SaaS in the Age of the Consumer


Providing good SaaS support is integral to long-term success as a business. A study by Oracle sums up today’s landscape:

Today, consumers call the shots. With globalization and the internet providing nearly unlimited choices, power has shifted from corporations to consumers. This shift makes it nearly impossible for companies to sustain differentiation based solely on price or product. The only option that remains is the customer experience.

When considering the addition of a big-ticket SaaS product to your yearly budget, stakes are high. Quick implementation and ongoing support are critical. The best scenario is having a dedicated Customer Success Manager (CSM) and Account Manager (AM). There is nothing worse than encountering an issue and not having a direct line to someone who can quickly resolve the issue. In fact, 86% of consumers will pay more for better customer experience. In the age of the consumer, quick resolution and good relationships are imperative for the long-term success of SaaS companies.

Some customers want an entirely hands-off white glove experience. Welcome to what Smartling calls “Platinum Support.” With this offering, customers have a dedicated representative to administer and monitor their account. Platinum Support Managers are an extension of the customer success team (on top of the CSM and AM).

Is having a Platinum Support offering going to ensure success for your company? Nothing can be said for sure, but Enterprise customers expect end-to-end support, and for someone to be on the other end of the phone line. If customers are going to invest in you heavily, your company needs to have a support strategy that does the same.

Kristin Donaldson, met up with Smartling’s Head of Support, Chiara Clough, to learn more about the benefits of Platinum Support for SaaS customers and why this is a game-changer for customer retention and satisfaction.

Kristin: Can you tell me about what kind of support all Smartling customers have?
Chiara: Smartling offers support not only to all of their customers but to all of their users as well. Smartling Support is available to answer any general or technical questions. We want to ensure that not only are our users able to easily navigate the platform but are also having their personal needs met. My favorite part of working in support is learning about new use cases and working with users to find the best solution. Smartling Support also works closely with our Customer Success team and Product team to provide useful insights and ensure that we have a constant stream of communication.

Kristin: What is Platinum Support?
Chiara: Platinum Support is Smartling’s most comprehensive support offering. Through Platinum Support, you receive a team of product experts to administer and monitor your account. The goal of Platinum Support is to become completely integrated into your internal localization process, starting from platform setup all the way through partnering with agencies and reviewers to ensure that deadlines are met.

Kristin: When did Platinum Support start at Smartling? Why did you see a need for it.
Chiara: Platinum Support started out of a customer’s need for a product expert to administer and optimize their account. It then quickly expanded to customers who required vendor management, personalized services, on-going training, and so forth.

I think the beauty of software is that it enables people to be able to “do it themselves.” But people don’t always want or have the bandwidth to have to do it themselves. Platinum Support can conform to any customer’s use case and, with such a fantastic team of both product and industry experts, figure out how to alleviate process pain points.

Kristin: What is the ideal company for this service?
Chiara: I do not think there is any company that would not enjoy having Platinum Support, given the opportunity. It is indeed a customized white glove service.

Some use cases Platinum Support is currently working with include:

  • Large companies with many business units and different types of content

  • Companies that work with many translation vendors and/or currently have no dedicated localization manager

  • Companies looking to scale rapidly

  • Businesses that highly value localization and want to ensure that they have the absolute best process and someone monitoring their account

Kristin: What advice would you and your team give to other support teams in the SaaS industry?
Chiara: I think the biggest thing to remember is that even though we are supporting users of a piece of software, they are people with individual needs and are a part of a much larger workflow than what is executed in a dashboard. Understanding their goals as an individual and ultimately a business versus just answering their direct question is the difference between good support and great support.

(Additional insight from Kevin Cohn, SVP of Operations at Smartling)

Kristin: What is the current state of SaaS Support? Any notable trends?
Kevin: Many SaaS companies view support as a cost center and continuously look for ways to spend less money on support. Sometimes this goal benefits customers, too: making products more user-friendly and using machine learning to recommend help center articles are two trends that have also improved the customer experience. Too often, however, expense reduction is achieved by making it so hard to contact support, such as by burying the link to create a new case three pages deep, that customers give up. We care about efficiency, but we care more about customer success.

Kristin: What do you think the future of support will look like in B2B SaaS?
Kevin: SaaS has clear benefits over on-premises software: lower up-front costs, no infrastructure maintenance, faster updates, and so on. It’s a misconception, however, that SaaS necessarily requires less support than on-premises software. The reality is that today’s SaaS is far more powerful than yesterday’s on-premises software, and customer requirements are more advanced. All of this means that SaaS companies need to provide more and better support, as opposed to less.

Remember: “Everyone contributes to support. There’s something for everyone to gain by contributing to support regardless of their role.text in italic

Marketing — knowing your customers allows you to reach more of the right ones. Sales — doesn’t end with closing a sale. To retain customers, you need to know their problems.
Customer Success / Account Management — making sure your customers succeed with your product by knowing their struggles.
Engineering / Product — knowing what to build for your customers. source

Authors: Kristin Donaldson, Chiara Clough, Kevin Cohn