6 Fundamental Principles for Supporting SaaS Clients

By Tracy Hofmann Roth

Client retention is typically a much higher priority and more of an ongoing effort for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies than for the traditional software company. The main reason for customer churn, as stated by Accenture’s 2008 global customer satisfaction report, is poor quality of customer service, not price. You can find that statistic and other interesting statistics on customer experience here.

To ensure you’re maintaining an “acceptable” SaaS churn rate of between five and seven percent, you should train your support team based on these six fundamental principles:

Understand the Business Need
The first step in solving any complex problem a client brings to you is to understand the business need behind it. Are they having trouble with the calculation of pay or finding the perfect report?  Before you start digging in, make sure you understand exactly what they are trying to achieve and how it impacts their business. This will speed up your resolution time dramatically, as it will help to eliminate any exceptions or “gotchas” in the future, as well as keep you on the right track to finding a solution. You may also find that the more you uncover about your client’s business, the easier it will be to make recommendations and provide simple solutions in the future, without causing undue burden on the client’s resources.

The Customer is (not) Always Right
It’s important to consider that maybe, just maybe, your customer could be wrong… contrary to popular belief.  And when this happens, you should make sure you have a delicate and thoughtful way to explain to the customer why they are incorrect and what they could be doing instead.  For example, you may have a dispute about a particular pay rule, or a manual change that overrode automation that was built into their system. In the end, mistakes happen and processes may need to change, but as long as you can make a case for why they are incorrect, and then make recommendations for the future that are (ideally) simple, your customer won’t mind hearing they are wrong.

Surface and Resolve Issues in a Timely Fashion
I realize this sounds like a no brainer here, but, keep in mind that issues tend to not escalate when they are surfaced at the right time and the appropriate communication of the state of the issue continues in the future.  In this case, you should set the proper expectations about what your workforce management solution can and cannot handle, and ensure you back up your statements in writing for future reference.

Understand Root Cause
There are three areas to hone in on when you are establishing root cause – The People, The Product and The Practice.  Oftentimes, an issue in the product may impact the people who use it and may result in the customer having to change their practices.

Create a Knowledge Base
Whether it’s through spreadsheets, a wiki, or a ticketing system, keeping track of the questions that come across your desk will always save you time in the future because you can refer to your documentation the next time you’re faced with a similar problem.

Establish Relationships
Establishing relationships with other providers of your workforce management solution, assuming you didn’t build it, is a great way to educate your team and reduce the amount of time you spend requesting support. Oftentimes, other providers of the solution can apply the experiences they have had with their clients to help you solve a problem or establish a best practice or process moving forward. If your workforce management vendor does not offer any type of community forum, make the suggestion to them or think about starting one yourself.

Supporting clients is important to any technology provider out there, but for SaaS solution providers, effective support is paramount to keeping churn rates low. By employing some of the above principles, you can help to ensure that clients are getting the help they need, staying satisfied, and promoting your business to their peers.

Do you have any SaaS solution support tips that your company has found to be effective? Please share them below.

About Tracy Hofmann Roth:

Tracy is a Senior Manager in Global Support at SaaShr and is responsible for managing a team of application specialists to successfully implement, train, and support partners and end user clients.

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