Software with a Service (SwaS) vs. Software as a Service (SaaS) | 4 differentiators to help shape your experience management program

Todd Leach | Apr 29, 2021 Todd Leach 04/29/21

Whether your experience management (XM) program has just recently launched, been live for decades, or is simply an idea at this point, it’s never the wrong time to evaluate how well your organization is listening to customers + employees and acting on those insights. Because if you’re not, there’s a big chance you’re falling short on expectations and customers are taking their business (+ loyalty) elsewhere.

As you continue to evolve your XM strategy, it’s important to understand the difference between XM providers and their levels of support. To guide your efforts in deciding the best fit for your organization, here are the 4 biggest variances between a SwaS vs. SaaS approach:


Differentiator #1: SwaS combines technology with professional services

One of the biggest differentiators between XM providers is their level of support. Many vendors primarily offer software as a service (SaaS)—dedicating minimal resources to analysis support, insight delivery, and strategic partnership.

Organizations that choose to partner with a software with a service (SwaS) provider get hands-on professional support with powerful technology—making it easier to activate insights across the enterprise. From onboarding to developing program best practices, SwaS providers offer support throughout the entire program lifecycle.

Forrester’s report—Enterprises Must Have One VoC Program, Not Many—states organizations with the long game in mind don’t necessarily rush to acquire a technology or let a technology vendor drive their program, but instead prioritize putting together a thoughtful and strategic plan. And when designing that plan, people and culture aspects—not technology—should come first.


Differentiator #2: SwaS uncovers true experience management insights + drives action

Data-driven brands and insights-driven brands are heading in different directions. And businesses that continue to operate with only data driving their decisions are doomed to fail. The more lightbulb moments you have, the better equipped you’ll be to illuminate new paths to insight and inspire smart changes across your enterprise.

The Forrester Wave™: Customer Feedback Management Platforms, Q1 2020, authored by Faith Adams, calls out the importance of managed and professional services with XM programs: “Technology alone cannot cure all CX woes. So, CX teams—which are typically small and have frequently immature VoC programs—can’t be afraid to ask for help. In turn, vendors have to be there to support customers who can’t—or prefer not to—execute on DIY programs. CX pros must look at the variety of services offered, vet the vendor’s expertise in providing the specific services—like ongoing system configuration, program design, insights deep dives, key driver analysis, or goal setting—and evaluate the team the vendor is supplying to deliver the services before making a decision.”

By combining tech with services, SwaS providers can help brands get to these “Aha!” moments faster. With extra support and guidance, organizations are able to turn mountains of data into true insights that change business outcomes.


Differentiator #3: SwaS provides continuous support  

Launching an XM program may not be as complicated as, say, launching a spaceship—but that doesn’t mean it’s a simple endeavor. To set a program up for long-term success, a smooth implementation is very important and often indicative of future program success.

With both SwaS and SaaS providers, you’ll likely get that critical upfront support. The difference, however, comes later when your program is live and out in the world. SaaS vendors typically switch off most of their professional services post-implementation, leaving you to fend for yourself. On the flip side, SwaS providers offer support throughout your entire program lifecycle.

With a SwaS partner, you’re also more likely to get an engagement model customized to your specific needs—providing you with the benefits of regular guidance on key themes like tech enhancements, field communication support, program updates, and more. This hands-on approach allows for strategic program guidance long after implementation. By constantly evaluating your program alongside your key stakeholders, your XM program will continue to evolve.

To help our clients continually improve their programs, SMG leverages Forrester’s program maturity model—focused on taking XM programs from foundational to advanced to state-of-the-art. By using Forrester’s 10 best practices, we implement an action plan customized to each brand and guide them throughout the lifetime of our partnership, helping their program reach state-of-the-art maturity.


Differentiator #4: SwaS future-proofs your business

As mentioned before, implementing an experience management program is only the first step. You need to be able to demonstrate the impact your program has on the bottom line. Because if you’re not delivering ROI, it’s not likely to gain the type of organizational buy-in you’ll need for long-term success.

A SwaS provider will work with you to answer your research questions and link insights to financial results—helping you drive business outcomes and future-proof your business.

SMG helps brands deliver ROI by focusing on these 4 things:

  • Growing existing revenue
  • Reducing churn + detractors
  • Driving operational efficiencies
  • Generating new revenue

For example, when DICK’S Sporting Goods was looking into which elements of the customer experience have the biggest impact on sales, their SMG team analyzed the brand’s post-shipment data to reveal an issue with delivery timeliness. The retailer then made a simple tweak to its estimated delivery window—resulting in a 6% increase in online sales.

Additionally, we helped Dairy Queen lessen at-risk revenue by empowering front-line staff to help with customer issues—leading to a 6-ppt improvement in Problem Resolution. Chick-fil-A was able to save $30M by using customer experience data to evaluate the worth of investing in a new digital menu board. And Giant Eagle drove new revenue by increasing curbside traffic and Overall Satisfaction through improvements to order accuracy + quality substitutions.


How does SMG stand out from other experience management providers?

SMG’s unique software with a service (SwaS) approach means brands don’t have to go it alone. From day one of onboarding to reaching state-of-the-art program maturity, we provide support throughout your entire program lifecycle—combining platform technology with ongoing professional services that help you change the way you do business.

We intimately understand clients’ business objectives and marry those with industry expertise—so clients have tailored customer and employee programs that leverage the best-of-the best in customer feedback research methodologies, program execution, data reporting, and insights activation.

That collaborative approach—along with our ability to combine measurement technology, robust reporting, and unmatched research expertise—is the main reason SMG’s client retention is second to none, with partnerships lasting 8 years on average and 50% of new business coming from client referrals. We believe it’s also why SMG was the only CFM provider to receive the highest possible score in the Managed + Professional Services criterion in The Forrester Wave™: Customer Feedback Management Platforms, Q1 2020.

To find out if your program is delivering the capabilities you need to drive business outcomes, download the best practice guide to see if you’re getting the actionable insights you deserve: Anatomy of a true CX insight: 5 definitive tests to distinguish between insights + data points.


Todd Leach | Chief Client Officer

Customer Experience Update