7 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing the User Experience for Your SaaS Integrations

Nowadays, every team within every company uses SaaS in their day-to-day. Businesses in every category leverage the power of SaaS to streamline their operations—from marketing to sales teams to accountants and lawyers.

While using SaaS has made information widely available within, and across teams, it has also introduced a lot of complexity around how crucial business data should flow between apps.

Unfortunately, most SaaS companies do not put nearly as much effort into user experiences (UX) for their products' integrations as they do for their core features. This decision leads to frustrated customers, endless tickets for your customer support team, and ultimately churn.

This article will show you seven of the most common UX mistakes companies make when building SaaS integrations. And we’ll explain why it’s important for your core product and integrations to form one seamless user experience.

TL;DR

  • As the number of SaaS platforms in your customers' tech stack increases, so does their demand for integrations with these apps.
  • Integrations are a core component of every SaaS product since they accelerate onboarding, improve product stickiness, and create expansion revenue and new product lines.
  • Unfortunately, the typical UX for SaaS integrations often feels like it’s been thoughtlessly bolted onto the core product. 
  • Customers often struggle with setting up and managing their integration settings, such as field and object mapping.
  • Users are often forced to build and maintain their integrations with third-party platforms like Zapier, which creates a terrible user experience.
  • Providing customers rapid responses to their support tickets around integrations is crucial for their Net Promoter Score (NPS).

The need for SaaS integrations

According to Statista, the average organization now uses 110 different SaaS tools. Blissfully’s 2020 SaaS Trends Report breaks this usage down by business size:

  • Small businesses use 102 apps on average
  • Mid-market businesses use 137 apps
  • Enterprises use 288 apps

The more reliant business workflows become on SaaS tools, the greater the need for all the tools to exchange data. As such, businesses are investing more resources into building and maintaining integrations. Blissfully’s report found that overall spending on SaaS increased 50% between 2018 and 2020, and it’s likely that the pandemic only accelerated that trend.

Beyond simply allowing apps to communicate with one another, integrations affect your bottom line in the following ways:

  • Integrations accelerate product adoption because customers don’t have to manually integrate third-party software before they can use your product.
  • They make your product more visible across your customer’s tech stack, increasing retention and opening up opportunities for organic discovery by the end users. 
  • In cases where customers need to upgrade to a higher pricing plan to access the integration, integrations create expansion revenue.
  • They create opportunities for new product lines, which allows your product to stand out from the competition.

However, building a seamless and intuitive integration experience for your customers becomes challenging. Your integrations must accommodate an infinite number of potential use cases and custom implementations of the third-party app, like custom fields and objects out of the box.

If shipping one integration takes weeks of your engineers' time, it’s in your best interest to ensure your user experience is worth all that effort. 

The typical SaaS integration user experience is sub-par

Unfortunately, the user experience of many integrations leaves much to be desired. Too many SaaS companies see integrations as an add-on rather than a core part of their product.

These negative integration experiences lead to endless tickets for your onboarding and support teams. Additionally, they can severely impact your users' perception of your product's overall experience. Ultimately this results in customers churning and leaving negative reviews on platforms like G2, or worse yet, negative word of mouth.

Integrations are often the lowest priority regarding engineering resources.

Mistake #1: Scattered integration settings

Since companies usually treat integrations as one-off feature add-ons rather than approaching them holistically, product managers often scatter the configuration UX across their app.

Without a centralized integrations page, your customers have difficulty identifying where and how to configure specific integrations.

Let’s take Outreach—the leading sales engagement platform—as an example. A Sales Ops team is trying to configure various integrations; unfortunately, things are messy.

The Salesforce integration is nested under a tab called Plugins. Other integrations are configured under Organization Settings, and they launched an Integrations tab that does not include Salesforce.

Mistake #2: Lack of custom configuration

Each of your customers has unique, company-specific operations that require them to customize their instances of a product. For example, Salesforce prides itself on the flexibility of its platform, which enables them to serve both SMBs and even the public sector.

However, this leads to a high degree of complexity regarding integrations because every user has a unique implementation with custom objects and fields that must be accommodated. 

Without dynamic field mapping, there is no way for you to anticipate the additional data your customers want to flow through your app and the third-party app.

Given its complexity, consider hardcoding data mappings with the integrated app. However, this limitation will prevent many users from completely getting the integration's value.

Mistake #3: Customers are forced to build their workflows

There’s a good chance your team has considered offloading the integration work to your customers via a Zapier or Tray connector. While this saves your team from building each integration, it burdens your customers significantly.

Your customers are forced to leave your app, pay for a Zapier account, figure out how to build the integration, and maintain and debug the integration.

While no one enjoys building and configuring their integrations between your app and their tech stack, it’s even more unfeasible if you’re selling to a non-technical audience. Don’t rely on building a Zapier connector as a long-term solution.

Mistake #4: Insufficient documentation

It’s rare to find a SaaS company that provides sufficient documentation on their integrations, so frequently, integrations are a point of friction for users.

The experience for activating an integration often looks something like this:

  1. A user clicks ‘Activate/Enable/Connect’
  2. A user logs in with their third-party app credentials
  3. The integration is enabled, with no insight into what workflows are activated

With most integrations, data is mapped and synced behind the scenes, which makes it hard for users to know the exact behavior of the integration. This action confuses users and leads to irreversible overwriting of data.

Additionally, when surfacing the ability to customize the behavior of the integration via custom fields and objects, customers will need guidance on the optimal setup and configuration.

Mistake #5: Non-native experience

Suppose you’re using an embedded integration platform that is a secondary product to their existing workflow automation product. In that case, you are left with a non-white-labeled experience that feels completely disjointed from your product.

