Defining the Enterprise Cloud Service – Part 5: Singular Focus on the Customer

Last week, I posted the fourth installment in a six-part blog series about what it takes to have an enterprise-ready cloud service and the three characteristics (security, reliability and trust) that differentiate an enterprise cloud service from a typical consumer cloud service. In this series, I’ve discussed five aspects to look at when evaluating a cloud service for those characteristics. They are:

  • Development for the enterprise
  • Endless 9s reliability
  • Benchmarked and audited service
  • Strong encryption throughout
  • Singular focus on the customer

In this post, I’ll discuss the “singular focus on the customer.” This component is necessary to truly have an enterprise cloud. Think back to Mat Honan’s personal identity hack: part of the attack surface included Apple’s and Amazon’s customer support mechanisms that were in place on Mat’s accounts — which isn’t surprising.

While Apple and Amazon have fixed the particular attack vector that was used on Mat, the sophistication of social engineering attacks is increasing. In a consumer cloud environment, the sheer number of users requires a minimalist approach to automating the support interface because users need to be able to easily manage their account profiles, reset passwords, etc. — all without having a support rep at the other end of the line.

Enterprise-grade cloud service vendors, however, must take the opposite approach to customer support. Workday provides key HR functionality; Box provides a virtual file share location; ServiceNow automates enterprise IT. These cloud services are adding critical virtual infrastructure to the enterprise without requiring companies to hire people to build and support those services.

CIOs at a Fortune 100 company simply won’t accept the type of automated customer support typical among cloud service vendors that requires answers to numerous questions, the last four digits of a social security number and navigation of a CAPTCHA interface, only to make them wait 20 minutes until the next customer service representative becomes available. Enterprise cloud services adding virtual infrastructure or services to an enterprise must be ready to support this extension of IT, as well.

Here at Okta, we dedicate a very large part of our organizational resources to customer service. It’s not only in the number of resources in the Customer Success group led by Arun Shrestha, but in how customer service and support is systemic to all facets of our company. This high-touch service and support starts before our customers even go live, and developers and the executive team get involved. This makes sense for any enterprise cloud service that supports large enterprise. You live or die by how successful customers become by using your service.

What’s more — and this part hits close to home for me as a CSO — is that when enterprise cloud vendors are able to provide that high-touch, singular focus on their customers’ success, they build in a layer of personal security, the kind that occurs when people on either end of that customer support call actually know one another. In those cases, the customer knows that her problems are a priority for the cloud vendor — and that’s the way it should be.