My first full-time professional role after graduate school was as a coordinator and later account specialist at a multi-national marketing agency. My strongest memories from that time in my career all revolve around project delivery. My team was defined by our responsiveness to significant short-term spikes in project volume (especially around the Black Friday seasons for retail clients). Satisfying clients during these performance-defining peaks in business meant engaging in rigorous multi-step quality assurance and ongoing daily stakeholder communication while still providing regularly scheduled value adds.
This experience in the competitive, lightning-fast agency space is hardly unique within professional services. Harvard Business Review’s recent article on leadership development states that “two big challenges characterize leadership today. One is the need to juggle a growing series of paradoxical demands… the other is the unprecedented pace of “disruptive change, which speeds up the interaction of these demands and simultaneously increases the pressure on organizations to adapt.”
My takeaway from my agency tenure was that it is imperative that technology vendors provide the same white-glove service that professional services firms provide to clients, and that level of premium support was not always guaranteed. The cloud technology that agencies and other professional services teams use is integral to maintaining client relationships and timely delivery.
Insights into a services team’s current resource utilization, project progress, and performance analytics are essential for properly managing client relationships. However, it appears that the wider SaaS industry falls short of that standard: customer success platform, Retently, has reported that 67% of SaaS churn occurs due to bad customer experience. This statistic implores professional services organizations to make ongoing service experience the most important decision point when selecting a PSA solution provider.
Hold Your PSA Solution Provider to Your Clients’ Service Standard
While the client service experience isn’t often prioritized during the SaaS platform acquisition process, it almost always becomes mission-critical once training and onboarding is complete. As mentioned in a previous blog post, organizations purchase a long-term relationship with a vendor, and professional services industry expertise is the most significant benefit an organization receives when acquiring PSA software. These applications are not designed to “set it and forget it” – they are intended to work in partnership alongside an organization’s operational expansion and complexity. Service leaders need to confirm that a PSA tool’s support team can quickly deliver a solution when a priority delivery needs external support and/or quickly adjust to sudden shifts in operational priorities.
Identifying the Best PSA Solution Provider Service Experience
HELP YOUR USERS HELP THEMSELVES
Tech entrepreneur Neil Patel worked for over 15 years in the SaaS industry, and his blog post on this topic highlighted that users greatly prefer self-supporting over reaching out to a client service representative. Providing services teams with the tools to succeed can occur at the documentation level, or within the application itself. PSA providers should demonstrate their self-service support tools during the sales process, including any online FAQs and Help search functionality. Prospective users should also request that providers demonstrate intuitive access to these support features if needed, so users do not lose valuable time looking for them.
UNDERSTAND THE SOURCE OF YOUR SUPPORT
If external client support is required, professional services teams need to know the accessibility and response times of their PSA’s client service team. Questions to ask include :
- Will I receive a dedicated representative?
- Where is the representative located?
- What are the typical support hours?
- Are there any cost tiers associated with the level of support I receive?
- What are the expected response and resolution times for my support tickets?
The answers an organization should ideally receive are ones that include fast access to a dedicated support representative, with comprehensive availability, at no additional cost. Resolution times should be no longer than 1 day, and ideally, less than 2 hours. Professional services firms would also benefit immensely from actively testing vendors’ service teams in a staged environment, in order to validate the truth of their answers. Forbes noted in 2018 that businesses lost a combined $75 billion that year to poor customer service, so if a provider is not motivated to provide white-glove service, that is an immediate red flag.
Vendors Need to Embrace Your Culture of Excellence
A feature-rich PSA product is not sufficient to craft the remarkable experience expected in professional services. The vendor an organization selects needs to be invested in a service-oriented culture, that emphasizes the industry-specific expertise, personalized solutions, accountability, and agility that is a hallmark of the best service organizations. Holding technology partners to the same expectations as the entire internal organization is a vital signpost for sustaining business growth.