There is a tendency for some SaaS/Cloud vendors to think that Customer Support is the same as it was in the traditional sector, only with less demand and therefore a significantly lower staff. The core of that mis-perception is that Support is an unfortunately necessary evil, the group that only deals with problems resulting from breaks and interruptions in service…
Awareness of the fundamental changes driven by the shift to SaaS to the profession and practice of Customer Support, both to external Support and internal IT Help Desks, is growing. The Help Desk Institute has asked me to write a two-part series on the subject for their SupportWorld magazine, drawing on the continuing research of The SaaS & Support Project (tm). The first article, on “SaaS, Cloud Computing and The Redefinition of Customer Support,” will focus on the changes to Support when a company transitions its business application products from the traditional model to SaaS. The second, on “Moving to The Cloud: Transitioning Your Support Technology Suite” will also talk to both external and internal Support professionals, and will cover the process of transitioning a case-management system or other element of a standard support technology suite from an on-premised product to a SaaS solution. Additional input for both these articles is welcome, from managers, individual professionals and support technology manufacturers.
The shape and color of the Cloud formations have a dark tinge out at the farther edges. The market for Software As A Service applications seems headed into a commoditized future. As more and more software companies offer SaaS products, the swelling competition will exert ever-growing pressure on pricing. Sound familiar? It should, for increasing power and availability of choices coupled with decreasing price has been the reality of the PC market for many years. But that dark future is not inevitable for SaaS. Consider the example of a company that still consistently gets premium prices for a premium product family in the midst of the PC sameness. Even better, a company who enjoys continuing levels of customer loyalty its competitors can only helplessly envy. SaaS vendors who want more than subsistence, take note: Who will be the Apple of the SaaS community?
As the Software As A Service business model continues its rapid advance, the inherent changes for both vendor and customer are both substantial and significant. But once again, Customer Support is in danger of getting shoved to a back burner. I'm sure you've heard the usual statements of “strategies:” “SaaS doesn't need Support, it's included in the subscription.” “We're going to do it all via web self-service.” “The social networking community will take care of it for us.” And, of course, “just keep costs down.” If you'd like to be part of a smarter approach, you're invited to take part in a new benchmarking and research project that's aimed squarely at taking the best of what we've learned from the past and using it to create the future. The result will be best-practices data and better business + operational models for both SaaS and Customer Support.