Earlier this morning Assistly announced a new release for their cloud-based eService product. I had the chance to get briefed last week, and there were a few things I liked – and none of them are features or functions.
First, some background and boring disclaimers. I’ve known Alex Bard (Assistly’s CEO) from way back. He has a long-time presence in the eService market (although he is not old, far from it) and dates back to the very first product I met which was awesome (actually, continues to be since it is the core of what is today Moxie (client)): eAssist (yeah, that is where the Assist-ly name comes from, now you know… well, at least I think it is). Assistly is not a client, nor would I expect them to be simply because of this blog post (I mean, if that’d work – I’d be writing 10 times a day in my blog). The opinions below are just that, my opinions – including all errors omissions and mistakes. However, if they happen to be correct – I’d be happy to claim the credit as a visionary and superb analyst.
The feature list that Assistly has is fairly complete for an eService product. It can do multi-channel, supports social, integration, customer history and some other functions that make a complete eService solution. They have satisfied customers, I spoke with a few of them, and good momentum in the market. However, this is now what makes it very interesting.
Assitly is a cloud-based solution, a SaaS offer. Not a hosted model, or a all-in-one-pretend-to-be-cloud, but a real cloud solution that can run (with minimum setup) in any platform and leverages the three-layer model. Their architecture gives them great flexibility to offer, in this release, a few items that I have been expecting a true-cloud vendor to offer, the most important among them, a transaction-based pricing model (as opposed to the traditional per-seat or per-name license — even enterprise license — that all other vendors are offering right now).
This new pricing model is very flexible and allows organizations to more fully embrace the cloud; instead off paying a license so that a user can access the system, the organization buys a credit (in the case of Assistly it’s an hour of access) and then use that credit for any activity and any user to access the system. If they need more access, they pay for more credit. A couple of considerations that make this different: all enterprise users are allowed or entitled to use the system at any time and do what they want (of course, there are rules and rights, they are not crazy), there are no special requirements (caveat: there are “full user” licenses that Assistly provides for those users that would be in the system all the time, thereby reducing the cost of having those users in the system). The idea that CRM is an enterprise undertaking, as opposed to a customer service- or marketing-only implementation) gains ground in this pricing model: any employee can access the system and do what they need to do with it, and specialized employees can access specific functions (as well as everything else) on a value-based pricing scheme. The following screen shot shows you both the full user and the hours that the enterprise has accumulated.
You are probably saying “so what? a lot of vendors offer value-based pricing”. However, this is different: this is value-based from the clients’ perspective, not the vendor’s perspective. This is something that non true-cloud models have a hard time doing since they don’t have the flexibility and integration capabilities to deploy. Vendors are focused on licensing their product, not providing a service and charge accordingly: licenses are not offered in exchange for value – they are offered in exchange for access to the system. In this case, the value of accessing the system for an hour, or 20 minutes – or even 5 minutes, to complete a transaction is more important than the fact that they accessed the system: the software is truly offered as a service that anyone who is authorized (whether it’s an employee, a partner, or even a customer in a collaborative model) can access. The true service-only nature of the offer is what makes the difference.
I would need more space than a blog can afford to go into details, but think about it this way: you cannot be “”renting a service” (which is what the SaaS model is supposed to offer) unless you are really just paying for what you use. If you have to make a commitment to pay licenses, server access fees, maintenance and what-not, that is not a service – that is software that you purchased and paid for, whether you use it or not. If you want to use cloud-based software when and as needed, you need a flexible pricing model – that is what Assistly has done — I am very curious to see where it goes, for it holds great promise for the future of cloud computing.
In addition to the new cloud-based pricing model, Assistly offers a new, gamification-oriented administration model that allows the client to earn more of those same hours in exchange for completing administration functions. Add a new user name? earn more hours. Link a new Social Media account to Assistlly? earn more hours. Create a new business rule? earn a few more hours. This is a very interesting model, again going back to client-perceived value-based pricing, that deserves notice. As the user. or the organization rather, becomes more involved in the use of the product, they also get more hours to continue to get more involved. It is a brilliant way to entice the client to use more hours, which just happened to be their access charge. As I jokingly told Alex when he briefed me – it is almost like an enticing an addictive behavior: enable the user to do more by giving them more free access. Again, something that is based on the value the user perceives to receive – and I am very curious to see where it goes. This next screen-shot shows you a screen used to create rules with the offers for more flex time (in exchange for use), and a tracking counter for how much flex time you have created for the month.
Finally, they have created a new admin interface and “onboarding” (as much as I hate that word) process that is very simple and very intuitive. True, this is not something that is related to being cloud-based, but they have taken what their customers have complained the most about (administration and easier interfaces) and delivered a new model that is very well done. Alas, it is incomplete – it will continue to migrate to other functions and other areas in the software through the rest of the year – but for new clients coming on board, it is a great way to find out how the company delivers.
OK, past my word count for a blog, need to wrap it up. I am very excited to see where this goes – this pricing model can certainly change the way we do customer service (and CRM by extension) and finally, finally get us closer to the mythical tale of “even the janitor can help a customer” that we have been repeating forever.
What do you think? I am easily excitable? Is there something there?