SaaS customer service: the good, the bad, and 5 key lessons for SaaS business owners everywhere

When you run a SaaS business, every unhappy customer is just one click away from unsubscribing. That’s why you need to deliver quality customer service and support, 7 days a week.

And with the SaaS market growing at an annual rate of 18%, competition is only getting hotter. It’s no longer enough for your service and support to be good — it has to be unbeatable, too.

So what do SaaS customers want from a platform’s support team?

And how can you, as a SaaS provider, give it to them?

In the words of Drew Houston, co-founder of Dropbox: “Learn early, learn often.” And that’s what we’ve set out to achieve in this guide. The team at The SaaSy People has scoured the internet for real-life SaaS customer feedback, mined the data for insights, and come up with a set of need-to-know customer service lessons, for SaaS owners everywhere.

Let’s get going.

SaaS customer service experiences: what's really happening out there?

Slack, Dropbox, HubSpot, Mailchimp and Notion.

These 5 companies represent the creme de la creme of Software-as-a-Service in 2020. And while their digital products are used the world over, how much is their customer service and support a competitive advantage, too?

According to user-generated reviews on Trustpilot, Capterra and TrustRadius, here’s what’s really going on in the SaaS customer experience today...

3 ways SaaS customer support is nailing it right now

Investing in self-service

When your SaaS product just works, customers have little need for support.

That said, receiving very few enquiries isn’t necessarily a sign of an issue-free experience — because users are always going to have questions, right? What it could mean, though, is that the platform that provides enough self-service tools for users not to have to reach out.

Put simply: the best SaaS companies empower users to solve their problems for themselves.

Here’s what we mean…

Online documentation, knowledge bases, tutorial videos, blog posts, community forums — these are all fantastic ways of providing self-service, and saving your customer support teams for the really tricky cases.

Better still, customers love this. In fact, the prevalence of self-service resources was praiseworthy for Slack, Dropbox, HubSpot, Mailchimp and Notion alike.

Here’s how users explained it, in their own words:

  • Mailchimp: “Really it comes down to finding the answers on my own. Their help section is great. I haven't had to reach out to a physical person yet and that speaks volumes.”
  • Slack: “Most of the information you need can be found online without the need to contact support.”
  • Dropbox: “Their help docs are more than enough to solve most problems.”
  • HubSpot: “There are so many resources to help you if you do get stuck on anything. Between the blogs, learning academy, ask the community, and actual support... you can find the answer to any question.”
  • Notion: “The community and templates, amazing.”

Sure, there might be an upfront cost — both time and money — attached to creating, hosting and updating this type of self-service content. But as you can see, it’s almost invaluable when it comes to delivering a great SaaS customer experience.

Being prepared for any level of enquiry

As a SaaS platform, you’re bound to have users of varying technical prowess.

Take Dropbox, for example, some of your customers will be seriously clued up on the ins-and-outs of cloud-based storage — they may even use cloud software in digital products of their own. Other customers may just be using your tool to back-up precious family photos.

And both these audiences have their worth.

That’s why your support teams need to be trained (and willing!) to help resolve any type of issue — from the most technically-challenging, to the most rudimentary.

In the above example, Mailchimp’s customer support seems to have helped a user create the impossible. And while you may think that’s hard to beat, the guys over at Dropbox seem to be managing something similar:

  • Dropbox: “When I did get in touch, it was a complicated issue but the team did their best to get back to me ASAP and resolved it, even though it seemed impossible at the time [...] Absolutely stellar customer service!”

But the good news is, you don’t need to work miracles for customers to be kept satisfied. Sometimes helping users not sweat the small stuff is a great way to help too, as the following review makes clear:

  • Notion: “Also customer support is brilliant — thank you so much David Apple and Lillie Martin for your patience and support when I made a mess of billing ?

Your customer service agents need to be competent in dealing with all manner of enquiries and troubleshooting activities — from billing and integrations, to account management and cancellations:

  • Mailchimp: “All of the customer support agents have a really good technical understanding of the tool. Even if I had a more complicated question about advanced segmentation, I always got a qualified answer.”

But it’s not enough to have a support team who’s only capable of dealing with the technical nitty-gritty — they also need to be confident in helping users who are less au fait with the platform’s inner workings.

