As a Service

Update on As A Service Trends

It’s been a while since my last update and there’s been lots going on so sit down, grab a ☕ and enjoy reading about a host of new announcements and articles capturing the trend.

Apple has just come out with some expected announcements that indicate it’s moving to an As a Service company which this post neatly captures: The Powerful SaaS Platform No One Is Talking About — and It’s Made by Apple. And in a separate post that is pretty much in line with the views from this first article: Hardware-As-A-Service: Are We There Yet?

This post similarly shows how another large technology company is leading the charge on this trend: Has Amazon Prime Been Fueling The Growth Of The Subscription Economy.

A great treatise here on the evolution of and critical foundations for successful SaaS businesses: What is Product Led Growth? How to Build a Software Company in the End User Era. From the article, these companies in the image below have recognised that we are in the End User Era, and they’re all-in on product led growth:

Here is a good post capturing various different sources and documenting the trend well: Riding on the wave of the “Subscription Economy”.

Another excellent summary on the state of the subscription economy is this one from Userlane, on the bell-weather company of the subscription economy Zuora and their annual event: Gaining Traction in a Subscription-Based Economy: Zuora Event Recap

One of the key factors I will be exploring in my new trend report is how technology ecosystems (including being/running a platform) play a vital part in the success of an As a Service company. That’s captured neatly in this move: Starbucks wants to create the AWS for restaurants.

In a continuation of the theme, you could easily see traditional SaaS businesses that touch parts of their customers core processes with their platform, especially financial or payments, extending their offering. Captured nicely here: Forget About SaaS: Software-as-a-Lender Could Be The Next Big Thing.

Something else that’s a key factor and I am exploring in my new trend report is being data driven and how good views on that data (analytics) is fundamental. A company nailing that aspect here: The Value of Usage Analytics in the Subscription Economy.

Here is someone else that sees the As a Service trend growing and touching all businesses and companies: The ‘As-A-Service’ Economy Is Moving Downstream. Are You Ready?.

And in a good review from the book Subscribed: Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company’s Future – and What to Do About It, by Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert, these two summary charts:

Other announcement from new entrants

As a Service, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

The latest and greatest posts and research on the subject and these are all being tracked with a tag here. I include Customer Success in this being a subset of the As a Service trend but I’ve added it under a separate section.

Customer Success

As a Service, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

Click to enlarge and view separately

I’ve not had a chance to post for a while and there has been a fair bit of activity in the space so I have quite a bit to share.

I have also run a few numbers through the data visualisation machine and come up with the infographic at left – feel free to use and share.

So herewith some of the best posts from recent weeks.

New SaaS Delivery Models Require New Customer Success Delivery Models. A solid piece on how Customer Success roles need to change in the maturing SaaS space. Sticking with the SaaS space, this article does a really good job of explaining how to manage your vendor if you use a SaaS product: How to manage SaaS Vendors in the Subscription Economy. And for some other really good posts on these themes:

New entrants to the space

These include:

This collection of announcements above 👆 shows the sheer breadth of industries effected by the As a Service trend – nothing is off limits.

Industry specific news

There were a batch of articles and new research:

Trend indicators

Here is a good summary of the trend which includes commentary on all the different industries being effected by the subscription economy: Subscription Services Draw Companies Closer To Customers. As with so many of the posts that I reference to the subscription economy, this one points to its darling Zuora, as you can see from the source of the chart. But their standing at the top of the subscription economy heap (as a company that powers the economy) may be under threat as new entrants join the fray: Stripe billing launches in Europe to power subscription companies across the continent.

There are other signs of a growing consolidation and integration in the Subscription Economy and Customer Success industries with the announcement by Medallia of their Strikedeck acquisition. Also Customer Success leader Gainsight’s announcement of the broadening of their portfolio into a “Customer Cloud”.

As a Service, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

Nuggets from the last few weeks. If you have any similar announcements, reports or good articles, please share in a comment as I’m collecting them for a new eBook / trend report 😁

As a Service, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

As I think more about this whole space and track the developments in it with posts like this, I’m trying to envisage dynamics of the perfect business in it.

That gave rise to the DanelDoodle at left. Just some fun and very quick so not sure they are absolutely right. I’ll get a better feel for this as I complete my new trend report / eBook on the subject and it may become clearer and a little more scientific.

Anyway onto latest developments which is always the purpose of these posts in the form of announcements, articles, etc.

If you have any As a Service examples please share in a comment as I’m collecting them :)

As a Service, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

When Ikea considers changing its business model then you know something is afoot. The big news this last week was Ikea thinking about making certain items available on a subscription basis.

Good article on that here where the screenshot at left is from.

It’s looking at doing so on a trial basis so this will be a very interesting one to keep track of and see how things progress.

