In my previous blog we discussed about the first 5 features that ISVs should check out while choosing their subscription management solution. In this blog I will be covering the remaining 5 features and their importance.

SaaS Subscription Management Features

Feature #6 – Invoices

Billing engine of subscription management solution should be able to automatically generate invoices based on the subscription plan. ISVs should be able to set the date for monthly and quarterly invoice generation. However, for yearly invoices it should happen exactly at the subscription end date. For example, if a user has signed on 16th March, 2014 on pre-paid model then on 16th March, 2015 the next invoice should be created. In case of metering, invoices should calculate the exact amount based on the values set in the pricing plan.

Feature #7 – Pre-Paid / Post Paid Billing

Billing can happen either on a pre-paid model or post paid model. In a pre-paid model invoices are raised at the start date of the subscription and the customer will be charged immediately. Post paid models are the ones where the invoice is raised after the subscription end date. ISVs can choose to operate on either of the models, or even both. In that case ensure that your subscription management solution supports both the models.

Feature #8 – Credit Card / Pay Pal Support

One of the reasons for the success of SaaS model is the fact that customers see it as an operational expense (OpEx) rather than a capital expense (CapEx). Therefore, online payment becomes the preferred model of payment for customers. Subscription management solution should support all major credit cards. Customers should be able to enter the credit card details while sign-up or before the billing date. In case if the subscription management solution is storing the credit card details then it should carry PCI Compliance certificate. Pay Pal could be another alternative to credit cards as many companies have corporate pay pal accounts. The other important aspect is the retry policy. When a credit card transaction fails it has to go through a retry policy where the card might be tried for few more times before concluding it as a permanent failure.

Feature #9 – Customer Portal

Transparency is a key when it comes to SaaS billing. Customer should be able to find all the details pertaining to their bills. Therefore, a customer portal could be extremely useful for customers to directly login and check out the details. At the minimum, customer portal should provide them with details about their current subscription, past invoices and current charges. This will be extremely useful for ISVs that operate in usage based billing model. In some cases even trend charts can be shown for customers to provide them more clarity. Portal should also allow the customer to upgrade and downgrade their subscriptions, so that they don’t have to come to the ISVs support team every time they want to change their subscription. From ISVs point of view this is a saving in support bandwidth.

Feature #10 – Notifications

Notifications are those communications that go to the customer all through their engagement with the SaaS provider. It starts from the moment someone signs up a trial version of the product, an email has to be sent with the credentials for accessing/activating the account. Reminders should be sent to the customer when their account is close to trial period end date. Trial period expiration, Credit card reminder, invoice mail, payment reminder, payment success/failure, usage alerts – are all examples of notifications that can go out to customers.

There are several other cool features that can help ISVs in managing their subscriptions. However, the 10 features I have listed here are the core for any subscription management solution. Make sure that you evaluate your subscription management solution on these areas before you make your decision.

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Janakiraman Jayachandran