Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Great customer service in the cloud

It's interesting to see providers moving to and, by proxy, the rest of us relying on, the cloud.

I just spent a few hours at VMWorld, and judging by the size, sophistication, and variety of providers, vendors, products, and companies, virtualization technologies, and in particular, cloud computing, is here to stay.

Today, Google apologized for it's GMail outage yesterday, with a completely forthright, mature, and encouraging response.

Gmail's web interface had a widespread outage earlier today, lasting about 100 minutes. We know how many people rely on Gmail for personal and professional communications, and we take it very seriously when there's a problem with the service. Thus, right up front, I'd like to apologize to all of you — today's outage was a Big Deal, and we're treating it as such. <read the rest of Google's post...>

And, in a twist of fate, just a few days ago I received an email from Netflix. Apparently they had some trouble with their network while I was trying to watch a tv show using my XBox 360. Not only did they figure this out, but they sent me an email that offered to discount my monthly fee by 3%. This is fantastic customer service! Here's the email in it's entirety:

We're sorry you may have had trouble watching instantly via your Xbox

Dear Taylor,

Last night, you may have had trouble instantly watching movies or TV episodes via your Xbox due to technical issues.

We are sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused. If you were unable to instantly watch a movie or TV episode last night via your Xbox, click on this account specific link in the next 7 days to apply your 3% credit on your next billing statement. Credit can only be applied once.

Again, we apologize for any inconvenience, and thank you for your understanding. If you need further assistance, please call us at 1-866-923-0898.

-The Netflix Team

Failures do happen. And today's scaled-out architectures are designed to be resilient to these failures. But the fact is that even though these designs exist, and are generally very resilient against failures, giving these services availability times numbered in the 9's, mistakes in design, implementation, or execution still do happen.

I say, give these guys massive cred for owning up to their mistakes, and dealing with the consumer in an open and honest way. That's the way to build solid relationships, and I for one will not look twice when Yahoo! or Blockbuster sends me that next request to join up on their service. These guys have it figured out, and have sold me as lifelong* customer, even if they're not perfect.

If only legacy infrastructure (power, cable (grrr Comcast), telephone (AT&T - I'm looking at you)) and the like could understand the value in this approach.

* lifelong in tech years, which is only about 5 years or so ;-)