There are thousands of software vendors that have entered thebenefits business in recent years, and many of them tout theirprograms as “SaaS” or “software as a service.” These vendors offersystems for insurance company administration, tools for enrollment,eligibility management, HRIS services, wellness packages, employeeeducation, financial planning for employees, benefitsadministration and more.

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They are systems on computers, or in the cloud, or designed as“mobile first.” You name it, if a computer system can be used inour business, it's now being described in terms of “SaaS.” And yes,many of us are reviewing this software, deciding how it can be usedas a tool to attract, develop and retain customers.

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But before we rush out to customers with these shiny new toys,let's keep in mind an essential item. Before we offer SaaS, weshould first think PaaS.

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What's PaaS? People as a Service. That's so obvious a concept wemay be blinded to the need by the lure of the coolest and newesttech. While technology enables more efficient communication withcustomers, it's still the people supporting the technology thatwill ultimately dictate how it succeeds or fails. In developing newservices for your customers, never lose sight of how essential PaaScan be to success, especially in setting your organization apartfrom competitors.

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In these pages a few years ago, my friend Ron Kleiman was quotedsaying “self service is not service.” The improvements intechnology are blurring that hard line, but then consider howbusinesses that have built ways to make their people have succeededin recent years.

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Southwest Airlines, for example, started as a low cost airline,but through a people-based approach to service it has become thego-to carrier for many business travelers—and the fares we pay arenot bargain savers, either. The Southwest employee culture ofhaving fun while they do an efficient job is welcome, especially inlight of so many airlines where employees don't seem to enjoy theirwork. PaaS is a differentiator—a lever bringing repeat business ina business where there are always choices of providers, like airtravel.

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I've often observed there seems to be two fundamental models ofcustomer service. I call them “what do you want?” and “how can Ihelp you?” The former represents someone that wants to handleissues as quickly as possible and get a customer off the line. Thesecond wants to solve the customer's problems. The second is thefoundation of PaaS.

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