Where are your customers these days? Unless you are providing a product or service that actually requires close proximity, you may not actually know or care where all of your customers are. Even if you do have to be close to your customers, like a dry cleaners, manicurist, barber, or medical professional, your customers will still want to interact with you from anywhere by any means. As your customers’ interface to the Internet collapses to a single interface (see Death of the Laptop?), they will want to determine your hours, schedule an appointment, look for a coupon, order a product, make a complaint or provide a complement from their phone, tablet, laptop, desktop or Internet-enabled TV.
Your customers really want on-demand self-service from anywhere at anytime. That sounds a lot like the definition of Cloud Computing. They want you to at least appear to be in the Cloud. They want you to be available 24/7. Have you made it easy for your customers to contact you when and how they want?
Does that mean you need someone to monitor your web site or watch for phone calls or text messages all the time? Probably not. But it does mean you have to have the processes in place to ensure that someone is checking text messages, voice mail, email and web inquiries every business day and reacting to them promptly.
These processes are critical if you are using social media. Just having a Facebook page, Twitter account or blog does no good if you never update it or react to incoming messages. An unwatched social media will quickly fade away from your customer’s thoughts. If that has happened to you, I suggest you take a step back and decide why you want that social media presence. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you have measurable goals? Then build a plan to create the initial content, keep it updated, and more importantly monitored. Then re-launch that social media presence with as much splash as you can. Periodically review hits and other activities and your progress towards the goals. Change you plan as appropriate.
Everything above applies to your partners as well. They also want to be able to place orders or give you updates from anywhere at anytime. If it easier to communicate with you competitors than with you, your partners will drift away to them.
Do not forget your employees. I wrote recently about BYOD, bring your own devices, where your employees will want to use their own phones and tablets and even their own homes as their office. Some of your employees will use their own devices; you really can’t stop them. If you make it hard, then they will find somewhere else to work. Instead, you should get in front of this issue and view it as an opportunity. You will find that many of your employees are used to checking social media periodically, and reacting to text messages, email and voice mail at all hours. Expect to get a periodic message that one of your team made a sale or solved a customer problem during a commercial of their favorite TV show. This is very satisfying to your employee and your customer, and to you also.
Your customers, your partners and your employees are in the Cloud. You do not need to be in the Cloud to support them there, but it can help you provide that 7/24 presence that they all expect.
The last word:
I recently had a business trip to Fort Huachuca in Arizona. While not related to why I was there, one of the labs in Fort Huachuca tests equipment for compromising emissions, mostly radio frequency, that might enable someone to figure out what is going on in a computer system by “listening” to it. Several decades ago I saw a demonstration: we sat in a van on the street outside of a government building, and printed in the van exactly what was being printed inside the building by picking up the compromising emissions from the printer. Around 1980, one of our salesmen came to me and said he wanted to bid our commercial terminal for a Department of Defense project. I knew this terminal would never pass the testing – it had no shielding of any kind. In spite of my objection, the salesman sent the terminal out for testing, and it passed! I was astonished. I called someone I knew at the lab and asked why they had passed it. He said they had several long conversations amongst the engineers before they passed it. It turns out the terminal generated so many emissions that it was impossible to pick up any usable data.
The US Department of Homeland Security was forced by a Freedom of Information request to reveal the list of words it monitors on social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S. It is an interesting list with over 300 words and phrases. It includes, for example, “Transportation Security” – one of the reasons why I always refer to TSA by the more descriptive “Terrorist Support Agency” since none of those words are on the list. The list includes “Cloud,” “Security,” “Breach” and even “Tucson,” where I flew into to get to Fort Huachuca. It includes “Power,” “Leak,” “Recovery” and “Flu.” It includes “Prevention” and “Response.”
I suggest you get this list, not to avoid the use of any term on it, as that would be almost impossible, but to make sure you include a few of them in everything you write. Virtually every posting in this blog includes a dozen or more of them since I write a lot about the Cloud, Cloud security, and breach prevention. Let’s make the world so noisy that Homeland Security (another phrase on the list) rethinks what they are doing.
Keep your sense of humor.