Supporting Software as a Service
We’ve been using KashFlow.com for our company accounts for a few years now. It’s an online service for which we pay about £20 a month. Prior to KashFlow we used Sage. KashFlow was a welcome breath of fresh air after Sage’s repeated attempts to get you to upgrade every year. Suddenly we were being offered a system that promised to continually improve.
It wasn’t entirely plain sailing, but as Software as a Service (SaaS) you expect a few rough edges to be ironed out as you go along. In fact I struggled to import our Sage data, but sure enough the KashFlow founder Duane responded and helped me through the process. Improvements came thick and fast in the early months. But occasionally I still had to go back to the support team for advice how how a feature worked.
And that’s where it got a bit disappointing.
Too often I was given the impression that their starting point was that I was at fault. That because nobody else had complained about misleading descriptions it meant they weren’t misleading. If I suggested a better way of doing a feature I was told to put the suggestion on their uservoice site. But none of the features I previously voted for have been implemented so I have no votes left. And they don’t seem to have responded on uservoice since August 2013.
What’s more the pace of visible innovation has slowed up with no significant improvements since June 2013. I’m increasing left with the feeling that instead of using a service that is constantly improving, I’m back in the situation of paying £240 for a static piece of software. But even worse I’m paying that every year.
How could they do better? The starting point for a customer support request would be that there is a problem with the system. They could be user centric. They could thank me for helping with the testing. They could acknowledge that the feature isn’t quite right and remind me that they are constantly striving to improve things. They could reguarly update their customers about the improvements they are making to the site and they could take on suggestions about bugs and feature tweaks without asking us to play a game on uservoice.
Using SaaS is exciting and preferable to the old system of expensive annual updates. But it is only exicting because you feel you are part of team improving the service and that the money you are paying is in part going towards improving the service. Once that stops you feel as though you’re being fleeced.
And this experience has lessons for me as someone providing a sort of SaaS with our science engagement projects like imascientist.org.uk. When something doesn’t work we shouldn’t assume it is user error even though experience tells us 80% of the time it is. We should assume there is a problem with our service and work out if we can improve it. We should take on board suggestions from users and see if there is merit in their ideas. We should constantly encourage feedback. It will help our users feel part of the project and that will be a good thing.