Support Offerings for SaaS Vendors

By Technical Support

Support offerings for SaaS vendors are not that different from support offerings for licensed software. Typically I see a set of increasingly rich offerings, with prices to match. The main difference compared with licensed software is that support is not priced separately, but rather as a component of the overall service. Another difference is that 24×7 support is more often, although not always, included in the lower levels of support.

Here would be a typical set of SaaS support offerings, with typical boring names that you should replace with more exciting and branded names of your own.

  • Bronze: bundled with the service (“free”). Business hours support with 24-hour response time target. Limit of two support contacts
  • Silver: premium cost of 5% of the subscription. Extended hours or 24×7 with a 4-hour response time target. Limit of 4 support contacts.
  • Gold: premium cost of about 10%. 24×7 coverage and 1-2 hour response time. Assigned rep or access to senior reps. Limit of 6-8 support contacts.

Q&A for SaaS Support

Q: Do I need 3 support levels?
A: It all depends on your audience. Generally one is not enough so 2 would be the minimum advisable. Don’t go offerings-happy. A good portfolio is one where each program is clearly differentiated from the others, which is hard to do with many offerings.

Q: Should I restrict Bronze Support to electronic support only?
A: Perhaps. The problem with restricting support to electronic communications is that it can be more difficult and more costly to resolve issues if the support rep cannot talk to the customer. So even if you restrict the input channel it might be a good idea to encourage reps to call customers.

Q: Shouldn’t I restrict the volume of questions?
A: Restricting the volume of questions is very frustrating to customers and hard to police to boot. Better restrict the number of contacts and handle any abuses individually.

Q: Can I really restrict the number of contacts?
A: Yes you can, with the idea that customers will channel questions through the contacts, hence handle much of the “easy” ones themselves. However you can certainly offer either a separate (added-cost) offering to deliver full end-user support.

Q: What’s the idea of the Bronze level?
A: The Bronze level provides a safety net for all customers. Many vendors make the response time targets for Bronze so long that “serious” customers all choose to upgrade.

Q: Do I need to quote pricing using percentages?
A: No, you can certainly charge fixed amounts. The percentages are here as guidelines for the computation. So if you charge $100 for the basic subscription about 20% of that amount is support ($20, for Bronze.) A silver subscription may be $105, with $25 of that for (Silver) support and Gold would be $110 with $30 for support.

Q: Are the support offerings the only difference between subscription levels?
A: You may choose to bundle any other number of features. For instance premium subscriptions could include online training, or tighter uptime deliverables. This writeup is focused on support only.

 

How do you handle SaaS support? Add a comment and let us know!

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3 Comments

  • ericeharrington

    I find it odd for a SaaS solution to charge extra for support at all. Most typically charge you a monthly subscription fee which covers cost such as hosting/colo, use of the system – and any support you need.

    I do however see most SaaS companies offer add-on’s for storage and perhaps some features like a customer portal.

    Eric Harrington
    COO
    TeamSupport.com
    eharrington@teamsupport.com

  • ftworks

    I agree: the support charge is usually included in the monthly subscription fee. What I’m suggesting is that you can create several levels of subscriptions that correspond to different levels of support (and other features perhaps.) Some SaaS vendors, including some well-known ones, do charge a separate fee but it’s not as common.

  • ericeharrington

    I have spent a lot of time on this as we started our SaaS companies in 2008. We used to operate as an ISV in the Broadcast industry for a long time. At times, we would toggle about support fees but in the end, using the KISS method ended up being the best in every case.

    I have created some very complicated, multi level support concepts but IMO, keeping it simple and easy works best.

    My experience tells me that people respond better to “easy & simple”. 😉

    Nice blog post btw. Very good topic.

    Eric Harrington
    COO
    TeamSupport.com
    eharrington@teamsupport.com

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