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The SaaS Trasition

Publication date: 10/2013

Executive Summary

As many companies are discovering, the growing popularity of software-as-a-service (SaaS) dramatically transforms the role of software support. With a SaaS business model, customers can pull the plug on their subscriptions with almost no notice if they re dissatisfied or unsuccessful. Revenue streams, renewal rates, subscriber growth, add-on services they all go poof! if support fails.

Often, the natural response to the SaaS support challenge is simply to throw more bodies into the equation. More bodies presumably equal faster response times, more cases closed, more time on individual calls. What more could a customer want?

Well, apparently customers do want much more. There s no single demand that support managers always hear, but many of the new expectations address aspects of the customer experience. SaaS implementations typically move the actual software away from the customer s computers, which eliminates many hard-to-solve technical issues. But that still leaves and in fact expands the potential for a wide range of support-related usability problems, how-to questions, and general hand-holding.

Moreover, one of the selling points of the SaaS model is that it reduces the support burden for the customer s own IT department. That s fine but now the vendor has to manage larger numbers of non-technical end users without the buffering role of IT, and at times has to accommodate a tidal wave of untrained users that a customer has just added to its subscription contract. SaaS support organizations often struggle to be able to scale rapidly, and it s not an easy problem to solve.

How do successful SaaS vendors handle support problems like these? We recently conducted open-ended interviews with managers from 20 support organizations on these topics, and we ve collected their insights and best practices in this report.

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