Circular economy

That article linked to above points to the concept of a circular economy which I was not even aware of but should be in the context of the As a Service trend that this post is about. The pasted paragraph below from the article says it all:

When Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport remodeled a terminal, it didn’t buy light bulbs; instead, the company signed a contract for “light as a service” from Signify, the company formerly known as Philips Lighting. Signify owns the physical lights, giving it the incentive to make products that last as long as possible and that can be easily repaired and recycled if anything breaks. The service is one example of a shift to a circular economy model. 

iPhone as a Service

I’m currently on Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Programme which in my view is its foray into the as a Service model. I captured how they are getting a little more tactical in my last Update on As a Service trends. Other than the obvious benefits they are targeting, that tactic shows how important it is to start treating your customers that sign up to a recurring financial commitment, with white gloves, so come time to renew, they do.

Volvo leading the race?

I cannot speak as intimately for Volvo’s execution on their subscription and as a Service promise but they are certainly talking a good talk. By all accounts they are struggling to keep up with demand. I’ve already written about my recent experience buying a car, which is all but a subscription service except in name. That experience is definitely not firing on all cylinders 😬

As a Service, Customer Success

Why customer experience and success share the same roof

There is a fundamental premise I make in the new eBook / trend report I am working on captured in the title.

Yet I’ve taken part in debates on LinkedIn that show there are divisions in opinion. Separatist thinking even.

Some think that customer success (CS) is the new kid on the block and muscling into territory owned by the customer experience (CX) brigade.

I guess it all depends on your background. Do you come from a marketing background where CX generally hails. Or from a customer service or account management background where CS hails.

I think it’s all rather pointless. I see the two as being inextricably linked.

The mother and father of modern views of the customer. Perhaps CX is the mother because in my view, CS is born of it, so to speak.

Some distinctions might be useful at this stage. These are mine:

  • CX is the sum total of interactions a customer has with a company and the net effect this has on the customer in terms of satisfaction and loyalty.
  • CS are the outcomes a company enables a customer to achieve through the use of its products/services.

CX is made up of many touch points that often transcend those of a CS team.

For example, pre-sales activities make CS hard if a product or service has not been sold right and perceptions between vendor and customer are misaligned on what comes after the deal is done.

CS teams are not always involved pre sales, at least in the early stages.

So its important those in sales are aligned to the right customer experience view and approach. They start the customer off on the journey after all.

In my mind, the best analogy I can draw between the two is that CX is the shell of the home with all of the feelings and emotion it engenders. CS is the different conveniences you find in it, the bathroom to clean yourself, the bedroom to get rest, the kitchen to feed yourself.

I’ve captured it in a DanelDoodle just in case it’s not clear with some other examples.

cx and cs house

As a Service, Customer Success

The connected car vision is missing a few connections

The connected car is the future for automotive companies.

There is a lot going on in this space. I know because in my business, I have several customers in the industry.

But you don’t need to be in the business to know.

I recently purchased a car. It’s connected and awesome, I’m impressed.

But my experience taught me that something is missing.

I did not need too many people to help make the decision on the company and car I chose.

I made my decision and purchased without seeing the car physically. I investigated many options with various companies and did it mostly online. Talking to sales people was necessary at certain points.

I also made a decision to lease a car which will be up for renewal in 2.5 years.

That part took some time. To understand all the nuances I had to speak to people.

Dealing with the people and in many cases the online experience around many of the decision factors was mostly an awful grind.

That was all leading up to my decision.

In 2.5 years I will decide to continue with the same car and company, or not, based on a different experience. Some of that experience will be based on the car, including its connected features, some on further experience with the company.

I’ve not had much to do with the company since. The experience with the company after I decided was mostly good but it could have been a lot better.

I’ve opened up all communication channels with the company. I’ve made myself as receptive to the experience as possible. Time will tell.

Some questions for the industry

I get that the connected car concept is all about technology but is the industry thinking enough about other necessary connections?

Does it get the connection between experience and satisfaction and that this derives from many (often joined up) factors like people, technology and processes?

When the experience derives from people do they make the connection between the employee experience and how this influences the customer experience? To be specific I’m thinking that employees that have a great experience and are satisfied at work reflect that on to the customer.

Do they get that the rules of ownership are changing. Many do, getting in on the subscription model business, e.g. BMW and Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, etc. But do they realise subscription models bring new responsibilities?

Do they get how influential experience is in driving decisions, especially ongoing decisions about staying with a company or product, or not?

Do they get that technology is easily copied but experience isn’t?

Conversely, does it get that technology could play such a large role in connecting not just the internet of things for instance, but the internet of human experience?

They would probably say yes to all of the above. From my rhetorical questions you might guess where I lie on the matter. I guess it’s a question of maturity.

My recent experience and these questions are useful for the eBook / trend report I’m writing so excellent grist for the mill. I will try and answer them and provide recommendations. In the meantime…

Three ways I suggest the industry can start improving:

  1. Be more SaaS. The Software as a Service industry has learned a trick or two about how to build superb customer experience and the importance of customer retention and lifetime value. Specifically adopt many customer success approaches. Use the product itself (the car, starting with onboarding) as a core part of the experience with add on technology to enhance it through ongoing interactions that are data driven and point interactions with humans to amplify and delight.
  2. Extend the experience map. Map experience from employee through to customer and deliver on it from end to end. See it as an holistic journey that is harmoniously interdependent and made up of many parts: people, process, technology. Many are doing experience mapping but not adequately and not end to end in the way described.
  3. Bolster your employee experience. Its not just about the customer. This so often lags with employees playing second fiddle especially with the technology that supports work not matching what the customer gets. Robots and automation, especially in the auto industry, may play an increasing role but for the foreseeable future, humans will still play a disproportionate role in creating and nurturing human experience. Customer experience starts with employee experience.
As a Service

Why bad customer experience matters and Avis does not try harder

This is about a recent customer experience I had with Avis which has cost them my loyalty.

