Top 3 Challenges to Offering Hosted Applications
VARs interested in offering hosted applications need integrated Operations Support Systems (OSS) and Business Support Systems (BSS). Your business needs to be able to handle key operational processes, such as defining and managing service or product offerings, provisioning new customers, and managing your infrastructure. Additionally, you want to easily support ordering, billing, customer relationship management, and other essential business functions. But what are the three top challenges facing VARs in the hosted applications market?
Take a look…
1. Implementing and Managing an Automated Storefront
While some amount of salesmanship may be needed to acquire new customers, hosted application services are offered and delivered over the Internet and the expectation of the end customer is that they can purchase and manage these services over the Internet as well. Your business requires an ordering system and customer-facing storefront that is integrated with a product catalog. You must be able to define the ordering steps, product-specific data collection, and address business-specific requirements around direct order-entry and sales commissions. For maximum ROI you need to be able to support coupons/promotions, discounts, and other campaign management tools.
2. Handling Usage Collection, Billing, Invoicing, and Payment Collection
While a storefront is the “front-end,” it needs to be tightly coupled with a “back-end” that handles all aspects of the account management and billing process which is intimately connected to the products and services the customer has subscribed to. This includes the following elements:
- Manage and approve orders including flexible workflows
- Create service plans and pricing
- Communicate with customers
- Manage marketing campaigns
- Support multiple payment processing centers
- Run reports and forecasts
Any such system should also include an underlying API for integration with in-house or 3rd party systems.
3. Enabling Customer Self-service
It is vital to minimize your customer support costs and the best way to do this is by offering feature-rich self-service tools that give the customer visibility and control into their account to make a range of changes as needed such as changing passwords, adjusting preferences, and mobile device configuration. Not to mention, most end customers want the ability to manage their account and services at their convenience and without having to pick up the phone or interacting with sales personnel.
As a VAR, can you overcome those three challenges?
Joshua Beil is director of market strategy and research for Parallels‘ Service Provider Business. Monthly guest blog entries such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s sponsorship program.