The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
By Mikael Blaisdell

Hokusai; Great WaveThe accelerating shift to the Software As A Service/Cloud distribution model inevitably brings the end of large dedicated Sales teams for software vendors.  The new profits-realization methodology, being based on incremental gains from many income streams rather than from bulk up-front events, does not allow for the costs of large direct sales forces.  It also doesn’t allow paying for large customer support staffing levels either — a fact which has vital significance to two different groups.  The first is the whole range of  SaaS vendors, who will need to pay far more attention to user experience in their product design efforts.  The second group that needs to be paying very serious attention to the implications of the ever-growing SaaS/Cloud shift are the manufacturers of customer contact center technology.

Challenge and Opportunity

sign-lane-decrease-smWhen the customer’s desktop operating system layer is removed from the support equation, as it is in SaaS, a significant amount of the support burden is taken away as well.  That’s only the beginning; for when a myriad of onsite copies and versions of the application code are replaced by one central copy, the demand for break/fix support inevitably is also sharply cut.  The combination of the two factors means fewer calls coming into Support, and therefore a reduced need for skilled people on deck to handle them.  The substantially smaller number of seats to be filled means that companies will be buying fewer licenses from the support technology makers.  That’s the challenge for the CCTECH vendors: How to replace the lost income from seat/licenses that are no longer needed?

The opportunity comes in two flavors.  The first is that there are much better things for skilled professionals to be doing than answering break/fix calls, things that customers will pay well to have done.  The second is that there is a very definite need for tools that will enhance the productivity of the remaining individual support reps, and to enable the team to operate authentically as a profit center.  Who will create those tools?  And teach companies how to use them effectively?  Will your company be the leader in the new contact center technology market?

Productivity and Profitability

cost-of-churn-01Success at SaaS requires a lean operation; there is no room for inefficiency.  Unfortunately, in most SaaS companies, there is a lot of inefficiency in their Support efforts.  A major part of the cause of that scenario is a strategic; the failure to understand the nature of the relationship product.  The other major contributor is the lack of appropriate tools for managing the support team.  In today’s CCTECH market, the tools have no connection to profitability.  If you ask a customer support contact center manager to identify the top ten issues from last month, the answer is (generally) quickly given.  But if you then require an accurate statement of what it cost the company to handle those issues, the result is an embarrassing silence.  The current contact center technology suite simply cannot answer profit and loss questions.  How can anyone think to operate as a profit center when basic cost information is not available?

It’s time for a change, to confront the questions that have been avoided and to challenge the assumptions that have been unconsciously made about what the software market will look like over the next few years.  If you’d like to be a part of that effort, give me a call.

tssf-100x50To discuss this article, please join us in The SaaS Support Forum on LinkedIn.com by clicking here. (Information about TSSF may be found here.)

July 4, 2009