November 3, 2017

Should I Subscribe or Should I Purchase? Comparing FSM Payment Options

Written by
Benjamin Yackshaw

In recent years, business owners have faced a tough dilemma when evaluating field service management software packages. The strange part? This dilemma has almost nothing to do with the software itself.

In basic terms, service business owners in the market for software have two options:

  1. Pay a monthly (or annual) subscription fee for a software service.
  2. Buy a software product outright.

Both options have pros and cons. The right choice will depend on your particular needs. Read on for a look at the benefits and drawbacks so you can make an informed decision.

The Subscription Option

Most field service management software providers have moved to a SaaS (Software As A Service) model, offering their software through a recurring monthly or annual subscription. While the details of these subscriptions vary from provider to provider, we can still make some useful generalizations about the relative advantages and drawbacks to the subscription model.

Pros

  • Lower cost of entry
  • Lower commitment
  • Users maintain some leverage over software provider

Although many field service software subscriptions start with a multi-month (or longer) contract, these solutions still typically feature a lower cost of entry than their purchase-model counterparts. This small initial investment makes getting started with software a low-risk proposition. Should you hop aboard and discover that your chosen software doesn’t work as well as you hoped, you can abandon ship while sustaining relatively little damage.

Additionally, the idea that you can cut your losses and leave puts some pressure on the software provider to deliver a quality user experience. The field service management marketplace contains dozens of options and no true market leader. That means each software provider is small enough to value and form relationships with every one of their customers. Because you can cancel your subscription at any time, you will always have the upper hand in the vendor to client relationship.

Cons

Of course, the SaaS model also comes with a few drawbacks. While it takes less capital to get started, that savings could evaporate if you stick with the software over a long enough timeline. With the SaaS model, your expenses will continue monthly or annually as long as you’re a customer. Use the software for 100 years, and you’ll pay for 100 years of subscription fees.

By definition, most SaaS companies allow access to their product through a website or other online application. This could mean that the software provider maintains possession of and controls access to your customer data. Should the relationship terminate because of a decision on your end or a change/closure of their business, there is the potential of catastrophic data loss or an arduous legal struggle to reclaim your customer list. When considering a SaaS solution, protect yourself by asking where your customer and company data gets housed and who it belongs to.

The Purchase Option

While many field service management providers have moved their products online, a few old-school stalwarts continue to make their software available for a one-time purchase price. As with the subscription model, the purchase option comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • You own the software
  • Ultimately costs less money over a longer timeline
  • You keep your data

The first advantage to buying the software outright is also the most obvious: you own the product. No matter what happens after you make the purchase, your company will always have a software application to show for your efforts. While it may take a little more cash to buy a software package up front, you could save money if you’re sure to invest over a longer timeline by avoiding monthly subscription fees.

Most software systems available as a direct purchase come as an installed solution rather than an online solution. Typically these applications live on your computer, which means that your data will live there as well. Many business owners value maintaining direct, sole control of their customer list and service history.

Another benefit to an installed solution? Many work offline, a crucial factor for many companies that dispatch teams to remote locations.

Cons

  • Bigger upfront fee
  • You start with more skin in the game
  • Not as much incentive for software providers to improve the product

If you want to get started with software on an experimental basis to ensure you’ve found a good fit, going for the purchase option starts to look a little scarier. Not only do you need a larger sum of cash up front, but you instantly have more skin in the game, making it harder to walk away should you start to realize the software doesn’t fit your business as well as you hoped.

Also, when you pay the bulk of the money upfront, the software provider has less incentive to ensure that your experience remains great months and even years down the road. When researching options, find out each software provider’s support policy and how they train users to ensure customer success after collecting payment.

Final Thoughts

Generally speaking, a lot of field service management packages offer similar features and functionality. This makes the subscription or purchase distinction a potential deciding factor when selecting such software.

Ultimately, both options offer their own set of pros and cons, so the best decision will vary from company to company. No matter which route you decide to go, the field service management directory on TechnologyAdvice serves as a great place to start your research.


Benjamin Yackshaw serves as master of marketing for the field service management software Smart Service. While off the clock, you might find Benjamin dunking a basketball, hanging out with his cat, or producing a short film.