Why the Software as a Service model (often) fails
Where has the “Service” gone?
The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model is a widely deployed software licensing and delivery model—most of us are familiar with it. Companies provide hosted software applications to clients, usually via the web. Simple enough.
Too many travel technology companies offering an online booking tool completely fail to provide quality customer service, relying on contractual obligations or market ubiquity to keep them alive and profitable.
It seems that SaaS companies with an online booking tool deliver mostly what they promise in terms of the software, but not much real service to support their clients while using it.
The elusive “S”
When users have nowhere to turn, either because their companies have mandated a specific OBT or simply because there are few online booking tool options, OBT providers often don’t work to get fixes released quickly.
Based upon behavior, we must assume the mentality that drives the actions of these OBT providers is: “Why bother getting a release or new fix out if the company is stuck with us anyway?”
To make this observation personal, I’ve sat in on countless discussions with travel managers and their TMC’s during the rollout of our Innfinite OBT to new clients, only to listen to these companies lament how their previous legacy OBT provider barely gave them the time of day.
In many cases, only when these companies got so frustrated that they threatened early contract termination did the OBT address their fixes and requests. Often weeks or months later.
That’s no way for an OBT provider to do business. As a vendor entrusted by clients to do right by these high volume users for their business, that attitude towards clients seriously disturbs me. And, from my experience, it seriously disturbs users as you might guess.
With many moving parts, real service is key to that final “S” in SaaS
I think the first step in changing this troubling trend is by acknowledging that online booking tools are complicated, robust pieces of software. The various technologies that power the back-end of any OBT typically have competing system and user priorities. This means the software is naturally prone to experience some hiccups.
Our Senior Developer Jon Carmody recently wrote an article discussing this reality:
“With so many moving parts, creating an online booking tool that allows you to book 100% of the content 100% of the time just isn’t possible. You can get very close to perfection, but you can't control hardware and software changes outside of your domain.”
Carmody also highlighted the fact that fixes are always going to be required sooner or later, because errors will occur. And the system won’t return content properly from time to time. This is just the natural result of the many unforeseen changes made to the various systems in the background by our travel partners.
So, providing real “Service” to our clients, when their preferred flight routings aren’t returning properly from a request—or the OBT isn’t pulling back all bulk fare options as it should—is crucial to ensuring that users receive the content they need when they need it.
We’re a service company first
I've always said it, and now more than ever if feels necessary to say it again: we are a service company—we just happen to offer software.
Making this statement acknowledges that bad service can sometimes be just as troubling as limited functionality. (In many cases, the former typically results in the latter.)
A return to real “Service”
We aspire to never having long-standing support tickets or lengthy back-and-forth email chains between travel managers, TMC's and the OBT (us). We know when an OBT returns with errors or limited content that this can result in a monetary cost to our clients.
I’ve made an active effort to instill this mentality and sense of urgency into our entire team, so we can always ensure Service comes first and that clients’ needs are consistently met as promptly as possible.
If you’ve made it this far, I encourage you to check out our Carmody’s article on the importance of a direct line of communication between travel managers and the OBT. His views on this topic echo my sentiment about the need for service.
Happy Wednesday everyone!
About the author:
CEO of Innfinity, Beverly McCabe is a 25-year veteran of the lodging and travel industry.