Well they seem to be coming thick and fast…
Only a few weeks ago I wrote about Intacct scoring a coup in the US by having the American Institute of CPAs choosing them as the preferred SaaS accounting offering. A few weeks ago also I wrote about Xero having Telstra in Australia (and previously Telecom New Zealand) enter into a channel partnership and now Xero once again score the prize in the UK where BT has entered into a reseller agreement with them.
BT has over 1.7 million customers and, unlike the Telecom NZ deal, this is a fully fledged reseller deal where BT not only markets the Xero product, but sells it directly to its customer base.
I spoke with Xero’s communications head Lucy Hempseed who was a little unsure as to how the pricing and product offerings will look. Personally I’d love to see BT invest a little in a integration and service offering with the other SaaS solutions it sells. The integration is due to be available around July so some more details will emerge before then.
At the same time I’ve just been informed SmartPayroll, a New Zealand SaaS Payroll provider has just introduced SmartXero – so what is SmartXero? It is Xero bundled with a high level service and integration offering. Despite all the Web 2.0 tools in the world, as a SaaS vendor grows to scale it simply cannot continue to offer high levels of individual service – as an example Xero provides email support, but no phone support – that’s fine for those of us prepared to either wait or to tinker, but arguably doesn’t address the needs of those who want help from a real person – and now.
So that’s where SmartXero jumps in. I questioned founder and CEO Asantha Wijeyeratne about the difference between the monthly subscription to Xero and the offering they are providing (Xero is $49 while SmartXero is $83) – his response? “We will set up the chart of accounts, set up the Bank feeds etc and the general set up. We will then send a trainer to sit with the customer while they do the first month. So all that eliminates the fear of the changeover. Then we back that up with 0800 24×7 telephone support backed up with on-site support if required.”
Of course the biggest gain to be made is by users who use both SmartXero and SmartPayroll – they’re then leveraging both a technology integration and a high level services offering. Asantha indicated the potential to provide a reduced bundle price for those using both products.
While it’d be nice to think that SaaS requires no third party help – the reality is that SMEs need handholding – SmartXero is providing a valuable service for those businesses. It’d be great to see BT do similar and reallt start to onboard good numbers of users.
Update – SmartXero has had a name change! It’s now known as SmartBooks Plus