give to your kids while you try and eat your meal at a restaurant – they are of similar quality.

Quality is now a requirement for most products and services and can no longer be the only differentiator.  Companies like Amazon and eBay are the cause of this, because nearly every product and service consumable worldwide is made available locally. When customers have an infinite amount of choices on a global scale, quality becomes a commodity.

The question becomes, how is a customer to identify quality products and services from those that are not? That leads me to my next point…for my next blog post. Stay tuned!

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