A SaaS app that's free unless it delivers value

eGain's new 'solution-as-a-service' flips the application purchasing paradigm: The vendor must demonstrate what benefits it brings to the customer

Imagine an application that you don't have to pay a penny for unless it provides measurable value to your company -- and it's up to the vendor to prove that. IT shops the world over would be a lot better off, though the entire class of enterprise applications vendors would be in dire straits if they ever made such a claim. But eGain promises just that.

On Tuesday, eGain is introducing a hosted self-service application that it describes as a solution-as-a-service, or SLaaS, to riff on SaaS. Whether or not the acronym catches on, the idea behind eGain SelfService SLaaS is one whose time has come.

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"It's a really authentic and transparent approach in an industry that hasn't had all that much transparency," said Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. Instead, customer service, CRM, and ERP, have been mired in what Petouhoff called 15 years of failed projects.

Current economic conditions also make customer service applications ripe for adoption. "Companies don't have a choice," Petouhoff explained. "If there's anything to spend on, it's keeping your customers."

eGain SelfService SLaaS Edition is a hosted application that lets users select from a chatbot, dynamic and contextual FAQs, search, guided help, and escalation to call, chat, or e-mail, the company said in a prepared statement. eGain helps customers design, implement, and manage the app, which it hosts, and also provides self-service usage reports.

Ashu Roy, eGain's CEO, explained in an e-mail response the success metric his company uses to determine when and how much a customer should ultimately pay. "Success is judged by usage, [meaning] the number of self-service sessions conducted by their end-customers each month on the client's Web site. The more the usage, the more the success," Roy wrote.

The company breaks down pricing as such: $0.15 per session when a customer conducts up to 9,999 sessions; more than 10,000 sessions means they're $0.13 each; and those customers surpassing 50,000 sessions pay $0.10 each.

While that seems straightforward, Forrester's Petouhoff said that "customers need to be really careful in their SLA to define what the value is, so you actually get what you expect." 

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