SaaS Shelfware – How to Keep the Dust off your Bot
As technology has evolved it has brought us new and better ways to work and live. This evolution has come through several tech disruptions. One of the most recent disruption in software is the transition to ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) from software that is installed and managed on company owned computers and servers, dubbed “on-premise software.” One of the primary challenges of on-premise software is the complexity of installation, deployment and management.
This led to what was called ‘Shelfware’, meaning software you bought but put on the shelf (never used or stopped using it), because of the high cost of deploying and managing the software. Alternatively, SaaS software is “defined as a software distribution model in which a service provider hosts applications for customers and makes them available to these customers via the internet” (InfoWorld 2017).
Advantages and Disadvantages of SaaS
There are several huge advantages to this kind of software solution. It removes much of the overhead of deploying software, allows greater flexibility, can be managed by functional departments (instead of IT) and can save enterprises money. However, despite these advantages, SaaS is often neglected and turns into SaaS Shelfware.
As early into the SaaS disruption as 2009, while at the Gartner IT Symposium, Rob DeSisto shared that “many of the bad practices that occurred in the on-premises world are also now moving their way into SaaS. The biggest example is shelfware.”
The Reality of SaaS Shelfware
This is actually a very common scenario for a company to be in once they have purchased SaaS and payed for the deployment. The frequency of SaaS shelfware is directly correlated to the complexity of the SaaS solution. When software was purchased as an on-premises solution, it was typically supported and managed by the IT organization by a trained dedicated IT administrator. However, as SaaS emerged, function business leaders purchased SaaS products without IT support (and usually IT leadership knowledge). Sales, marketing, finance and HR leaders would attempt to deploy and manage a SaaS solution without the needed experienced and trained solution administrator.
How to Keep the Dust off your Bot and prevent it become SaaS Shelfware
Modern chatbot technology is new, extremely configurable, complex and robust. Because of this, it is highly susceptible to becoming SaaS shelfware. Chatbots can be designed to do anything which can lead to frustration and even confusion.
Once a bot is deployed correctly it is able to interpret a customer question and provide intelligent suggestions. However, as customer change, markets move, your products and services evolve, and your employees turnover, your chatbot must adapt and change to accommodate these new and evolving trends. For example, if a bot does not understand a question, it will route the question to the wrong person or provide an incorrect answer.
Chatbot Shelfware Prevention
It is imperative to manage chatbot software properly and regularly in order to avoid ineffectiveness.
Follow these 7 tips on training/managing your chatbot:
- Get Help: Have someone help you with the bot instillation, if you don’t understand the software or don’t have the internal resources that have needed time or experience, then hire a Chatbot specialist to help out.
- Test: Go through the testing and evaluation process, the testing process is imperative to understanding how your customers want to converse, test and learn.
- Focus Groups: Make sure it is engaging, it is important to continually monitor your bot to make sure it is engaging with your customers the way you want it to.
- Measure Results: Look at results, then review the results from your test to make adjustments.
- Re-Test: Test again, retesting keeps a current understanding of how your customers want to engage. Walk through the customers experience yourself to be clear on what you expect your customers to do.
- Ask Customers: Get Feedback, ask your customers for feedback to get the true understanding of what their expectations are.
- Adapt: Pivot and make the necessary changes, if you need to make changes don’t delay. Take care of this sooner rather than later.
Overall, these types of software are a testing and management processes.
Refine your Chatbot Continually
Once you have training and management under your belt. Follow these tips as determining factors as to best deployment practices:
- What page your customers land on? In simple terms what page do you want to have the conversation.
- Who is your audience? Who are you plaining on engaging with.
- Where did your audience come from? Demographics on age, sex, and country are important factors.
- Why they are on your page? Are they shopping or looking to obtain more information etc.
These tips will help you maintain a chatbot that delivers an effective experience for your customers. It will help make your technology differentiated, efficient and effective, and all together avoid “Shelfware”.
Keep in mind, these platforms take constant effort. As you invest that effort, your platform will perform for you.