Sunday, April 19, 2015

Customer interaction in the SaaS world

One big difference that often goes unnoticed between shrink wrapped software and the ubiquitous software as a service (SAAS) products is the significant difference in customer interaction between the software provider and the user. In the former case, once the product is sold the amount of customer support is likely  to decrease dramatically over time. When was the last time you called MS for support for MS Office?

In the SaaS business however it is an ongoing, dynamic  relationship with the end-user because at some level what you are selling or what someone is buying is software packaged as a service. Implicitly users are more inclined to ask for support, and for new features.  And very often we as vendors tend to turnaround and quickly address their feature requests. There is constant rich exchange of ideas  that can trigger some real innovation and creativity.

Over the years, it has been interesting to observe various user types -- how people work with software, how they react, etc. In fact, its very revealing of human natures and tendencies and their variations. Perhaps an ideal space for a scientist who study human behavior!

We thought we should share our observations with you. Here are a few.

The Enthusiastic

Always eager to get more and more features. The "Can we modify this flow so that it becomes easier?" Can we add some enhancements here?" type. Best to work with if you have a good rapport with them. Extremely useful for improving your system. They will literally shake up your system for the good.

The Curious

Someone who is always exploring untouched areas of the system. As the saying goes, curiosity kill the cat. Too much wandering, that too ignoring the clear cut danger signs, have often ended us in trouble (things like what happens if I click  this "delete" button here? Oops!)

The Complaining

You guessed right. The toughest kid in the block. In most cases these will be someone who is familiar with a different but similar system before and therefore is hell-bent on changing our system so that it looks like the other one. Some has even asked for features that has absolutely no relevance to our system (think something like asking for a social sharing button in a private chat room) ... but then again we are trained to give them what they want  whether they use it or not :)

The Vanishing Type

This is a special category that deserves a mention. They are eager to understand the system, they understand what we say, they are happy with everything but guess what? They ask for a whole host of customization after frequent back and forth.They vanish a week before we plan the deployment (in majority of cases because of delays in getting some paper work done). Some re-appear after a couple of months with the same enthusiasm to start it all over again!

There are still many more customer types out there but we will reveal them slowly. And if any of our existing customers are reading this article please understand that this is NOT about you! ... :)