Serverless services may be the big trend in IT these days, but it’s still a service-full world out there, and virtually every organization is relying on third party services to keep their technology going. Now, more than ever, companies are finding it critical to choose the right partnerships. Your clients are relying on you to keep your commitments so they can keep theirs. But what practices and habits make it clear that you’re a vendor that clients can trust?
Patrick Debois, CEO of Zender TV, has definite opinions about what makes a high-quality, trustworthy serverless services vendor. Here are twelve things Patrick takes into account when selecting vendors to bring into his circle of trust. Follow these guidelines to become a better vendor for your customers—and use the same criteria to choose better partners for your ecosystem, regardless of whether you’re in the field of serverless services or not.
- Communicate about your status. Amazon learned the hard way about the importance of transparency during their first major outage. The services company was swamped with inquiries about what was going on. A simple status page would have answered many of these questions and kept tech support from being so overwhelmed.
- Monitor the other agents you depend upon. This is the key to not being blindsided when critical services are experiencing issues. You can only let your customers know what’s going on when you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of your ecosystem.
- Do a post mortem after a failure. Debois put it bluntly, “If you had a real failure, man up and describe what actually happened.” When people understand what went wrong, and how the issue is being addressed to prevent future failure, they can make better choices about managing their own risk.
- Be proactive. This could be as simple as warning customers to take action to head off issues. For example, if they are using a service outside the scope of what it was intended to handle, let them know up front that they might run into issues. Also, publish a change log with new features so customers know what’s coming up and can check other dependencies on their end.
- Expose your metrics in more detail. Even if this means revealing that your company is having trouble with a specific aspect of performance, honesty is valuable. Engineers working in your clients’ organizations want to see what’s going wrong so they don’t waste time trying to debug something on their side when the real issue is on your side.
- Keep people updated. This can be done with email or other communication. Consider what information you’d want to receive from your vendors, and use that as a guideline for what to share.
- Make it easy to get data out. This is a big deal for Debois. “Something I look for when I use a service is whether I can get data out.” Even more important, he wants to know if he can easily reproduce settings. Going back to the “factory default” and having to rebuild settings can be a huge task after a failure. However, he says it is rare to find a vendor that allows a full data dump including settings. Be the exception.
- Talk at conferences like JavaOne. Even if it’s not specifically about your services, being willing to share knowledge is a sign that you are there to help and that you care about helping users have a better experience.
- Contribute to open source. Again, this allows potential customers to see the quality of your work and your commitment to supporting best practices. They can see how you do documentation as well.
- Give users a voice. Allow the community to vote on upcoming features so that your offerings are tailored to more effectively address their concerns and needs.
- Show that you listen. Responding to all requests quickly is crucial for maintaining trust. Patrick says he is particularly impressed by organizations that “listen in” to conversations about their services on Twitter and jump in to respond in real time to ask questions and propose solutions. Having engineers that aren’t afraid to talk to people is a huge plus.
- Provide feedback to other vendors you depend on for services. Sometimes, it takes an outside voice to prompt action—even if internal engineering teams have been pushing for the change for a while. Being a good customer makes you a better vendor by helping improve the entire ecosystem.
So do you want to be a more trustworthy, serverless services vendor, or just a more trustworthy vendor in general? These are twelve ideas you should take into account.