Software as a Service (SaaS) and Self-Service Design

    Software as a Service (SaaS) is becoming an increasingly popular service model, allowing users to access applications deployed in the cloud through web browsers or application clients. However, many SaaS applications are complex and require onboarding conducted by salespeople to understand their offerings and how they can help users. What if there was another solution that allows user onboarding without any human interaction? That's where self-service design comes in.

    What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?

    In contrast to traditional software sales, in the SaaS model, customers do not need to purchase a one-time license and install the software. Instead, they receive a tool, typically cloud-based, through a subscription model. By paying a subscription fee, they gain access to a web or mobile application and can fully utilize all the software's functionalities.

    The Problem with SaaS Applications and the Need for Self-Service Design

    Many applications in the market are not user-friendly, which often leads potential users to abandon the application shortly after starting a trial or during the research phase. The first UX issues usually arise when users are trying to find information about what the application offers, how to use it, and what capabilities it has. Consequently, they often need to consult with a salesperson, which customers in 2022 want to avoid at all costs.

    According to a study by Gartner, B2B customers spend only 17% of their buying time on potential conversations and meetings with salespeople. When comparing different vendors, the time spent with you as a vendor may be as low as 5% or 6% of the total time spent on making a purchase. Therefore, it is essential that your application is designed to minimize the necessary contact with your sales team.

    Why Customers Prefer Not to Interact with Salespeople?

    When selecting software, B2B customers often have several, if not dozens, of applications that fulfill the same need in different ways. This requires them to schedule several hours of meetings with different salespeople who are doing exactly the same thing and then decide which software to choose. From the customer's perspective, this process is exhausting, time-consuming, and costly.

    Today, the majority of customers prefer to learn as much as possible about a product on their own before making a purchase. For them, it is faster, more convenient, and the starting point where you can improve the conversion of your SaaS application.

    Traditional Sales Model vs. Self-Service Design

    Let's assume that your sales team consists of five salespeople, each capable of conducting four meetings, and they have 20 working days per month. This allows a maximum of 400 customers per month. However, at some point, your sales team will become a bottleneck for your company if you don't hire more salespeople. This incurs various costs, such as onboarding new salespeople, providing them with tools, and their salaries.

    By implementing self-service design, users don't need a salesperson to learn about your software, how it solves their problems, what it offers, how it works, how much it costs, or how to use it. This approach allows you to almost entirely eliminate the sales department and reduce the costs associated with it. Your salespeople can then focus on the most significant clients where their support is indispensable in the purchasing process.

    According to a McKinsey study, only one-third of buyers prefer traditional sales approaches compared to remote sales and the ability to make purchases online. This trend, which has gained momentum during the pandemic, emphasizes the necessity of online sales and self-service to achieve success.

    Remember that well-designed self-service design should at least:

    • Inform customers about what your software does and why they should use it.
    • Enable customers to subscribe and onboard without the need for sales or support assistance.
    • Prepare customers to use your application through video tutorials, interactive onboarding, pop-ups, instructions, documentation, or other methods that fit your user persona.

    How to Approach Product Design for Effective Self-Service

    The first crucial step in well-designed self-service is correctly identifying the buyer persona – in the case of B2B SaaS, it will be the profiles of companies and the "buying committee" that use or may be interested in your solution.

    Another important element in self-service design is a well-prepared landing page – the first page your potential customers land on. A well-designed landing page should provide users with at least the following information:

    • What your product does.
    • The value proposition – how your product can help solve their problems.
    • Examples of your application's use cases.
    • Credibility through references or statistics based on analytics, FAQ, and more.
    • A call to action (CTA), such as a button encouraging customers to try your software.

    Content plays a significant role in self-service design. Your landing page should be designed in a way that users can learn everything about your product without contacting your sales team. By automating the research process, you can reduce the costs of the sales department and allocate the saved resources to other areas, such as increasing marketing efforts or further developing your product.

    To ensure successful self-service design, users need to understand your application and know how to use it. Onboarding is a crucial step that introduces users to your SaaS application. There are many methods to educate users on how to use your product, and there is no "one size fits all" approach. The onboarding method will vary for each customer, and you need to choose the right one for your specific user persona.

    The most popular methods include:

    Video Tutorials: One of the simpler ways for users to learn about using an application. However, it is essential to keep your video tutorial concise and not overly burdensome unless the complexity of your SaaS requires it.

    Pop-ups: These are small windows that provide useful information on how to use your tool and guide users through its features—for example, explaining the function of a specific button. A good example of this is the intro.js library.

    Documentation: Although it requires the most time from users, comprehensive documentation provides the most detailed way to learn about your application. It covers all the information regarding functionality, even the most obvious details. While it may be time-consuming, documentation allows users to search for specific information and understand how to use your application, without needing to watch videos to find a specific 20-second snippet of interest.


    By embracing self-service design, you can avoid the pitfalls of the traditional sales model and align with the buying trends of customers who prefer less interaction with sales teams and aim to handle more tasks independently.

    Key takeaways from a well-designed self-service approach include:

    • Allowing customers to learn about your product.
    • Enabling customers to subscribe and onboard without human interaction.
    • Guiding users through your application with a dedicated onboarding process.
    • Incorporating analytics to continually improve the user experience.

    Self-service design helps reduce costs while increasing customer conversion rates. You no longer need to spend large amounts on a sales department; instead, you can invest those resources in marketing or further product development.

    If you believe your existing application needs an improved UX or you are unsure how to plan it, we would be happy to discuss the possible options during a free consultation or guide you through the product design process with dedicated workshops led by our designers. At iMakeable, we understand how to provide the best possible UX and can assist you in achieving your goals.

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