Though barely twenty years old, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model has become a common approach. It’s changed the way companies address and resolve their IT challenges, bringing better scalability, more flexibility and mobility to the mix.
And, it hasn’t stopped there: Growth of the SaaS business model has led many companies—even companies that don’t sell SaaS—to rethink how they provide customer service and support.
Below, we give three quick tips SaaS vendors can use to refocus their support strategy. We also explain why practices like these are becoming the new normal for all competitive digital businesses.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Why Service Matters More for SaaS Companies
The SaaS model has made it much easier—and faster and cheaper—for developers to bring new products to market. As a result, it has dramatically increased the options available to software and application buyers.
- For buyers, more options means the software selection process has become more time consuming, but it also increases the odds of finding a solution that meshes well with their organization’s workflows.
- For app makers and software vendors, extra options means more competing products, and competition for new SaaS customers is cutthroat—customers are won and lost as quickly as they can click “Uninstall.”
Customers in the SaaS economy are fickle, in both B2B and B2C contexts. With so many vendors competing for their business, and often trying to woo them with free trial offers, customers may abandon a product the first time it confuses, frustrates or disappoints them. While all companies compete to some degree on the quality of the service they provide, SaaS companies compete for higher stakes.
Tip #1: Answer Tomorrow’s Questions, Today
Self-service and in-line support both answer questions exactly the way consumers want them answered: immediately! Service platforms such as Samanage and Phaseware’s Tracker, along with in-line support tools such as Toonimo and Nickelled (below), make it possible to provide these services.
The great variety of competing products, and the ease with which prospective customers can switch from one to another, are the main reasons why it’s so important for SaaS companies to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to customer support requests.
The better able you are to predict and proactively resolve customer questions before they are asked, the less likely your customers are to check out your competitors.
A support request your company staff receives today could very well be the reason you lost a subscription yesterday, or last week.
Tip #2: Omnichannel Support is All for One and One for All
Offering support on multiple channels is great, but what customers really want is a seamless support experience. Products such as Pega CRM (below), Zendesk and many others offer omnichannel support with a unified backend.
Omnichannel support is often defined as the offering of customer support on all contact channels. (Well, maybe not all: No company expects to receive support requests via carrier pigeon or smoke signal.)
In practice, omnichannel support usually focuses on phone, email, live chat and in-app support requests.
But even this definition leaves out what is arguably the most important characteristic of true omnichannel support: a backend support system that properly identifies and organizes all incoming requests.
Even though customers may not know this process by name, it’s what they really want. They want a unified system on the backend so the question they emailed yesterday will be front-and-center when they call and speak to a different agent on the phone today.
Tip #3: Make SaaS Support a Team Sport
Ensure all relevant departments are aware of common support issues. Use support platforms that allow input and feedback from a variety of internal roles. Teamsupport (below), Zoho and Brand Embassy are three good examples.
While most companies have specialized departments to handle customer support, the reality is that every department has a role to play in determining support outcomes.
For example, if a marketing department positions a product without regard to its limitations, which were originally defined by the R&D department, then a customer service fiasco will likely follow.
The above scenario is especially common in companies with strictly siloed departments, wherein there’s little communication across department lines.
Many SaaS companies have less strictly defined internal organization for exactly this reason: to improve and facilitate a cross-departmental exchange of ideas and information.
For example, many have sales and product specialists provide walkthroughs or other onboarding services to new clients. This works well, because a little extra effort upfront can prevent numerous support questions down the line.
In the high churn, highly competitive world of SaaS, providing better-than-average customer support is a solid strategy for getting ahead (and reducing churn). If you’re ready to improve your SaaS company’s support strategy, the customer service platforms here can help you implement the tips above.