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Putting the service back into SaaS: Why tech firms shouldn’t ignore the human element

SaaS companies are continually focused on refining their product. That’s how it should be. Our business specialises in VAT compliance technology. The more effectively our technology addresses the problems our clients face in the real world, the more satisfied they will be. Ultimately, that’s why they come to us. Global VAT compliance is a complex problem that businesses can’t afford to ignore, and our technology was designed to solve that problem.

But if your whole strategy for retaining your clients is ‘build the best product you can’ well, that’s hardly a strategy. Most SaaS companies are proud of their proprietary tech. We’re all constantly testing and improving.

And yes, all things being equal, the business with the best product will be more competitive. But things are never equal.

When visionaries can’t see what’s in front of them

In fact, that very single-mindedness that drives innovation can also be a serious business blind spot.

Because your clients don’t want the ‘best’ technology, in some abstract sense. They want technology that works for them. And sometimes that means taking a step back and appreciating that, even as a specialist SaaS company, your technology should be part of an integrated offering.

The human touch

Your technology may be world class, but that counts for little if your clients aren’t getting the most out of it. Remember, software as a service isn’t very useful without a strong emphasis on the service.

Assuming your clients aren’t software engineers, they’re going to need training and support. But it’s not just about technical guidance. Where relevant, the more you guide your clients to derive real value from the technology, the more indispensable the technology becomes.

We see that in the VAT world all the time. Our VAT technology makes the messy, time-consuming and expensive process of VAT compliance much simpler, faster and cost-effective. But that’s only achieving half of what the technology can achieve. The software makes it easier for our clients to get to where they’re going, but are they heading in the right direction?

After all, how do our clients know what their VAT obligations are in the first place? How can they actually use the technology to pursue more creative strategic business goals? What happens if they develop new product lines or enter new markets?

What is your software for, anyway?

That’s why we don’t see our company’s offerings – the technology and advisory services – as separate, if interconnected, products. Rather, we understand our software and our human expertise as a single, integrated service that’s more than the sum of its parts.

So yes, we’re a SaaS company. And ultimately, we’re driven by technology. But technology isn’t something that exists in a vacuum. And when we refine our tech, it’s always with a purpose in mind. If we’re not helping our clients achieve their goals – and helping them discover goals they didn’t even know they had – then we need to stop and reassess our approach.

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