SaaS is Overcrowded & Live Chat Isn't Enough

Dan Spoor
Dan Spoor

The SaaS market is quickly becoming overcrowded. There are now over 100,000 companies on G2 and that number is growing 120% year over year. (G2)

To illustrate this better, let’s zoom in on one of the many categories that exist on G2, marketing technology, as an example. This category has seen a 5,233% increase in the number of companies over the past 9 years.

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Here is what it looked like in 2011:

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Here is what it looked like in 2020:

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This trend exists across all software categories. A survey of SaaS founders showed that you would have 4-5x more competitors if you start a software business today than if you started it 5-6 years ago. (ProfitWell

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To win over customers in this highly competitive market, it’s critical that sales teams understand what customers want.

When asked what qualities customers value in a sales professional, ‘trustworthy’ ranked #1 at 58% followed by ‘transparency’, a trait closely related to trustworthy, at 37%. (LinkedIn State of Sales) In addition, 86% of customers expect a trusted advisor relationship with sales reps, and 82% reported that a company’s trustworthiness matters more than a year ago. (SalesForce)

Despite this, SaaS is facing a crisis of trust. 94% of SaaS buyers don’t trust sales teams (G2), 99% believe companies need to improve their trustworthiness, and 66% feel like they are treated like a number (SalesForce).

It’s clear that focusing on how to build customer trust is the best way for a sales team to stand out and close more deals in this hyper competitive environment.

Enter Live chat (and it's good friend the chatbot)

Live chat is one of the most popular ways to connect with customers.

When you visit SaaS websites, you’ll often see a pop-up in the lower right corner like this.

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This is often referred to as ‘Conversational Marketing’ (i.e. chatbot pop-ups). It’s hard to find reliable data on performance and customer sentiment that wasn’t paid for by a company that sells chatbots and live chat, but I have a lot of experience in this area. I started a conversational AI company in 2017 and later joined Paychex to lead their conversational AI strategy. I’ve analyzed hundreds of thousands of customer conversations and my findings align with what others often say in message boards. In short, this does NOT build trust.

The best case scenario is that the bot gathers some basic info and there is a sales rep who is available to quickly take over the conversation. Even in this scenario though, text alone is not a great medium for building a trusted relationship.

The more common scenarios are either:

  • Scenario 1: The bot gathers info and the customer waits a while for a response with no clear indication that a real human will ever respond. This is especially concerning given that the odds of making a successful contact with a lead are 100 times greater when a contact attempt occurs within 5 minutes, compared to 30 minutes after the lead was submitted. (HubSpot) Or…
  • Scenario 2, which is most common: The customer closes the pop-up and is annoyed that the message bubble interfered with what they were trying to view on the website.

Let’s use the analogy of walking into a store. Which experience do you think most customers prefer?

  1. The store appears empty. You can roam freely without being interrupted, but there is no way to check if there is a human to help if you ever need it. Or...
  2. A robot immediately walks up to you and asks if you need help. Maybe you do, but the last time you chatted with a robot hoping to eventually speak to a human, the human took a while to respond. Or...
  3. A sales rep immediately walks up to you and starts asking questions. Or...
  4. A human is behind the counter. You see them and you know they’ll help you if you need it, but they aren’t being pushy.

Options 1 - 3 are most common with live chat and SaaS sales today, but I believe the majority of customers would choose Option 4.

Option 4 can be accomplished by combining the best qualities of live chat and chatbots with the use of live video and voice calls. This is the best approach to build customer trust at a time when it’s so desperately needed, and this is the approach we are focused on perfecting with Hootsy.