User-Experience: SaaS, Software as a ‘Service’ OR Software as a ‘Service Sucks’?

Our company helps socially responsible businesses and startups (Social Good, Diversity and Inclusion), develop their own SaaS or digital products (mobile apps, productivity tools, etc). In this competitive market I’ve seen a few terrific product launches only for the service aspect to be pretty much an after thought. Could this be one key reason startups have a greater chance to fail within the first 5 years? An excellent product and excellent service can be a game changer, here’s three points to consider:

1- Although the Agile framework is the ‘popular’ kid at this time, tooting quick product launches, etc. There are some downturns when not used to its fullest potential. Not all companies are a true fit for Agile. They think it’s just about the product and not full end-user lifecycle management. Software development has a plethora of tools, frameworks to use and apply. Agile has great benefits, when applied with a development and business team that is actually on board with using an Agile framework, and clearly understands their role in applying an Agile methodology along with great user experience, UX. User Experience really goes beyond the perception of just a sleek and sexy product. It’s embracing a truly holistic experience that moves beyond production to delivery and supporting the end-user in terms of service. Tools like UAT (user acceptance testing), QA (quality assurance), etc. are just one facet of this experience. Anyone who touches the product or serves the customer becomes part of the end-user’s experience. Like any process, if only a few use it, it doesn’t matter how good it is. Processes are as good as the people who believe in it, and consistently apply them.

One of the fundamental foundation’s of Agile is its user-experience philosophy. The ability to listen to feedback and iterate accordingly, applying active-listening and capture on-going conversations with end-users.

2. Let’s say you’re one of the Founders or Product Owners of a product, and your business has been hyper focused on just caring about having a terrific product with little attention to delivering quality service AKA, the full ‘user-experience’, then it has failed in its delivery. Sound harsh? Not really, what if you have investors that you made revenue commitments to? Losing customers due to poor service becomes a risk issue. Even if the product is designed to be mostly a ‘self-service’ experience, but is poorly automated, your chances of several competitors chomping at the bit to swoop in to take your market share, is the looming risk your company takes in an already heavily saturated SaaS market.

Now for the end-user, have you ever been really excited about a product? Signed on (took less than 3 minutes, no need to add a credit card, for a 30 day trial)? Oh yeah, you know what I mean. You’re ready to test your new productivity tool. Within 24 hours you get a welcome email, to see how you are doing. Sounds like a great start to a terrific relationship right?

But then you start to experience the service cracks. The honeymoon is over. Train wreck. First, you wade through the training tutorials and videos. You feel you’re back in college again. You spend another 6-8 hours trying to understand where you went wrong with your new shiny toy. Doesn’t feel like such an easy-peezy anything anymore. Before you know it, the time you are investing feels like a part time job.

Next, you attempt to reach out to tech support. Gasp, this is where it starts to feel like you’re running up-hill. There is no phone number to call. Well, it is self-service, sure okay… After digging around for a ‘contact us’ form to get HELP, you find they may even be based in another country. And, oh yeah, their minimum time to get back to you is in 48 hours (or so). When did this become acceptable, really? Now remember, you haven’t even entered your credit card info for the product yet, but imagine if you actually had signed up and were a paying customer?

Now the waiting game. You filled out the nice little form, gave them browser info operating system, and sent a screenshot. Then wait a couple days later, and get a message back that says, Ms. Smith, we tried to replicate your error in our system, and based on our findings, (see the nice screen capture video we made for you) by clicking this link, we see there is no problem, it worked fine for us. Let us know how we can assist you further. Thank you.

Are you kidding me?! So you think to yourself, well maybe you can explain the issue better. So you remember your English teacher and the essays she had you write. And you start to re-explain again. More screenshots, more info-over-kill.

My point is days and days of this “self-service”, SaaS platform turns into SERVICE SUCKS. What a great product. But SERVICE FAILS. Insert your own scenario here, but you get my point. What’s worse is if you had gone in; hook, like and sinker, to buy the service (but want to cancel due to mountains of frustration), you discover there is no simple CANCEL SUBSCRIPTION button anywhere in your account. This was done intentionally by the way. What you do get is this pop-up: Please call this toll free number and leave a message with the customer retention department. Oh by the way, please request a cancelation 30 days before your next billing cycle so you don’t get charged. Otherwise there’s no refund. We appreciate your business. Have a nice day.

3. This is the experience of some SaaS-based products today. And it needs a major overhaul on the ‘Service’ side. I know, I know, we’ve got these twenty-something hipsters who are just so in love with their own product, they just got backed by a major Goliath (who by the way also sucks on service), to buy them out. Everyone is sipping champagne or rum and cokes while the end-customer is miserable. Laughing all the way to their new Porsche and a few nights out on the town in Vegas.

SaaS based companies don’t need to be churn and burn companies who are interested in just the sell, but lack a solid service-base.

Last words, what’s great about Agile’s user-centric approach is the flexibility to pivot and change; deliver on integrity, and establish a solid foundation where we care about the entire purchase process and end-user life-cycle management. Let’s build something we can be proud of that is based on a terrific product and an even more terrific user-experience; with a service-driven culture that comes with it.

After all, truly great user-experience doesn’t stop at the build level. It is part of the entire experience to deliver a great product and beyond.

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