According to a new survey of more than 300 enterprises by Gartner Research, software as a service has failed to impress business users across the board. Both U.S. and U.K. users polled were far from enthusiastic about their experiences with SaaS.

Most telling was that customers gave the most dismal reviews to areas where vendors are making the biggest promises: namely, low costs and high performance. Despite changing attitudes towards its security and reliability, these results suggest that providers are creating some of their own ills by overselling and under-delivering when it comes to key benefits of SaaS.

Where SaaS Has Failed

Respondents replied with surprising unanimity on how lukewarm they felt about the performance of SaaS: on 16 factors, all received less than 5 on a 7 point scale. But those areas where they expressed greatest dissatisfaction were those in which SaaS companies have continually made rather grandiose claims.

Cost: Few enterprises anticipated annual costs to be so high. Hardly surprising, since rock-bottom cost is the number one promise of vendors of all stripes. After signing up, however, 42% said that there were high and often unexpected costs to SaaS, making it the number one reason they rejected it.

Ease of Integration: Painless interoperability with their legacy applications is a key consideration of businesses before diving into SaaS, and it’s also the number two disappointment that causes them to leave it behind. For our bet, this is one realm where providers are already on the ball with improvements; countless development teams are working hard to make their applications play nice with SharePoint and other enterprise standbys.

Speed of Implementation: Fast deployment, even just days or hours in extreme cases, is a feature that the majority of outfits promote. But lack of speed in implementation garnered the third lowest rate of satisfaction.

What Vendors Can Do To Fix This

Enterprise vendors, this is your challenge: capitalize on the growing acceptance of SaaS without being overzealous. Continuing declines in IT budgets will give you a seat at the table, regardless of other concerns. But an easy pitch on being efficient and cost-effective doesn’t give you leeway to brand SaaS as a magic bullet. To do that is to shoot yourself in the foot.