Some SaaS applications are very intuitive and easy-to-use. For services like these, you probably won’t need to worry about support.
But for more complex SaaS applications – such as CRM – you’ll want to make sure that help and training are available when you and your employees need it. Fast support and quick resolution will save you a lot of time and money, while also preventing more serious problems from adding up and snowballing.
Below, I’ve listed a number of the most important support features that you should evaluate when comparing SaaS applications.
Live Phone Support:
The best way to get fast-accurate systems for immediate problems would be to speak with a live agent. When evaluating live phone support, you should ask whether this is for a 24 hour call center or if it’s only open during certain hours. This level of service might come for free with the price of the SaaS service, or there may be an extra fee.
Some companies will send their calls to an outsourced call center that’s only equipped to handle a limited number of client issues. If the problem is outside of this limited scope, it’s escalated to the internal support staff and you should expect to get a response within 24 hours. This is a smart financial decision for the SaaS provider, since outsourced off-shore labour is cheap and 90% of inbound calls are about the same handful of problems.
However, the price of outsourced labour has been rising steadily over the past 5 years. And many companies are finding that the drop in customer service suffered from this approach is more expensive than the money saved by outsourcing to low-quality call-center providers.
Live Video Support:
Video is changing the way we do business, and we’re now starting to see the emergence of video-chat in technical support. Video facilitates the interaction since most of our interpersonal communication is done through non-verbal cues.
Also, the video approach allows the support staff and the end-user to exchange pictures and diagrams instead of trying in vain to describe hard-to-visualize ideas over an auditory medium.
This is a newer type of phone support that has emerged within the past few years. It does a very elegant job of eliminating those long on-hold wait times. Instead, you enter your phone number into an online form and the call center will dial your number when an agent is available.
Some companies offer email-based support. These can become disorganized if you have to deal with multiple agents about different issues. If possible, try to insist on always dealing with the same agent for support questions. This person would act as your liaison within the company, and you could hold them accountable for the resolution of your problems. And much like going to the same doctor every time you’re sick, going to the same agent will help you build a history and a relationship.
Trouble tickets are similar to email, except that there is a sophisticated back-end system that coordinates communications between various parties, tracks incident history, and ensures fast and complete resolution of all customer problems.
Live chat is a more economical substitute to live phone support, since a single agent is able to manage many chat windows at the same time for better productivity. As with live phone support, you’ll want to check the hours when live chat is available.
One of the SaaS services I use has a chat support which is only available for 4 hours per day.
One of the drawbacks with live chat is that – unlike with trouble tickets – these sessions don’t usually build or track history. So you might call in every week about the same problem, but the root cause can’t be determined without a detailed incident history.
Some companies try to save even more money on their support costs by getting an artificial-intelligence bot to handle customer inquiries. You may believe that you’re speaking to a computer, but you’re actually talking to a computer. If the computer can’t resolve your problem through its database of solutions, it will take your information and escalate the issue to a human.
I happen to know of several high-profile companies that use chatbots, but you’d probably never guess unless I told you.
If you’d like to see how powerful computer logic can be, I’d suggest you visit http://us.akinator.com.
In the early days of the Internet, all of the experts were claiming that “information wants to be free”. Today, information is so free that we’re overloaded with the sheer abundance of it. Today, information doesn’t just want to be free, but it also wants to be presented nicely.
If your SaaS provider has an online video library, it can help you learn new concepts faster… with a richness that would simply not be possible through text. And if they publish on YouTube, you’ll have access to additional question/answer capability in the comments section.
Does your SaaS provider have a detailed online library of all their functionality? This is probably the single most important support feature you should look for, since it will allow you to have quick self-service access to problem solutions. Unfortunately, most SaaS apps are built iteratively, with new features being added, removed and modified every day. And in their rush to optimize, improve and modify the software, documentation often gets forgotten.
The vast majority of support calls revolve around a small number of problems. With a well-organized Frequently Asked Questions section, you can quickly find the solution to your most common issues without having to dig through tons of boring and irrelevant technical documentations.
Many SaaS founders have been kind enough to write in-depth books that explain every aspect of their software. These can be very helpful when evaluating solutions, or when learning complex SaaS apps. Some of these books are available on Amazon.com, some can be downloaded as ebooks, and others are available through small self-publishing printers.
Dedicated Training Agents:
Some companies have on-staff agents that will provide detailed, personalized walk-thoughts of their services. They don’t just provide support, but actually provide expert tips and advice for optimal performance. Some companies charge for this service, others offer the service for free, and others only provide the service to top-their clients who spend a minimum amount of money.
Google AdWords has become well-known for their excellent support in this area.
Some organizations will hold conventions, networking events and get-togethers for their users, partners and enthusiasts. One of the most famous such events in the SaaS space would be the Dreamforce event, held by SalesForce CRM.
Many of the more complex SaaS applications have “certified trainer” programs. You can attend a live seminar with one of these trainers, or hire them to come in and train your employees. There is usually a fee for these services, since the trainers are independent of the SaaS company.
A thriving online community is usually a sign of a healthy SaaS service. These communities can be online message boards or social media groups. When you join an online community, you can get answers from other users, and search historical comments for solutions to your problems.
These communities are also a great place to find out how to resolve brand-new undiscovered bugs and issues that the company may not have addressed yet.