User Management

The 8 Pillars of Self Service in SaaS Applications

Self Service in SaaS Applications

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are reaching 100% adoption as the world gravitates towards working from home and digitized online services. But this space is metamorphosing with the rise of SaaS self-service, the new standard in software development. This allows users to onboard alone and get started without any manual intervention. Take a look at successful SaaS offerings like Datadog,, and Figma. They understand that users don’t want to be interrupted or contacted anymore. Frankly, don’t we all wish this would happen? Let’s learn more about the self-service trend. 

This is part of a series of articles about SaaS architecture

Besides the aforementioned examples, the shift to self service is evident across all sectors. You have self-service in productivity software like Asana, ClickUp, and Slack. This is clearly happening also in marketing automation with apps like HubSpot and Marketo. As the saying goes – numbers don’t lie. As per a recent Frontegg survey, over 77% of applications already have at least some self-service capabilities. 

The Cornerstones of Self-Served SaaS Applications

#1 – Signup – The modern SaaS user wants versatility when it comes to signing up and getting started with SaaS applications. This is typically done by implementing “Freemium” versions that elevate onboarding and adoption metrics. 

The same thing applies to the logging in process. Preferences may vary from sector to sector or as per geographical locations. Some want a Single Sign-On (SSO), while security conscious users may prefer Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) or passwordless logins. In many cases, a lack of flexibility at this stage may result in unexpected churn, especially when it comes to SaaS for enterprise. 

From the SaaS development perspective, this stage involves dynamic user and customer lists that need to be managed on an ongoing basis, not to mention the various signup and login analytics requirements that grow as you scale up.

#2 – Onboarding – Gone are the days when application users sent emails to support teams or waited on the phone for minutes. These practices are simply not acceptable anymore. The SaaS app owner has to inject self service into this crucial stage, which is where the customer basically makes the decision to stay or upgrade. Popups and tooltips need to be implemented seamlessly with real-time insights.

The numbers are clear on this one as well. The aforementioned Frontegg survey shows clearly that over 60% of SaaS application users prefer live and online onboarding without getting live calls from support professionals.

#3 – Documentation – The same applies also to documentation. Self-service documentation is one of the key ingredients in the “SaaS scaling sauce” today. The numbers say it all. Almost 15% of startups fail due to not addressing their customers’ needs. In other words, a mature self-service SaaS application needs to have an online knowledge base to reduce ticketing and elevate customer satisfaction.

More and more self service SaaS applications are also adopting interactive chatbots to encourage users to engage with their knowledge base. Times are changing, with users looking to interact directly with the application for instant engagement.

#4 – Support – Lack of support for “core elements” is arguably the biggest contributor to accelerated churn and brand damage. As per Microsoft, 96% of SaaS users say that customer self service is most important to them, especially when it comes to basic actions like controlling profile settings, adding users, managing roles and permissions, accessing audit logs for compliance purposes, etc.

Live chats (ideally with integrated pre-chat forms) are taking over the SaaS universe, with 65% of users preferring it over phone calls and emails. Just like in the onboarding stage, users looking to engage with the application will consider upgrading or staying only if questions are answered fast. The more tickets and emails you have, the less chance you have at achieving this goal.

#5 – Administration and Governance – While scaling up your SaaS offering, you will need to step up your user management capabilities pretty fast. This will obviously put added stress on your development and IT teams, something that may affect the time and effort investing in improving your core technology. The more you embrace self-serving solutions for these needs, the better your performance will become.

Related: Roles and Permissions Handling in SaaS Applications 

In other words, once you have self-service baked into your SaaS application, all users become “independent entities”. This means that they don’t need third-party intervention while adding new colleagues to their account, controlling the security aspects of the usage, managing billing (more on this later), and more. These are the true continuous self-service features that drive growth and satisfaction.

#6 – Analytics – With so many users and subscription plans in play, SaaS developers and executions can lose track very fast. With thousands of users upgrading, downgrading, or just joining, you need to implement the right APIs to get access to usage reports, integration performance information, and other data that will eventually help you bolster engagement and in-app sales metrics. 

#7 – Subscriptions – While we are at it, subscriptions are probably the biggest business revenue driver in the modern Product-Led Growth (PLG) SaaS application. There are many functions that need to be self served for smooth business performance. Some functions include, billing, invoicing, and limitation enforcement, all backed up by comprehensive usage data extraction. There is also A/B testing.

Subscription management is a key part of the SaaS self service puzzle. You must achieve accuracy when it comes to billing and account information, while keeping involuntary churn (expired/changed credit card numbers, technical declines, outdated PII, etc.) at a minimum. You can avoid these issues with automated dunning management. This also lets your in-house teams focus on tasks that really matter.

#8 – Security and Compliance – Last but not the least, there is the security aspect. With data privacy taking center stage (GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, etc.), you need to make sure that your SaaS application is compliant at all times, with minimal stress on your CISOs and security teams. This also involved the integration of robust SIEM tools, while creating and enforcing a strong cross-department security policy.

One common practice to bolster SaaS application security is eliminating (or minimizing) password usage. Passwordless authentication is a great way to get this done. Check out the Top 10 Passwordless Vendors You Must Consider in 2021.

Related: What is Passwordless Authentication?  

Self Service Enablement: The Future of SaaS

You have a compelling core technology that is solving many pain points. That’s great. But only a comprehensive customer self service platform can help you cash in on it. Your clients and users want to have a seamless web self service experience today. Anything less can result in accelerated churn with a negative impact on your brand performance, especially when it comes to enterprise customers.

These feature and service requirements will come fast as you scale up your operations and look to achieve enterprise-readiness. But do you have the resources and time to invest in SaaS essentials? Who will take care of your core technology? What about the product roadmap? How will you keep your focus on quality and innovation? The answer is simple – self service enablement. Get proactive now.