Need to work alongside a customer to break new ground, as we saw in the Mailchimp and Dropbox reviews above? Great. But that won’t happen all the time. Other users will simply need step-by-step guidance on basic platform issues. And when these customers can’t get what they need, this can cause some serious problems indeed (which we’ll go on to cover soon).

Going the extra mile

When a customer gets in touch with an issue, they expect a resolution. Problem > resolution > job done? Well, yes — but there’s scope for a little extra effort, too.

Going above and beyond what users expect is a great way to build goodwill. What’s more, it represents a value-add — helping differentiate your service from the ever-increasing list of competitors. For some customers, it might be an extra workflow tip or getting through to a human when they need one. Others might enjoy a little lighthearted “swag”.

What the “extra mile” looks like for your SaaS company will depend on who you are, what you offer, and how you position your brand. But here are some ideas, to get the ball rolling:

  • Mailchimp: “I was able to copy most of [my lost formatting] over, enough to make the campaign look great, and then she showed me some additional ways to make the campaign pop.”
  • Dropbox: “I appreciate not being routed to a chatbot or offshored support.”
  • HubSpot: “All of the employees are incredibly knowledgeable and are very fun to work with.”
  • Notion: “MOST IMPORTANTLY: I messed up with my account and they went the extra mile around the clock (even with my free account) to get it fixed.”

Fun, helpful support teams. Around the clock assistance. Real people, not just chatbots. Free T-shirts! Each of these added extras amounts up to an unforgettable — and truly competitive — customer service approach.

At the other end of the scale, though, things don’t look quite so rosy...

4 ways SaaS customer support isn’t getting it right

Lapsing response times

No two ways about it, users are constantly raising the bar when it comes to acceptable response times.

And who can blame them? With the advent of digital communication, instant messaging is the status quo — and when SaaS companies lag behind on responsiveness, customers grow more and more frustrated as a result.

In fact, 88% of customers expect a response within 60 minutes. And that speeds up to just a few seconds when using a chat or messaging.

How does your SaaS business compare?

Unfortunately for Slack, Dropbox and Mailchimp their users had a few things to say on this matter:

  • Slack: “When you send them a ticket, they take up to 7 days and their answers are not very clear and offer a vague idea of what you can do to solve any problem you have.”
  • Dropbox: “Simply put the app itself is ok but there is no customer service at all except through email which in our case ended up taking 3 months to resolve an issue that would have taken 15 min to resolve if there was just a live person to talk to.”
  • Mailchimp: “Tried to get support and got a copy / paste reply 5 days later. The answer was totally unrelated to my question.”

In these cases, it seems like a resolution could have been agreed much faster had the customer been given another, more efficient means of getting in touch.

And that leads us nicely onto the next way SaaS customer service teams are underperforming right now...

Failing to offer multiple communication channels

As the saying goes: “Different strokes, for different folks”. And SaaS companies simply can’t assume that all their users will be satisfied (or comfortable) with one or two contact channels.

While more tech-savvy customers may be articulate enough to email you, explaining in full, actionable detail the issue they are experiencing, other customers will be craving the human reassurance provided by just picking up the phone.

WhatsApp, email, Facebook, phone, chatbot, LinkedIn — some of these channels will be more appropriate for you (and your users) than others. But the message is this: provide a choice.

Stepping away from verbal means of communication seems to rile SaaS customers in particular:

  • HubSpot: “It's clear they don't want you to call them now and I'm not even sure that it’s still an option for the common folk.”
  • Mailchimp: “We've been using Mailchimp for a few years and even though we've spent many thousands of pounds with them, they do not provide phone or email support and the user experience of the platform is one of the worst I've ever encountered.”

Not speaking the user’s language

SaaS platforms, on the whole, should be inclusive — especially if you’re offering a product that can be used in both very technical roles, like development, and not-so-technical roles, like sales.

In reality though, it seems like SaaS businesses better cater for the tech-savvy, than those who need a little extra assistance to get their tasks done.

For example:

  • Slack: “Some more in-product help options would make it easier for the less technically inclined folks to find answers to their questions more quickly though.”

It’s one thing to provide an abundance of self-service content, but if it’s all pitched too high for beginner users to understand, then they may start looking elsewhere.

Prioritising paying customers over free ones

When you’re trying to grow your business, and bring in more big-ticket referrals, it’s easy to accidentally prioritise certain high-paying customers over others.

But this could be a very costly mistake to make — after all, you never know when a free customer could become a substantial buyer.

