A pain in the SaaS

Software as a service (SaaS) is everywhere these days, with high-profile success stories like Salesforce leading the charge of hosted business tools. When we launched MasterVision back in 2006, the term “SaaS” wasn’t in common use, although that’s exactly what MasterVision has always been since day one.

Service with your software, madam?

The term ‘service’, though, has two distinct meanings – a technical one (on-demand, in the cloud) and a more traditional one (“how may I help you?”) – and in the latter sense the SaaS model can often be lacking. In fact, the off-the-shelf and one-size-fits-all nature of hosted software can sometimes lead to especially BAD customer service.

Like it or lump it

If you’re a SaaS provider, then uniformity is the key to success, and ideally you’d like every customer to use exactly the same features. Customizations are just expensive headaches: they complicate your code base, and distract your staff from selling and managing the standard service. That’s all good business, but it doesn’t make for a great experience if you’re a customer on the receiving end of that model.

We use several hosted services ourselves (such as Highrise and Onehub), and while they’re great at what they do, there’s little point in requesting changes. If you don’t like the way the software works, effectively you can lump it. Some larger vendors even go one step further in keeping customers at arm’s length, adding an extra layer of ‘implementation partners’ into the mix too (hello, Salesforce).

The sweet spot

At DataSalon, we try to hit the sweet spot for software as a service, with a large helping of old fashioned ‘service’ alongside all that lovely ‘software’. Partly it’s a benefit of being a smaller company, but we always ensure that all of the publishers we work with have direct access to our senior staff, significant input into our long-term product plans, and lots of scope for customizations whenever they need them.

Of course, not everybody needs that level of hands-on involvement, but next time you’re looking at SaaS options, remember that the second ‘S’ stands for ‘service’.