Microsoft: Customer service to be cloud differentiator

Service support can make or break deals for cloud computing vendors, says Microsoft exec who points to customer service as key to Redmond's cloud play. Its competitors think likewise.

Customer service provided by cloud computing vendors can make or break a deal, says a Microsoft executive, underscoring the emphasis Redmond has placed on customer support as a competitive differentiator.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Ker Wing-Dar, Microsoft's general manager of customer service and support in Asia-Pacific and greater China region, said his department plays a key role as "strategic differentiator" for the push.

Support is critical and can make or break a deal, said Ker, noting that enterprises feel more confident choosing a cloud service provider that is able to provide someone they can talk to when they have questions.

He added that customer support is a critical component in the adoption of cloud services, particularly because some organizations underestimate the time required to move to a cloud platform, perceiving the migration to be simply about turning on a "switch".

For enterprises, moving to a cloud business model requires not only user training but also a change in the business processes and tools used. Customer support will play an important role in addressing these requirements, Ker said.

The Microsoft executive noted that many of the software vendor's cloud computing competitors either have little or no support, or are not experienced in providing enterprise-level service and support.

While he declined to name names, Ker cited a competitor which does not list phone numbers on its Web site. "How good will the experience be if the user cannot get support at all?" he questioned.

Cloud players point to service
ZDNet Asia spoke to other cloud services providers for their take on customer service and support. In an e-mail interview, Amazon Web Services' (AWS) Singapore-based spokesperson, Regina Tan, said customer service is "paramount" to the company.

The Internet giant provides free basic support that includes a resource center, service health dashboard, technical FAQs and developer forums, Tan said. AWS also offers a premium support level where customers will receive personalized technical assistance, she added.

When contacted, a Google spokesperson said: "Providing best-in-class enterprise support is a top priority." The Singapore-based executive noted in an e-mail that the company has invested in resources to ensure customers have a smooth experience and get their questions answered quickly.

"To do so, we offer our business customers phone, e-mail and online support," said the spokesperson. "Online support includes help forums that are moderated by Google experts and help center articles that answer the most common questions."

Offline help is provided by Google App partners such as phone support and onsite training, he added.


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