By treating low-paying and/or trial customers one way, and high-paying customers another, you not only add unnecessary complexity into the customer service workflow, but you risk seriously irritating — and losing — your subscribers, too.

This is something that came up for a couple of the Big 5 SaaS companies we explored.

From Mailchimp...

To Dropbox: “The only interactions I’ve had has been with the sales team. They were a bit unorganized with scheduling, but I’m still on the free version, so I felt like maybe I wasn’t a priority for them at the time.”

Not feeling like a priority is more than enough to send customers elsewhere.

The lesson? Treat every customer like the valued asset that they are.

So let’s explore that in more detail now...

5 lessons for SaaS business owners — how to deliver the customer service experience your users are expecting

Treat every customer like #1

When you first started your business, every new sign-up was an adrenaline rush.

But as you grow, and the subscriptions (hopefully!) keep on rolling in, it’s easy to get a little complacent or to put more energy into nurturing certain clients or accounts.

The problem is, every single sign-up deserves the same level of attention — whether they’re bringing in $10 a month or $1000. Why? Because you need to consider the Lifetime Value of your SaaS users. A $10 a month customer is worth much more to you in the long run, if they stick around for years, than a $1000 who demands all your time and attention, before dropping off only a month later.

Consider retention costs, marketing spend and other growth expenses, and suddenly keeping the little guys onboard from the start makes a lot more business sense.

Worried that you haven’t got the time to give adequate care and attention to everyone? Then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it on your own anymore.

Focus on the negative (even if it hurts)

As we’ve seen from our real-world examples, negative reviews can provide some of the most valuable insights into customer experience.

Some of these reviews need to be taken with a pinch of salt — especially if the writer sounds too peeved to be true. But others contain truly enlightening nuggets — revealing hidden process or product issues, that you haven’t seen yet.

In fact, negative reviews are perhaps the best place to find the users who’ve fallen through the cracks in your customer support systems.

Never scrimp on contact options or response time

Negativity surrounding response time and lack of contact channels comes up time and time again in the SaaS customer experience. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

While providing multiple communication channels — live chat, phone, email, etc. — can be seen as a big customer experience investment, the results can be well worth the outlay.  

Even if you already have coverage of all channels, it’s worth revisiting your processes to make sure escalation paths are clear and that tickets are prioritised correctly.

If not, your customers will find a way to voice their discontent.

But don’t forget the people behind the scenes, too

Remember that comment about HubSpot’s customer service reps being fun to work with? It’s worth unpacking a little more, as it suggests a happy and productive culture on HubSpot’s side — and that’s got potential for big returns.

According to Glassdoor, “Across all companies and years, customer and employee satisfaction are positively linked. In our sample, there is a clear overall link between satisfied employees and happy customers.”

Put simply: invest in the people supporting your users, and you invest in your business at the same time.

Give them the tools they need to do their job well, empower them to voice concerns and suggestions, and give them autonomy to hand out free T-shirts if they want! If you do, then that infectious positivity will be felt right the way through the customer journey.

Consistency is key

Out of Slack, Dropbox, HubSpot, Mailchimp and Notion, no-one’s getting it totally right.

And while you’re always going to have a few issues to resolve — and disgruntled customers to placate — you should at least have consistency across your support teams. It’s worrying to see some users complain about super slow response times, while others say their email was picked up in a flash.

Inconsistencies like these suggest a support infrastructure that simply isn’t operating effectively. And when customers don’t know what to expect — will they have to wait 24 hours or 24 days? — this risks creating very hostile partnerships indeed.

When you’re rolling out customer service workflows, you need to build in a way that allows predictability and control. This can be difficult when you’re a small team — or just a single SaaS founder trying to do it all. So look for smarter ways of working.

Even if that means thinking outside the box.

Is it time to outsource your customer service, with The SaaSy People?

Customer service is an essential part of running a successful Software-as-a-Service business.

Get it right, and you’ll enjoy sky-high retention rates and long-lasting competitive advantage. Get it wrong, though, and you’ll quickly be overtaken.

But help is at hand. At The SaaSy People, we’re experts in customer service — and we’re ready to take the weight off your shoulders. Our team of experienced, outsourced agents can provide both technical support and day-to-day help for each and every one of your customers, so you don’t have to.

Get in touch with The SaaSy People today, and start exploring a more efficient way of delivering an unbeatable customer experience.

Reece Couchman