The SaaS Customer Experience – Developing Trust

In a recent posting I talked about how to approach setting Service Level Agreements for SaaS and Cloud services.  This is one aspect of developing trust with your prospects and clients, but there are many other things that you can do to help develop this trust.  The sooner they trust you as a provider, the sooner they will buy or upgrade your services and the more they will use the service.  Both of these are very helpful in reducing prospect closing time and decreasing churn.

Integrity in all communications is of course key to trust.  One way that some leading SaaS and Cloud providers have helped to develop this communication is to provide a “Trust” site which is part of a providers website and all the information is available in one location.  The Trust Site usually contains information on certifications, security, availability and privacy.  Sometimes it includes current system status.  Some providers provide all this information but do not organize it into one location and although I think one location is helpful, the most important thing is that the information is available.

Often providers get focused purely on SLAs but the real issue is what do I do as a provider to help my prospects and customers trust me.  An SLA often is and should be part of the picture, however communicating about certifications, security, privacy, architecture, past actual availability, disaster recovery, and business continuity are also important.  The information does not need to and should not include proprietary information or information that would compromise security.  It should provide enough detail that many first level questions can be answered.  Most importantly it says that the provider thinks that this kind of information is important enough to make it public.

Two examples of trust sites are Salesforce and Marketo.  Salesforce, as a leading SaaS provider, has a substantive trust site.  Marketo is much smaller and has a much simpler site but has a lot of the basic information there.  Ariba is another example and  Amazon Web Services has all of this type of information available but it is organized differently.

Another approach to providing information to generate trust is a third-party measurement.  Compuware through it’s Cloud Sleuth business provides a free service measuring the major Infrastructure as a Service providers.  They also provide some basic performance information.  Along with having the data having a third-party provide it adds a level of credibility.  I believe that we will see more services like this providing third-party measurement.

Proactively making this information available has the advantage in the sales cycle of not making the customer ask for the information you know they are going to want anyway.  In fact it is possible some prospective customers may make decisions to exclude you as a provider if you don’t proactively provide this information.  You wouldn’t leave out important feature information from your website so why would you leave this information out unless what you actually do in these areas would not make a good impression.

Once someone is a customer having this information helps them quickly make decisions about additional uses for the service and can make up selling easier.  Providing current system information, maintenance schedules, etc. minimizes routine communication allowing everyone to focus on other more important communications.

Whether you put the information in a trust site or make it readily available some other way, consider putting as much as you can out there for the prospect or customer to see.  Chances are that you do more in these areas than the impression you leave and it is an easy way to build trust with your customers.

Paul