Most organizations today view the move to SaaS as a cost cutting measure. While this is clearly a major benefit, it is small when compared to the advantages of continuous improvements in functionality. In a recent blog article, The Next Wave of SaaS, Jim Frome of SPS Commerce talks about 3 waves of SaaS. In it he discusses that a major value of SaaS is the continuous feedback that SaaS vendors get from the usage of their software. This in turn enables the vendor to provide this information to its customers who can benefit from understanding their usage patterns. With on-premise systems, each customer works on an island and feedback is elusive; this is more so within a company. If you are a large enough customer, your requests may get into the next release. Between bug fixes, patches and upgrade cycles, your system may not give you the functionality you want in a timely manner. With SaaS, customer usage patterns are continuous and feedback mechanisms provide an easy way for vendors to provide continuous improvements. Providing that information to customers completes the feedback loop.
I hate it when I call a company and get put on hold. It’s not the wait so much, it’s the music. Most of the time it’s something really annoying that loops endlessly. Occasionally I get something interesting, like a local radio station giving me traffic reports or music. Some give me the option to cancel the music and play a beep once in awhile to let me know I’m still connected.
How about using this as an opportunity to connect with me as an existing or potential customer? My local automobile dealership has the owner read local trivia from a book to pass the time on hold. They also inform me about service specials for my car. This makes me feel that I am doing something productive with my time. It’s also fun and make me feel wanted. If you tell me about other sections of your website, maybe you can get me to go there while I’m waiting on the phone. Maybe I will read a blog post or find out more about you.
With all the talk about Software as a Service (SaaS) being great for customers, I wondered if it’s a good deal for a vendor. Creating a service can be capitally intensive and you may not get a payback until years later. Some of the benefits for a customer are no upfront hardware and software investment, faster deployment, lower operating and maintenance costs and easy access through a browser.
One key that excites any customer is the pay-as-you-go model. This makes it easy to add and remove users and capacity as needed. Rather than worrying about how many software licenses to buy and if some of those wind up as shelf ware, a customer only has to worry about how many users they need today. If they need more, they add them. If they need fewer, they cancel them.
These are all compelling reasons for any customer to use SaaS. So what are some of the benefits to the vendor?
Blogs are everywhere, yet most corporations don’t have one. Some readers think that a corporate blog is just an advertisement for the company’s products or services. While some are, the good ones aren’t. Most people trust independent bloggers, because they believe they are not biased. This isn’t always true, but on the web, perception is reality.
If you want to engage with your customers today, you need a blog. Customers expect it and it shows that you are willing to engage in a less formal way. You will accept feedback, positive or negative. Most companies want to know what their customers think. Here’s a way to get the unvarnished truth. Attached is a great flash presentation of some of these challenges by VizEdu.