“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources[…] that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction,” wrote the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) back in 2009.
In a customer-centric economy, ‘minimal management effort’ and ‘minimal service provider interaction’ place businesses, certainly across the IT channel, in something of a conundrum. On the one hand, providers know that most of their customers appreciate a certain level of white-glove treatment and support. On the other hand, they also want access to their services instantly, with clear and quick visibility of their usage and costs.
The challenge for IT providers is to marry these needs in order to keep every customer happy and the business on a strong path to growth. Here we look at this challenge as it applies to Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs) and how it can be easily solved by offering customers the choice of a self-service portal.
Cloud is All About Flexibility
One of the most compelling advantages of the Microsoft CSP program for customers is that they only pay for what they use. Cloud is all about being able to flex licenses and subscriptions up and down according to need—and for CSPs this can be a huge selling point, granted the right processes and systems are in place to allow for this flexibility.
Self-service portals are one of the best (and fastest) ways to meet customers’ demands for greater convenience. By giving customers the option to adjust their Microsoft licenses up and down themselves, they can get the services they need as soon as they need them.
Giving customers a window into how they’re using their services across their organization, and an easy and transparent breakdown of their costs from their dashboards is an additional very important and saleable bonus, if it can be offered.
Self-service also means that billing queries quickly dissapear, as do complaints about the misallocation of licences since customers are able to manage their own accounts.
No More Azure Fears
Should customers be given the freedom to manage their Azure resources? One of the main fears associated with allowing this level of autonomy is the absence of a customer spending limit. If customers go on an unrestricted spending spree, the person liable for the costs incurred is ultimately the reseller. Most CSPs understandably don’t want to take the risk.
Managing costs and delivering cost transparency for Azure is a huge challenge generally. Azure’s thousands of resources, priced according to a variety of different metrics are difficult to process manually, and in such a way that customers get an easy view of where and how their money is being spent.
A custom-made portal set up to manage Azure and API link with the Microsoft Partner Center can easily resolve cost visibility, spending limit and billing challenges. With the right system in place, you can replace what is traditionally a convoluted process with a simple, streamlined one.
Cloudmore’s portal, for example, enables CSPs to set a spending limit (of US$5,000, for example), add automated notifications that advise customers where they are with their percentage spend and enables customers to view simple reports that detail how they’re spending their money.
Customer portals, and a good CSP automation solution more generally, are also great auditors. A robust portal will enable internal teams and customers to see an event trail that establishes who made changes to which subscription and when, be it a subscription change made by the internal team on behalf of a customer, or by the customer themselves. A system that shows a clear event trail is a point of reassurance for everyone since no transaction is left unaccounted for.
A Customer Portal Actually Makes for a Better White Glove Experience
Empowering customers to readily see how they’re using different resources and giving them greater cost transparency improves the standard of customer care. Margins on Microsoft subscriptions are also thinning, which is a worry for a growing number of CSPs. By allowing customers to self-serve and adjust their Microsoft subscriptions based on need, you can free up your team so that they can focus on higher priority activities, including refining that white-glove experience. Customer self-service ultimately translates to scale, less overheads, more profits, and data insights that allow your business to keep improving the customer experience so that there’s very little, or significantly reduced customer churn.