Improve Cloud Computing Service Quality with Five Simple Questions

clouddesign168813763Cloud computing means managing services, and that means delivering to customer expectations. Customer quality of experience (QoE) is the most significant factor in delivering cloud computing services—and the key to your success.

Consumers rate your service on just a few service characteristics: reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy, and responsiveness, or RATER.

  • Reliability: Consistency and dependability of the service; the ability of the service to perform its required functions under stated conditions for a specified period
  • Assurance: The level of safety and confidence felt when using the service; security, privacy, and risk play into assurance
  • Tangibles: The physical aspects of the service, including user interface device, manuals, hardware, etc.
  • Empathy: Making the consumer top priority by understanding consumer needs, offering convenient hours, being available for support when needed, etc.
  • Responsiveness: Prompt operation, service, and support.

If you manage cloud services delivery, your answers to five simple questions can help you determine whether you’re meeting consumer expectations. If your answer is “no” or “I don’t know” to any of the five, it’s highly likely your customers are dissatisfied with your service. If you’re corporate IT, this dissatisfaction means your service is at best a nuisance and at worst contributing to corporate failure. If you’re an e-service provider, you’re losing business to your competition. Nonprofits and government are wasting money.

Choose a service you deliver that has been brought to your attention for performance concerns. Ask the service owner the following five questions that take into account the RATER aspects of service quality. Ask for justifications for each answer.

The five questions in order of importance are:

  1. Do you have an agreed plan of action to meet customer expectations for the five RATER service quality aspects? Ask to see the written plan as well as the documented service levels required for each aspect.
  2. Have you blueprinted service standards to meet the agreed plan of action for each quality aspect? A service blueprint is a complete plan for the people, processes, products, and partners involved in this service. It identifies how each one must change, and to what degree, to meet your written plan of action. It should include job descriptions, new roles, process changes, automation, etc.
  3. Were people, processes, partners, and products put into action as blueprinted? If you have a written plan and a blueprint, verify it actually happens.
  4. Do the systems and people put in place deliver to defined standards? Validate that you have in place the means to measure your teams’ performance against the new requirements. These new requirements must align to employee development and compensation systems.
  5. Are communications to customers about service quality standards correct? Ensure you’re delivering what you promised and what the customer expected, and ensure the customer’s perception matches yours.

Implicit within these five questions are the assumptions that you have the means to relate customer perception and expectation with the service, you have a system or tool in place to measure customer expectations for the service, and you have some form of continuous service quality improvement process in place. If you don’t have these items, it’s fairly certain your customers are dissatisfied, and obtaining those would be the place to start improving QoE.

RATER and the five questions represent state-of-the-art thinking in service management—that is, the formal science of managing services and, in particular, managing e-services (a.k.a. cloud computing). Most service providers have at least one e-service that doesn’t meet customer expectations for quality or value. This is where you should begin.

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