This is not just a rant, annoyed as I am. I’m capturing this kind of story as a way of illustrating what good or bad customer experiences look like for my new eBook / trend report. Its unfortunate I had to be the one experiencing it but I’ll put it down to research costs :)

The ironic thing is I am a Preferred member (to their loyalty scheme) and have given them my loyalty for many years. No longer. You could see this as an outcome of my experience – impact on customer loyalty. Another is the fact I’m so incensed I’m writing about and sharing this.

I used to hire cars at least every other month for work purposes over a period of 1-2 years about 4 years ago. Thats when I signed up to the Avis Preferred scheme. I’ve been using it less since then but at least a few times a year (work and personal) and had stuck with Avis throughout.

The Experience

I went on holiday to Italy for a week on the 26th of August this year with my daughter.

I rented with Avis as I do countless other times – I use their online booking platform. I’ve often had problems with it functioning as expected but not this time which anyway is not the point of this story.

I had to book to return the car at a time when the returns office was not open as my flight back was too early.

I picked up the car in Venice. It was busy. The wait was really long and my Preferred status was of no use. When I eventually got to the counter to process check-in, I asked about dropping the car off at such an early hour. I was assured it would be no problem and I could pop the keys off in a box outside the office.

I scanned the car before setting off as I always do and could see no untoward damage apart from some standard scuff marks as I had often found. I had waived additional insurance as I typically do so always check on these things.

I had a great holiday. My daughter and I arrived early on the 2nd of September and dropped the car off. Again I walked around the car with my daughter and the car looked exactly as I had found it. I dropped the keys in a box outside the closed door of the office where there was someone inside cleaning – he noted me and carried on cleaning.

The picture below was taken from the business class lounge and you can see how early it was.

venice airport.png

We landed and while waiting for baggage I checked various messages. Two were emails from Avis. One apologised for my wait on first picking up my car and offering me an upgrade the next time I hired a car.

The other told me they had found a scuff on the car that allegedly was not there before they had given me the car and that they would be charging me €293.02 for the damage. Below is the evidence they produced which I struggled then and now to make head or tail of – check alternating positions between zoomed out and close up.

Avis damage 1
Click to enlarge

Avis damage 2
Click to enlarge

I immediately (still waiting for luggage) tried to call them but the various options all said they were only available during weekly working hours. I then replied to the first mail apologising for the wait saying I had no problem with the delays but I did with the accusation of damage and the charge. I strenuously denied I had caused any damage AND refused to accept the unreasonable charge.

Moments later I received a response from the same person that had apologised saying he would look into it for me.

On the 26th of September after getting back to work and a busy period where I forgot about the issue I received an email to say that the amount had been charged to me. I confirmed that after looking at my bank statement online.

I immediately called up and after an interminable wait got through to someone. I questioned why I had been charged without being given the chance to go through a due process and after not hearing back at all on my first mail.

They asked me to mail through my initial mail which I did and that they would come back to me within sixteen days with an answer.

Sixteen days came and went and still nothing. On the 21st of October I called again and after another very long wait I got through to someone. They acknowledged they had failed to reply within their stipulated time and again apologised for this and that I had to call them. They promised a response within 48 hours.

I received an email within that time and the response was basically that they would not refund me the amount and that was it.

Why I have such an issue and this is a bad experience:

  1. Their lack of due process which presumes me guilty and takes my money before I’ve been able to resolve the matter – I have still not been able to discuss and dispute this properly. I’ve not been able to speak to anyone other than a call agent who did not deal with my case. And I was only ever pointed to email as a means of communication.
  2. Their disjointed response management – I communicated with the hiring office in Italy, the UK call centre and the damages department. There was no single thread of communication between Avis and I and these three entities which is what they point to for delays and lack of response on my first dispute. This is their problem not mine yet I suffered the impact.
  3. The time it took to get to an answer.
  4. The fact I had to chase them.
  5. The unreasonable cost. If I concluded the fault was mine which I have still not, surely Avis must be able to get this repaired at far lower cost? I assume they have many of these cases and cars needing to be repaired at once so must be able to get better rates – why have they passed this exorbitant cost onto the customer?

Avis does not try harderI remember when I did my Masters in Marketing we studied Avis as an example of masterful positioning – their “We Try Harder” campaign which they still use. Its a pity they no longer live up to that claim, if they ever did. Well at least they won’t have to try harder for this person who is no longer a customer.

UPDATE

After several months of wrangling and back and forth, Avis decided to refund me half the €293.02 they were charging me. At least half a solution but not enough to get rid of the bad taste completely.