Mistake #6: Slow incidence response around integrations

While customer support isn’t traditionally bucketed under UX, it is a function that can make or break your customer’s experience with your product.

Who to go to

First, if it’s not documented clearly, customers will not know which app’s customer support team to contact when an integration isn’t working as expected.

Identifying the root cause & limited engineering resources

When a customer flags that their integration is not working, there are three possible suspects.

  1. There is a bug with the integration you’ve built
  2. The customer made a mistake on their end during the configuration process
  3. The third-party app’s API has downtime

Most companies do not build the monitoring and observability tools required for non-technical CS team members. Because of that, they cannot differentiate the end-user errors from the technical errors, and all integration-related tickets go to engineering.

Not only is this a waste of your engineering team’s time, but it also drastically increases your team’s incidence response times as integration failures are rarely P0s (top priority).

Given these integrations can be mission-critical for your customers’ business, you can expect a high churn risk when integration issues go unsolved for weeks.

Mistake #7: Challenges with authentication

Say your customer activates an integration in your app that syncs and sends data behind the scenes. Realistically, they expect it to work indefinitely (and their operations rely on that assumption).

However, managing authentication on your end can be tricky—if you do not appropriately handle your customers’ access and refresh tokens, the integration may time out, and the connection will halt. If this happens, your customers will lose valuable data and have to deal with the business ramifications of that data loss.

The benefits of providing customers a seamless integration UX

Product adoption or product-led growth

The faster your users can experience the value of your product and its integrations, the more likely they will convert into paying customers or expand into larger contracts.

Suppose you make it extremely intuitive for them to not only activate but configure the integrations to their needs. In that case, they will get to the ‘ah-ha’ moment significantly faster, which is crucial for conversion rates.

Product stickiness and retention

Beyond initial conversion, it costs five to ten times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain a current one. So, making your product sticky should be one of your top priorities. 

Providing your customers a seamless integration experience leads them to design their entire operations around dependencies between your app and the rest of their tech stack, making it extremely hard to rip out.

On the flip side, making the mistakes above can 'override' these benefits and put them at a high risk of churn.

Referrals

Ensuring your customer has a seamless experience while using your integration affects another one of the pirate metrics: referrals. Treating integrations like an important part of your business, it’s more likely that word of mouth will work in your favor rather than against you.

If you create extreme efficiencies for your customers, they will rave about your product’s integration to their friends. 

Moving upmarket

As your company becomes more established, you will sell to larger companies that won’t settle for a poor experience. They will require a more seamless and integrated experience and are less tolerant of bad product experiences.

To successfully sell into these larger organizations, you must provide a native integration experience that can easily fit into their broader operations. 

An example of an integration that provides a great customer experience is Slack’s Asana integration. Slack provides a world-class app marketplace that centralizes the configuration of all its integrations, making it easy for its customers to find the integration they need.

The Asana integration lets you turn action items from Slack into Asana tasks in a way that feels very native and intuitive. This screenshot shows how the integration smoothly combines both apps’ native UI features. 

They also provide clear documentation on using the integration and the expected behavior once it is activated.

As a final touch, Slack creates a native UI component that enables users to create Asana tasks seamlessly in their app.

Offering an excellent SaaS integration experience

After working with nearly 100 B2B SaaS companies on their integrations, Paragon has seen user experiences of all types—from the good to the bad to the ugly. Based on our teams’ experience, we’ve made it easy for you to provide your customers with an excellent user experience. 

Centralized integration marketplace

Firstly, build an integrations page for your app that can be easily identified in your app’s navigation.

With Paragon, you can dynamically pull in the metadata of all the integrations you build on Paragon to populate the page.

Consistent and intuitive configuration experience

Next—and arguably the more challenging part—is providing your customers a seamless experience around setting up and configuring their integrations. 

However, with the Paragon Connect Portal, an embeddable, native JS component, you can easily enable your customers to:

  • Understanding the use case(s) the integration enables
  • Pick the use cases (Workflows) they want to enable
  • Configure any custom mapping/user-specific settings

Natively present the Connect Portal to your customers within your app with just a single call.

paragon.connect(“Salesforce”);

Custom field and object mapping

And with just a few lines of code, you can provide your customers the ability to map custom objects and fields between your product and the third-party app using our Dynamic Field Mapping feature (coming next month).

Accelerate incident response

Equipping your customer support team with the tools needed to easily identify and triage any integration-related tickets accelerates the turnaround time for getting customers’ integrations up and running.

Instead of your customer support team going back and forth with customers for days, piecing together the issue with screenshots, they can use Paragon’s Task History and Connected Users Dashboard to instantly identify the issue.

These tools enable anyone on your team to dive into details such as which user executed the workflow, where the execution failed, the data being passed, when it was executed, and the current status.

Even your non-technical support reps can quickly diagnose and troubleshoot problems, allowing them to respond to customers in record time. Finally, they won’t have to go through an engineer—unless it is an actual bug with the integration. Issues that once took weeks to resolve are now solved in minutes.

Authentication and uptime

Handling your customers’ credentials, managing access, and refreshing tokens is a tedious process and needs to be built for every integration you ship.

Paragon offloads all that work with a unified layer that provides fully managed authentication for any SaaS integration you build. Simply input paragon.authenticate() on a user’s login, and Paragon will handle and refresh all integration-related authentication for your customers.

Conclusion

Simply having an integration is table stakes in today’s SaaS environment. To set your product apart from your competitors and make it extremely sticky, you must focus on designing intuitive and seamless integration experiences for your customers.

If you’re interested in an embedded integration platform that will help you rapidly scale your integration roadmap while ensuring you can provide your customers with a consistent and optimal UX, book a quick demo today!

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