The good news about SaaS is that enterprises, as well as small businesses, are increasingly adopting the technology, and see several benefits in adopting it. However, many of the third-party providers who offer SaaS services lack the customer service support to keep up with demand.
In one recent study, only 37 percent of participants reported that their SaaS provider supplied a dedicated customer-service manager for their business. Another 27 percent claimed they had difficulty finding the right person at their provider to solve a problem. For smaller firms looking for help, just 25 percent reported that their provider offered training for the apps they were using.
The results are part of a study released earlier this month dubbed "SaaS with a Face." The Enterprise Strategy Group conducted the survey, which interviewed nearly 250 companies using SaaS services, on behalf of Mimecast, which provides email management for its customers. (Registration required for full report.)
The survey offers a mixed view of the entire SaaS market. While more than 50 percent of the companies surveyed are using some type of SaaS application, another 38 percent are interested in taking the plunge into SaaS. Also on the good news front, many businesses see plenty of benefits with SaaS, including cutting infrastructure costs, reducing complexity, and helping the business to keep up with various government regulations.
However, this rush to SaaS is creating a gap when it comes to providing customer service, and making sure service-level agreements (SLAs) are followed to the letter. In a press release, Bill Lundell, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, noted:
With more businesses potentially turning to SaaS applications and other hosted services in the coming years, providers will need to offer dedicated support and increased transparency around any product updates or issues in order to improve customer satisfaction.
There are several ways for businesses to protect themselves when it comes to third-party providers. The main issue is to get out front and check and recheck the provider's services, and to make sure the SLA spells out what's needed. The report offers three best-practices for SaaS users:
- Nearly 60 percent of companies surveyed found that SaaS services were slow or unresponsive following an outage. The key to avoiding this is making sure the SLA is reviewed by the legal department and compared to other agreements. The stronger the SLA is, the better the performance of the provider.
- Businesses need to insist that the SaaS provider offer a dedicated engineer during the deployment and implementation. In addition, third-party providers need to offer dedicated customer service to clients for the length of the contract.
- Only 40 percent of those companies in the survey reported that they have regular communication with their provider. The customer should insist that the provider offer updates on products, software upgrades, and change in support staff.
For our SITE readers, what issues have you had with SLAs? Are there additional best-practices that companies and their IT departments need to follow in order to make sure they get the most out of their SaaS apps? Please tell us in the comments section.