There are things in life we take for granted. When you get up in the morning, you can walk to the kitchen, turn on the tap and water will come out. Flick a switch and the lights come on. Essential services - we rely on someone to keep them running. Why should the online tools we use every day be any different?
As customers and consumers, we shouldn't really care as much as we do about software, but I think, in the last 20 years or so, we've been given the short shrift. Security issues, software updates, bugs, performance issues, compatibility problems - I can feel my blood pressure rising already! Traditionally, these issues have been passed onto us as consumers. Got a problem? Download the update and see if that works. Upgrade your hardware and see if that works. Reboot your router. Unplug the modem. Reboot. Reboot… Did that work? What if we just refused to accept any of that? What if we demanded that software was treated like an essential service? If the thing doesn't work for whatever reason, it's the responsibility of the provider to fix it, not the consumer. That's a bold statement, and it's caused a sea change in the software industry.
Software as an Essential Service
I've seen the software world from both perspectives; I've been writing code and managing product development teams for many years, but I'm also a consumer. I purchase and use apps, games, and online tools just like every other human with an internet connected device. I believe that software has become an essential service, and SaaS (Software as a Service) providers are perfectly poised to enable that.
Success for a SaaS system is measured in a couple of different ways, one of them being uptime: "how many nines are we at" is a common question to overhear at a status meeting for a SaaS team (Agility's SLA guarantees 99.95% uptime). Being up and running is a top priority. Even more important though, is a metric referred to as "NPS" - this stands for Net Promoter Score, and it measures a very simple thing: How likely is it that you would recommend our service or product to a colleague or friend? Anything over 50% is considered a decent score, but every SaaS company is striving for 100%. The thing about this metric is that it requires a “closed loop” whereupon a user who has given a negative review is followed up with and their needs addressed until a positive review and a referral is promised. This means the metrics have to be from real users - not anonymous. You can calculate net promoter score with NPS Calculator.
NPS as a key metric is not just how many SaaS companies measure their own success - it’s also how they are evaluated by the industry as a whole, and that includes their own investors. A SaaS company with a great NPS, especially one in the growth stages, is a much more valuable entity.
I Grow, You Grow, We All Grow Together
One of the things I like to bring up with potential customers when I speak with them is the idea of partnership. Yes, one company is providing a service and the other is paying for it, but at the end of the day, when SaaS is involved, it’s a symbiotic relationship - a partnership - each needs the other in order to thrive. In a more traditional transactional scenario, a purchase is made, some work is done, and anything after that (such as customer support) is either an additional fee, or it’s cutting into the provider’s margins. The effect? The provider isn’t motivated to do any more customer support than is absolutely necessary.
In traditional software deployments, the scenario tends to become adversarial instead of win-win.
Let’s look closer at SaaS, though, where companies such as Slack, Trello, Stripe and many others have experienced explosive growth because of their amazing customer success stories. It’s nothing short of revolutionary: in a SaaS model, the success of the CUSTOMER drives the success of the PROVIDER.
It’s a true win-win scenario.