Support as a Service: How the Evolution of Outsourcing Can Help You Scale

With scalable support teams at your disposal, it’s clear that you’ll be able to generate more sales, create brand loyalty, and equip your company to take the next step in its growth.

The acronym “SaaS” has been used since the 1960s as a short-hand description of Software as a Service. As a quick refresher, Software as a Service is best known for being on-demand, requiring little to no installation on any of your own hardware. For users, the benefits are obvious.

Software as a Service is available at all hours, it requires little to no manual upkeep, and makes it easy to do incredibly sophisticated tasks without leaving your web browser.

Now, what if we applied that on-demand delivery system to a customer support operation? What if you could deploy a team of expert-level service agents without having to hire or find office space for them? And what if you could do all of this without leaving your office?

That describes what’s known as Support as a Service, a new option for companies looking for fully-integrated support teams with on-demand availability. This might sound like outsourcing, but there’s a big difference. Traditional service outsourcing was an ideal solution for business leaders looking to increase their call center bandwidth while reducing costs. Support as a Service flips that script on its head. While it enables organizations to scale their customer support capabilities quickly, it makes the customer experience an even bigger priority.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen countless examples of how Support as a Service puts organizations in a much stronger position to grow their support operations in the short and long term. Here are just a few reasons that Support as a Service is the future of the customer experience.

siloed thinkingIncreased Bandwidth for 24/7 Service

Author and influencer Jay Baer recently reported that 32% of customers expect a response to an inquiry within 30 minutes of submitting it. While those expectations might seem unreasonable, it’s no secret that the modern consumer demands this level of service. According to Microsoft, 54% of customers had higher expectations for customer service agents in 2017 than they did the year prior.

One of the most obvious ways to meet these demands is to offer 24/7 support—and one of the easiest ways to put that infrastructure in place is by leveraging Support as a Service. There are typically four configurations of on-demand customer support operations, which we’ve outlined below.

You’ll probably notice that while they’re all unique, each one is designed to customer service leaders to deliver faster resolutions, drive sales, and make off-peak availability seem effortless.

  • After hours and weekend support. These on-demand support teams work exclusively during off-peak hours, which are usually between 5 PM and 9 AM in your local timezone. This window also includes weekends and holiday hours. On-demand weekend support teams tend to be popular with eCommerce clients and marketplace platforms.
  • Fully-integrated customer support teams. Research shows that the cost to onboard the average employee is upwards of $12,500. The hiring process can also be slow. So for many organizations, a fully-integrated customer support team is an effective way to increase bandwidth quickly. These on-demand support teams are available during your normal business hours and split tickets with your on-site staff, which we’ve found can handle anywhere between 50-80% of customer inquiries.
  • 24/7 customer support. Manly Bands, whose founders were still handling most customer support tickets themselves, leveraged a Support as a Service team of agents to take this off of their plates. These are typically spread across centers in four to five locations, ensuring that coverage is available in all timezones. Agents in each location are trained to support multiple clients’ customer bases at the same time and give companies a reliable Tier 1 service functions. For the founders of Manly Bands, this reduced their hands-on customer service time by 90%.
  • Hybrid setups. Hybrid setups are a combination of each of the previous three support options that we discussed. These are particularly useful options when you need to ramp up support functions during busy holiday seasons.

That was a lot of information about the benefits of each Support as a Service strategy, but you still might be wondering why any of this matters. Let’s take a look at some of the research in the marketplace, all of which suggests that organizations need to prioritize (and improve) the customer and employee experience.

Support as a ServiceIncreased Customer Happiness

In a recent study, Salesforce reported that 78% of customers simply give up on a transaction because of poor customer service. Salesforce also found that 57% of customers have stopped buying from a company because a different company provided a better experience. And in our experience, the definition of a “better experience” is simple.

Customers want fast resolutions to their inquiries, and Support as a Service is an ideal way to ensure that your consumers get what they need as quickly as possible.

Carmen López-Suevos Hernández is the Director of Customer Experience for Vodafone Spain. In an interview with McKinsey&Co, she explained that traditional outsourcing was an essential customer operations strategy for the organization. That is, until fragmentation across ten different units led to Vodafone’s lowest customer satisfaction scores among major mobile providers.

“Because we resolved comparatively few customer problems in one call—our “first-contact resolution” rate was low—our call volumes were growing,” adds Hernández. “That meant our costs were actually increasing despite our efforts to control them.”

The solution for Vodafone Spain became obvious: it needed to revamp KPIs for their offshore call centers and reward them for delivering a best-in-class customer experience. According to Hernández, this strategy paid immediate dividends for Vodafone Spain. “Our first-contact-resolution rate has increased by more than 30 percent, and our call volumes are down by almost 50 percent,” says Hernández.

“But to me what’s truly rewarding is that vendors and frontline agents feel proud of working for Vodafone customers, of what they’re doing and what they deliver.”

Support as a ServiceIncreased Employee Engagement

If you were to change your on-site customer service hours to 24/7, what would that mean for your staff?

They would likely face long, unpredictable hours. They’d grow tired of constantly working off-peak hours and weekends. Eventually, they’ll deal with burn out—and in many cases, they’d simply leave for different opportunities.

Does this mean you shouldn’t look to move to a 24/7 service operation? Absolutely not. If your consumers demand off-peak support availability, it’s crucial to balance their needs with the happiness of your agents. Leveraging a Support as a Service team makes it much easier for your organization to accomplish both of these goals.

Steve O’Connor leads the customer service team at Vend, a point-of-sale system that serves over 18,000 clients. O’Connor told us that by leaning on a Support as a Service team, Vend was able to increase its 24/7 support capabilities and motivate his on-site support staff more effectively.“In addition to better coverage, we can now provide a mental refresh for the team as well,” says O’Connor.

Support as a ServiceFinal Thoughts

According to Kenny Lee at Twitter for Business, customer care is the new marketing. “Feedback often appears as public comments under social posts and care teams are seizing the opportunity to actively find them and offer public, personal responses,” Lee writes. “When it’s done well, word spreads.”

Customer support is critical to the overall health and future success of your entire business.

But scaling service operations can be a long and difficult process, even for the most experienced leaders. Having an on-demand Support as a Service team can enable you to quickly increase headcount with highly trained and dedicated customer care representatives—without the hassle of onboarding or hiring those people yourself.

With scalable support teams at your disposal, it’s clear that you’ll be able to generate more sales, create brand loyalty, and equip your company to take the next step in its growth.


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Sarah Chambers Sarah Chambers

Sarah Chambers is a Customer Support Consultant and Content Creator from Vancouver, Canada. When she’s not arguing about customer service, she’s usually outdoors rock climbing or snowboarding. Follow her on Twitter @sarahleeyoga to keep up with her adventures.

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