The SaaS model is clearly here to stay, and it feels that every day a new offering is born, whether from a brand new start up or from a company with an established history of selling traditional on premise software products. From a customer perspective, the benefits are clear – lower initial upfront costs, higher adoption rates, improved upgrade cycles, and a reduced time to see the benefits are just a few. From a vendor perspective, the predictable recurring revenue stream is enough to make any business owner happy on its own.
SaaS providers, however, now need to consider how to handle the increased customer interactions that occur with this model. A traditional cycle may have been to sell the software, implement and train and then transition to support, with invoices going to the customer once a year for the maintenance renewal. SaaS providers however have continuous interactions with their customers. Invoice could be going out monthly or quarterly or for changes in usage over time. Whatever the case may be, the number of “touches” has increased.
From a pure transactional perspective, there are ERP modules to assist in the invoicing process so that the increased paperwork is not a huge issue. The more important thing to consider regarding the increased customer interactions is customer service. Each interaction is an opportunity to serve the customer better. Each interaction is an opportunity to listen to issues, offer services, and simply communicate in general with the customer. Sometimes the effect of a simple “so how are things going?” question is amazing. With a SaaS model, vendors now have many more opportunities to ask their customers how things are going, and to get out in front of issues and be proactive instead of reactive, which is often too late.
The difficult part is how to incorporate that customer service mentality into what has traditionally been just an accounting function. As a SaaS provider, my company has had to do this in a variety of ways. For example, we have a Customer Care Manager who is involved in just about every communication with the customer. She is aware of the billing cycle, on-going projects and works very closely with the accounting department to ensure that with every customer interaction we take an opportunity to listen to the customer and make sure we are doing everything we can ensure they are successfully using our products. Having someone one who is specifically dedicated to this role has played a huge part in ensuring that we address the customer service needs of the SaaS model.