The shift to the Software As A Service 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 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 shift to SaaS are the manufacturers of customer contact center technology.
It's time to profoundly reinvent the profession of Customer Support. From the beginning of the technology industry to the present time, Support has been the Department of Break/Fix; “when something breaks, we fix it.” As such, the “profession” offers no real economic value to anyone; it never has. What's worse, as we move deeper into the gathering recession and farther into the rapidly unfolding SaaS era, Support as it is currently defined has no future. There are two paths that lead away from this point. One is downward into obscurity, obsolescence and ultimately extinction. The other is towards an authentic profession based on the exchange of true economic value.
As an analyst/consultant/writer with a very long background in customer contact center technology, I regularly get a lot of calls from CCTECH manufacturers. Every one is an opportunity to get a snapshot of what's going on in the profession, to to see the difference between what is talked about and what can actually be done. For example, we've all heard a lot about running Support as a profit center. But when the manufacturers call, especially those offering the key elements of the support technology suite, I have a standard question: What specific functionality does your product offer that would enable a customer support contact center to be authentically run on a Profit & Loss basis? So far, the answer has been silence.
What's the difference between a short-term policy and a long-term strategy? All too often, it's the difference between some limited revenues and sustainable profitability. Folklore has a very apt phrase for it: “Penny-wise, pound foolish.” In more corporate terminology, “The exclusive focus on immediate gains may put long range profits at risk.” In an era where companies constantly talk of the need for 360-degree views of the customer, Customer Relationship Management and of the importance of customer retention, why is it so easy to find myriads of examples wherein valuable customer relationships are mismanaged and lost?