Four essentials when outsourcing your software support desk

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Date: 12 February 2020

A smiling male tech support operator takes a call from a customer.

Your cutting-edge software won’t retain popularity for long if you have no decent tech support for your customers.

There are two ways to build it: either set up support internally or outsource it. Establishing support internally means that you’ll need to hire and train new personnel, or appoint someone from your team to take over IT support.

The first option can be time-consuming and expensive, and the second one will distract your current employees from properly developing your product. If you find both options unsuitable, you can entrust IT support to an outsourcing vendor.

Below we describe four ways to make outsourced software support work for you.

1. Ask for an SLA with a trial period

Your cooperation with an external vendor is built around an SLA (a service level agreement) featuring such details as the levels of support provided (there are generally 5 support levels, from L0 to L4), prices for the vendor’s services, the support team’s working hours and the expected time for processing a service ticket

Although the conditions in the SLA may seem very attractive at the beginning of the cooperation, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and even after a short period of cooperation, you may find that you need to fine-tune your agreement. For example, you figured out you don’t need 24/7 support, and 12/5 will be enough.

The best option here is to find a vendor who will provide you with a trial period for the service (say, three months after signing the SLA). This way, you’ll be able to discuss and implement changes to the SLA during the trial period or terminate cooperation if the vendor is not ready to offer the service you need.

If a vendor doesn’t accept the idea of a trial period, try to negotiate and formalize an easy process for introducing changes to your SLA.

2. Choose the right metrics to assess vendor performance

To make sure that the vendor’s activities correspond to the quality stated in the SLA and uncover any problems in a timely fashion, you need to track their performance regularly. For that, you should ask your vendor to report on relevant KPIs.

The metrics, as well as the frequency of reporting (for example, weekly, biweekly or monthly), are to be agreed with the vendor while discussing your SLA.

With these reports at hand, you’ll see numbers describing your vendor’s effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. For example, a low customer satisfaction rate may mean that users have communication problems with support specialists, while a higher than expected first response time shows that helpdesk agents have a weak knowledge base for answering users’ questions.

3. Ensure comprehensive knowledge transfer

To help end users, support agents need to know your product like the back of their hands - so you need to organize knowledge transfer before launching outsourced support.

To do that, you should share relevant documentation on product design and functionality and conduct training sessions for support agents to help them understand how your product works. For the documentation to be of help during knowledge transfer, you need to ensure its consistency.

As your outsourced support team will definitely face repetitive tickets from end users, it makes sense to cooperate with your vendor to build a support knowledge base. It should allows the vendor to quickly resolve common issues.

When you introduce changes to your software product, a support outsourcing vendor should be informed accordingly to update their issue resolution guidelines.

4. Make sure data is protected

Your IT support vendor needs access to the sensitive data that your supported product deals with (for example, credit card numbers in an app for online purchases). And, while processing service tickets, support agents receive personal data from your users: environment descriptions, user IDs, etc.

In this respect, it makes sense to choose a vendor who is ISO 27001-certified, as it proves that they have information security processes in place.

Apart from that, ask vendors to demonstrate their security policies and processes. Make sure they have regular penetration testing, log monitoring, email protection and data loss prevention in place. It is also advisable to include substantial penalties for security breaches in an NDA.

Summing up

Here are the checkpoints on your way to effective IT support outsourcing:

  • an SLA, with the opportunity to discuss and implement updates to the required scope of support activities;
  • relevant KPIs to monitor your vendor’s performance;
  • efficient knowledge transfer to help your vendor learn your product better;
  • cybersecurity measures to make sure that end users’ data stays protected.

With all that, you can focus on winning your market and stay assured that your user support is well-managed.

Copyright 2020. Written by Boris Shiklo, CTO at ScienceSoft

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