There has been increased focus on client expectations, as more and more companies enter into relationships with software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors. Advisory firm Altimeter Groups recently published a great paper on this topic, titled “Customer Bill of Rights: SaaS – 39 Best Practices to Improve the SaaS Client Vendor Relationship”.
In this paper, author Ray Wang talks about the guarantees that users should be entitled to throughout the course of the SaaS ownership lifecycle – from solution selection, implementation, and adoption, through optimization and renewal. This post will highlight the first three areas he covers – experience and governance, selection, and deployment.
Experience and Governance
Wang states that, with SaaS “organizations hand control over business processes to a third-party solution/service provider. Hence, clients should take the time to design the appropriate levels of governance to achieve a mutually beneficial ownership experience.” This should include ensuring that:
- The vendor management board accepts responsibility for customer satisfaction, holding executives fully accountable for client advocacy
- Sales and product teams designate individuals who are ultimately responsible for customer satisfaction, possibly tying their compensation to related metrics
- Interactions with the help desk and support team are timely and meaningful
- All customer-facing staff operate in a courteous and professional manner across all touchpoints
- Providers guarantee the quality and viability of their offerings
- Customers retain ownership and access to their own information at all times
- Clients can mitigate risk through complete visibility into the state of the vendor’s business, including financial records and operating procedures, regardless of whether the vendor is a privately-held or public company
As prospects go through the motions of evaluating various competitive SaaS products, and choose the best one for their needs, Wang believes that vendors should:
- Incorporate all claims and promises made during the sales cycle into the sales contract
- Give clients the ability to conduct “hands on” demonstrations, or paid proof of concepts
- Make all pricing, discounting, and other policies and conditions available to clients from the get-go
- Be able to clearly demonstrate the total cost of ownership (TCO) clients can expect to achieve
- Publish storage and data management policies, so customers fully understand what is available to them as part of the service
- Provide full disclosure about documented solution problems and defects
- Explain, in detail, the environment’s infrastructure, such as the hardware and operating systems used, security that has been implemented, etc.
- Provide customer references, and allow prospects to participate in open discussions with existing users
- Share all important information about its financial state, management team, legal liability, etc.
- Give customers the right to engage a third-party, such as an analyst for consultant, for guidance during the selection process
As users deploy and utilize the SaaS solution, Wang believes they should expect the following from their vendors:
- Flexible implementation options, including the ability to deploy the solution themselves, hire an outside firm to assist, or utilize the vendor’s own consultants to help
- A clear and detailed statement of work that outlines the tasks and activities to be performed, as well as all deliverables and milestones
- Comprehensive status reporting throughout the course of the implementation project
- The right to “engage vendor experts such as product development teams, solution architects, training, and support personnel at reasonable rates” from the vendor
- Access to any training, education, or knowledge transfer that would facilitate a successful deployment
In part two of this post, we will share Wang’s insight into customer rights as they relate to SaaS system adoption, solution optimization, and contract renewal.