Matt Matergia  |  14/01/2021

Most SaaS companies get service all wrong: here’s how to fix it

This post is the first in our new Mono Weekly initiative - where we will be publishing an original blog post every Thursday of 2021. The post topics range from web design to selling small business services and everything in between. This week, Mono's General Manager and VP of Sales, shares his insight into building the right service model for your small business customers.

25% of small businesses are unhappy with the service they are receiving. How can you scale your services without sacrificing customer experience?


The findings of Mono’s December 2020 market research report in collaboration with Localogy suggest that the significant service gaps in small business services are an opportunity for technology providers to differentiate their SaaS offerings.

I’d like to walk through some of the key lessons and takeaways from this report to help you determine the optimal service level for your small business customers.


Service as a differentiator

No matter the industry, every company wants to be the “trusted advisor” for its customers. There are a few constants when working with small businesses: 

  • They are time-strapped,
  • They have a limited budget, 
  • They need help.

Unfortunately, the last two constants are at odds with each other - making it very challenging for digital service providers and software companies that service small businesses to be both profitable and provide amazing service. 

When we talk about “service as a differentiator”, do we know what small businesses demand in terms of service? 


What type of service do small business owners want?

Despite being difficult to scale, service has become the differentiator for companies servicing small businesses.  


The availability of affordable technology for small businesses over the past decade or so has been fantastic for small businesses in terms of ‘leveling the playing field’ for them to run, market, and grow their businesses on the cloud.


At the same time, as tools that were reserved for the enterprise have moved down the market to small businesses, this democratization of cloud technology has also lowered the barrier of entry for companies and platforms to service small businesses.


While ultimately good for small businesses, the low barrier of entry in the SaaS space, and more specifically the marketing technology (Martech), has become increasingly commoditized. This commoditization has made ‘service’ (customer support, go-to-market packaging, acquisition strategy brand, etc) one of the only places to truly differentiate yourself in a crowded industry.


Defining your service model

Knowing how important service is in terms of how our partners differentiate themselves, we wanted to better understand what is important to small businesses.

  • What do small businesses really want?
  • Is there a disconnect between SMB expectations and what is being delivered?
  • How do they prefer to interact and engage with their providers?  

Before I dive deeper, I think it is important to get a few acronyms out of the way. At Mono, we broadly define the following three small business service models ranging from high-touch to self-serve: 

  1. Do-it-for-me (DIFM): Turnkey, full-service, white-glove. The SMB steps aside and allows their provider to manage everything for them.
  2. Do-it-yourself (DIY): Self-service – this model relies on the small business to take the reins by purchasing, onboarding, creating, and managing their solutions on their own. 
  3. Do-it-with-me (DIWM): This is a hybrid approach that allows the small business to have control and transparency into their solutions while receiving help and guidance from their providers.


 Read about: Three service models on the Mono Platform ➝


Because service requires “butts in seats” (read: expensive), in an ideal world, small businesses would self-serve all their services without any hand-holding from their provider. SaaS, without the last S, means only software is provided and no service. This is the ultimate scalable business model. 


Unfortunately, it seems few (if any) companies will be able to achieve true self-service. Backed by our survey data, I do believe that by understanding your customer’s expectations and leveraging technology and automation, it is possible to find the right balance between scale and offer service.


Read about: Mono DIY as a lead generator ➝



The gap between what is offered and what is wanted

There is often a gap between the service model and small business preferences. The results of our survey suggest that small businesses:  

  1. Aren’t happy with the service they are receiving, 
  2. Demand personal service,
  3. Are open to collaboration.  

A quarter of the small businesses that we spoke to were unhappy with the service they received from their providers.


When comparing expectations vs. reality, there is some contradiction regarding the “low hanging fruit” of service. For example, small businesses did not like chatbots, but a fifth of those surveyed prefer text message as a support channel despite most providers (98%) not using this channel. 


Personal service still matters

This may be the most disappointing takeaway for automated service providers, but it is likely the biggest opportunity to differentiate. Our data painted a very clear picture of small businesses' desire for personal service.  


Despite the challenge around scaling personal service, most small businesses (57%) expressed the desire to have a dedicated sales representative and nearly as many said they expected some sort of regularly scheduled “check-in” from those individuals. On the flip side, only 36% of our respondents told us they were receiving this level of service. 


Business owners want more collaboration 

Despite the desire for personal and immediate service, business owners are open to collaboration. While they want advice and guidance from their providers, if you provide them with the tools to succeed, they are more than happy to “get their hands dirty” if you can flatten the learning curve and jump in when they get stuck. 


The path to a scalable service model

If small businesses want personalization, but people are hard to scale, how do service providers exceed small businesses' expectations while remaining profitable? 


It’s all about balancing bespoke service with automation. The silver lining is that we did receive some data points that lead us to believe there is a big opportunity to enable small businesses to learn through automation and technology. Half of the small businesses we surveyed were open to being proactive when it came to setting up and learning how to use their new software. 


By encouraging small business users to manage routine tasks themselves, you can free up your time for more personal touchpoints. 


This is where I come back to the “do-it-with-me” model. I believe this is the sweet spot for small business service. “Do-it-with-me" offers bespoke service combined with automation and self-service resources so that you can guide your small business owners when they need advice.


You can enable and empower them to serve themselves with tools, resources, and automated service. Let’s break down the do-it-with-me service model.


The do-it-with-me (DIWM) service model

There are three key elements to offering a scalable service model:

  1. Bespoke service: Proactive live service, like regular check-ins, can reduce the amount of reactive service needed. This also helps small businesses better understand the value of the product and/or solution. These can either be regularly scheduled or on an ad-hoc basis, depending on the customer.
  2. Automation: Automated service, like chatbots, provide the ability to offer 24/7 service that helps small businesses locate the right content or redirects them to get help from a live agent (or a callback). Chatbots are useful tools for filtering and segmenting but be careful not to use them as your sole service touchpoint.
  3. Content libraries: A comprehensive content library with onboarding information and training materials like help documentation and video tutorials that educate and empower the user to make updates themselves.


Defining the optimal service model for your small business customers isn’t easy, nor should it be. To simplify the process, here are some ideas and opportunities to enable small business owners to self-serve.

  1. Run regularly scheduled webinars with a live Q&A - check out Mono’s resource center for inspiration;
  2. Build an online content resource library;
  3. Develop e-learning courses - Mono Academy is a good model;
  4. Publish tutorial videos and in-tool guidance or setup wizards;
  5. Automate monthly reports with specific data on performance and ROI.


About the Author

Matt Matergia is Mono’s General Manager and VP of Sales. Matt has a decade of hands-on experience working with the challenges that companies face when selling digital services and technology to small businesses that are rapidly digitizing their businesses. Before joining Mono, Matt worked with some of the biggest names in digital media like Dex Media and Location3 Media. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Broadleaf Health and Education Alliance, a nonprofit working across Northeast India.


What is Mono Weekly?

We’ve gathered our most knowledgeable people in their respective areas who are passionate about the success of small businesses. After all, helping small businesses is the reason why Mono was founded in Copenhagen in 2007.


We will publish a blog post every Thursday of 2021 with a new perspective on website trends, best practices, and common issues that small businesses and re-sellers of marketing technology face every day. Don’t miss a post, sign up today.


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