What is SaaS?
Not that many years ago when we thought of "software", we thought of installations from floppy disks or CDs. For an individual user, a software application was installed on one computer. For an enterprise, licenses might allow for the installation across hundreds or thousands of computers. This is the way we all worked for decades.
But this model had many, many painful problems. If a computer crashed or was upgraded, software packages needed to be installed again. If software packages needed to be upgraded across a company, it might take days or weeks to roll-out the new version to every computer. Sharing information was difficult and usually involved storing files on a central mainframe, or sending via email - which opened up a Pandora's box of security issues. And the administration costs of maintaining these licenses and upgrading computers across a company were significant. Many companies - even the largest - chose to work with outdated software for years to avoid the cost and trouble of rolling out an upgrade.
With the internet, and as the availability of high-speed internet access became widespread, this model was replaced by software and applications delivered online. Although this may seem like a small change in how the same software was accessed, it was in fact a "game changer". The cost of licenses was replaced by a monthly/annual subscription model. What were once centralized systems and databases, became distributed. The responsibility for continuous delivery of software upgrades shifted from company administration to the SaaS provider. Staff had access to software and systems from anywhere - in the office, on the road, or from home. It's truly changed the way software developers provide services, and how businesses do business!
Why is SaaS a Natural Fit for the HVAC Industry?
HVAC companies have always been distributed. While staff might not be working from home, they've always been working out of the office, or across multiple offices for larger companies. Sharing information between office staff, engineers and field service reps was always a pain point. Keeping information in-synch between the field and the office, or across offices, took significant time and was error prone.
The software as a service model solves many of these problems, and in fact opens up new opportunities for revenue and cost reduction. Work tickets are an excellent example of this as they impact many facets of your business. A single service request might be taken over the phone or online, and immediately impacts various staff and systems.
SaaS systems, or multiple systems working in lockstep, can improve every aspect of this process. A new ticket entry can immediately trigger a series of events, starting with the automatic scheduling of the next available field rep. As all information related to the request are available online, field staff have access to everything they need to know both en route and on site. And once a job is complete, billing systems can automatically issue an invoice and even collect payment automatically if a payment method is securely stored for the customer.
SaaS integrations improve flow across all the people and processes in your business. They reduce the amount of time required to manage a task or ticket. And they help provide transparency to customers, who can be alerted to current status throughout a request - from start to finish.
Exposing New Features and Information to Customers
Another interesting opportunity opened up by SaaS systems is availability and visibility of your systems and information to your customers. Why is this so exciting? Because it provides benefits for both your team and your customers. Accounts receivable and payment processing systems are a good example of this.
Prior to SaaS solutions, your company's books were typically stored within the walls of the company. If a customer required a copy of a receipt or statement, it involved a call to your customer support staff, and took time for them to process the request. Collecting a payment also required manual intervention and time. But by moving your payment processing systems online via SaaS, simple and repetitive tasks such as this can be distributed to the customer. Log into your company website, review past statements, make a payment, update credit card details for recurring payments... all available without a moment of staff time wasted.
Consider the following...
For a historically service-oriented industry such as HVAC, pushing work onto customers can seem unnatural. But keep in mind, the modern customer has become accustomed to managing simple tasks such as this. In fact - they often prefer the ability to control more aspects of a business relationship. And do so at a time and place of their choosing!
Creating Business Intelligence
By the nature of pre-SaaS software, it was difficult to share information across systems that were siloed. This resulted in a lot of business information stored across different departments within a company, but little business intelligence. If an executive needed to get the "big picture" of the state of the company, it required excessive manual labor across multiple departments to prepare reports. And more labor again from a decision maker to collate the reports and interpret them.
By allowing information to be shared across departments, and enabling greater transparency across systems, SaaS software has ushered in the era of business intelligence. Each SaaS component of your business exposing information via on-demand reporting, and sharing information with other systems. And potentially middleware placed between them all, configured to pull all the data from different departments together into one meaningful snapshot of the current state of your business..
