Strategic Role of Technical Support in Driving SaaS Adoption

To meet the complexities of the software as a service (SaaS) world, leading providers are revamping their outdated support models to help enterprises achieve success in Industry 4.0. Technical support teams now have expanded roles in customer success, relationship management, and delivering other value-added services for clients. Read on to learn how the next evolution in technical support is turbocharging SaaS adoption.

For more on our continuing coverage of how digitalization is changing technical support functions, also read The Evolution of the Technical Support Engineer Job Role.

Technology has always played an integral part in an enterprise’s operating model and value creation. However, with the emergence of Industry 4.0 – characterized by technology-intensive transformation and convergence of cyber and physical systems – enterprises have significantly shifted how they leverage technology-based solutions. SaaS adoption is one of the key driving forces behind the emergence and success of Industry 4.0.

Leading technology/SaaS vendors realize that traditional ‘break-fix’ technical support models are outdated in the new environment, and failing to evolve their existing technical support models is one of the major causes of dissatisfaction among SaaS customers. Hence, they are investing in revamping their technical support models. Let’s learn more about this interplay between SaaS adoption and technical support.

SaaS adoption and its impact on enterprise buying behavior

SaaS adoption is increasing exponentially across the globe. The global SaaS market is expected to grow at more than 100% CAGR through 2026, reaching a market size of US$300-400 billion. SaaS enables users to access their applications through a browser instead of installing software on their computers. It provides centralized configuration and hosting, as well as automatic updates releasing users from installing and maintaining software, and simply allowing them access via the internet. Adoption is further driven by factors such as zero upfront/CapEx cost, reduced IT-related operating and maintenance costs, ability to easily ramp up/down operations, as well as adherence to best practices, and built-in functionalities providing users with ease of operations.

However, the increasing adoption of SaaS-based operating models has significantly influenced enterprises buying behavior, ultimately propelling SaaS providers to rethink their technical support strategies. Below are some of the key changes in buyer behavior and how they are impacting providers:

  • Shift from product to service mindset – No longer can you sell a technical solution with a perpetual license and consider your job finished. In a SaaS-based solution, revenue depends on the customer’s subscription and consumption of services. The higher the lifetime value of the customer, the higher the revenue. This is a dramatic shift in the treatment of SaaS-based solutions from a product to a service-based model with the quality of technical support determining the working relationship with the customer, affecting retention and lifetime value
  • Low client stickiness – With increased adoption of interoperability standards and heightened competition, the cost of switching from one SaaS provider to another has drastically reduced versus on-premises solutions where switching costs served as a lock-in for a client to continue with a specific service provider. This negligible switching cost has reduced client stickiness, making it essential for providers to help customers quickly realize value and deliver a differentiated experience to drive renewals and sales growth in a SaaS model

Evolving expectations from technical support

With negligible switching costs and a plethora of options available, technical support is becoming paramount to the success of a SaaS solution. A well-designed and well-implemented technical support model can help achieve desired objectives and increase revenue through differentiated technical support or even indirect lead generation by uncovering opportunities to cross-sell or upsell. Accordingly, the scope of technical support services has broadened beyond the break-fix solutions to involve the following dimensions:

1. Evolved role of customer success manager (CSM): The CSM role is strategic to drive the success of a SaaS-based solution. CSMs work with customers to ensure customers are receiving the tools and support needed to achieve their goals. They strive to have an in-depth understanding of the customer’s needs and are responsible for communicating customer behavior/feedback to sales, marketing, and product teams. They help the organizations by:

    • Ramping up utilization: Technical support team acts as the SaaS provider’s brand’s face, ensuring customers quickly realize value and have a differentiated experience, which is vital to driving renewals and sales growth in a SaaS model. It can be difficult to keep clients engaged if they are not seeing the value in your products. They guide clients on the capabilities of the products offered and use cases in which those capabilities can be leveraged
    • Cross-sell and upsell products/services: CSMs understand their customer requirements and can identify the best fit opportunities to upsell or cross-sell to their customers, as well as decide which features, functionality, or additional product would best suit each customer. When customers are ideal for an upgrade, CSMs can meet with them to explain why the additional purchase will be helpful
    • Relationship management: CSMs are relationship managers that expand customer accounts, increase customer retention, solve customer issues, and drive customer satisfaction. They act as a bridge between their customer and support team by gathering and analyzing feedback and pain points. They track product’s renewal date, activity, and satisfaction scores to have necessary follow-ups with customers and reduce churn

2. Other value-added services:

  • Proactive and omnichannel support: With any product change, customers expect proactive communication of the change and guidance to deal with it. Giving customers advance notifications enhances their satisfaction and increases retention. With the growth of digital channels, omnichannel support and self-service for low- complexity queries are increasingly in demand. Customers no longer use a single channel to interact with brands but continuously switch across multiple devices and platforms. Giving customers a consistent, seamless, and integrated experience regardless of channel is necessary to create a unified brand experience
  • Product usage and feedback analysis: Support has always had access to detailed customer data, but the ability to correctly capture, read, and apply the insights learned from this data, both directly and from support automation tools, can transform a support organization into a pacesetter in the marketplace. Customers expect technical support providers to continuously analyze their usage patterns and then use that knowledge to augment products and services to fit their needs

The shift in operating model for technical support

While the enhanced role of technical support is integral to the overall product experience and many factors are driving it, not all enterprises can deliver superlative technical support on their own. This can be due to multiple factors such as a shortage of relevant in-house skills, inability to scale with product growth, failure to implement a true omnichannel experience, lack of accelerators to drive efficiency, etc.

Thus, enterprises are relying on both in-house and outsourced teams to offer technical support. A strategic third-party partner can bring technical domain skills, innovation, and customer success expertise to deliver an outstanding end-user experience and improved value realization for clients to supplement the capabilities of in-house employees. A hybrid model also can deliver cost efficiencies by driving high volumes of low-to-moderate complexity or transactional queries to a low-cost third-party provider and leveraging in-house teams for high complexity queries.

As SaaS offerings become more and more ubiquitous, it will be critical for SaaS vendors to ensure the technical support team evolves progressively. The concept of an enterprise technical support engineer acting as a troubleshooter has largely disappeared at leading enterprises, and they expect technical support services to act as an extension of their product experience and value realization agendas. The technical support team –

in-house or outsourced – should act as the face of the brand when engaging with the end client and reflect the technology solution providers’ values and brand promise.

If you have questions or would like to discuss the strategic role of technical support in driving SaaS adoption and how it is evolving, please reach out to David Rickard, [email protected], Rananjay Kumar, [email protected], or Divya Baweja, [email protected].

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