So far we've discussed the benefits of leveraging SaaS platforms for your business and your customers. But with the great power of truly distributed services and information comes great responsibility!
In the "old days", when your business software was located in the one office, or multiple offices, system administrators could build a virtual wall around the company's information. If they could prevent intrusion to a fixed number of locations, and if staff members followed a strict set of rules, security could be achieved. But when any team member, and even your customers, have access to secure information such as billing details? And they can access it from any number of devices?
The importance of data security has not changed, but the methods used to secure the data have. And especially for the HVAC industry, choosing SaaS partners that build with a "security first" mentality is critical.
Let's again consider the payment collection and processing space as an example. We need to consider security in multiple areas such as:
- Data persistence: how and where the data is stored.
- Data transmission: how data is moved from one location to another.
- Data access: who needs the ability to access sensitive data, and how they access it.
Fortunately, SaaS service providers can actually make your systems more secure than they would have been in the past, while still allowing greater visibility and access to critical data. For example, SaaS provider CardConnect manages payments and payment information, and therefore must abide by extremely high-standards in terms of data security:
- Your critical customer data such as credit card details are encrypted and stored securely on the CardConnect cloud, removing liability from your company.
- CardConnect abides by PCI Compliance regulations, ensuring the strictest adherence to best security standards. And they can work with your company to do the same.
- CardConnect provides point to point encryption (P2PE), meaning data is secured from a field rep collecting customer data miles from the office, all the way through to secure storage.
When considering a SaaS partner, don't just look at cost. Don't just look at features. Don't be afraid to ask questions about security. Your HVAC company has a legal and ethical responsibility to keep data safe. Work with a company that builds security into every aspect of their offering.
Consider the following...
The continuously upgraded software model provided by SaaS is typically more secure than traditional software. Since you access the software via the internet, each time a user logs in, they are working with the latest version of the software. If a new security threat or hole comes into existence, your SaaS provider will be able to make corrections to their systems... without the need for your company to take any action.
Getting Started with SaaS
If your HVAC company hasn't initiated the transition from traditional software systems to SaaS platforms, starting can be intimidating - but it need not be. SaaS accounts often start with free trial evaluation periods, and can be explored by a single user in your company. Although they often offer integrations that connect to other areas of your business, no integrations are usually necessary to get started and start reaping benefits. There is no downside to begin the transition, and at a rate that makes sense for your business.
Your internal payment processing solution is often an excellent target for early SaaS adoption, and can make an immediate impact on your business and your bottom line. Trusted payment processors such as CardConnect have teams ready to help new business partners better understand the process and the benefits. They will assist in rolling out your new solution either all at once, or in phases if that makes more sense for your company. They will work with you to ensure security and reduce the scope of your liability. And, as a fellow service provider, they will be available to your team month after month, year after year - all the while improving their offering to you at no additional charge.
There are numerous reasons to choose upgrading your payment processing system to a SaaS platform:
- Gain immediate business intelligence regarding the most important aspect of your business: revenue..
- Data breaches break customer trust and open your company up to liability. Payment processing companies reduce responsibility and increase security.
- Repetitive tasks such as processing recurring payments and generating tax reports are moved away from key staff, freeing them to focus on more productive tasks such as customer service.
Consider the following...
Initial costs for SaaS installations and integrations are typically much lower compared to traditional software. SaaS providers that work within the HVAC industry understand your existing systems and solutions, and can typically have your company up and running with a new platform in a matter of days!
High speed internet access spawned a totally new way to deliver software and services to businesses, and Software as a Service is a natural fit for the HVAC industry. The right solution can be installed easily and at little or no cost. SaaS platforms will help to generate new revenue streams and cut costs. They will increase the level of business intelligence available to your business, provide new channels for customer service, and decrease security risk and liability. And getting started is typically both simpler and more cost effective when compared with traditional software installations and upgrades. SaaS solutions allow your company to stay on the cutting edge of technology, while actually reducing your IT costs!