Customer support is a key differentiator in business. In fact, customer experience is expected to overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator by 2020 – according to research by Walker.
There are three ways to handle customer service – creating an in-house support team, partnering with a Managed Service Provider, or using some combination of both. Each approach comes with its own set of opportunities and challenges.
Modern customers expect to receive quality support. In other words, client satisfaction depends on support functionality. The way support is provided directly reflects on a business’ success and growth. A staggering 91% of consumers who experience bad customer support chose to stop doing business, as reported by Glance.
Additionally, a Society for Human Resource Management study recently reported that the average cost of ineffective support can add up to $103,680 in human productivity loss annually.
The following is a comprehensive overview of existing customer service options. We’ve listed the major Pros and Cons:
In-House Support Team
ISVs can provide their own support. However, creating your own team can be a tedious process. It necessitates hiring additional staff, implementing specialized tools, and creating new procedures.
Implementing a support team within your company structure is only cost-efficient when you have fewer than 10 end-points or computer users. But with bigger companies and large-scale projects, doing it yourself lowers efficiency. For this reason, many businesses view supporting their own team as a distraction from important business tasks; the ones driving profit and growth.
Focusing on everyday, mundane issues can roadblock a transition to the cloud. It's easy to lose sight of the big picture when micromanaging every emerging problem.
PROs of having an in-house support team:
- Providing quality support: you know your application better than anyone
- Managing all enquiries
- Supervising support operations directly
- Having full access to the software knowledge database, developers, and the back-end team
- Ensuring that support procedures meet company growth/delivery goals
- Changing prioritization with near-instant reaction
CONs of having an in-house support team:
- Building a support organization
- Operating that support organization
- Paying for new employee salaries, benefits, and training
Managed Service Provider (MSP)
Managed Service Providers are third-party support companies that manage customers complaints, questions, and requests. Therefore, MSPs are experts in providing cloud services. However, MSPs existed long before cloud computing.
MSPs are renown as trusted support partners. They have their own infrastructure and personnel, so leveraging this pre-existing capacity is cheaper than supporting an in-house team. An MSP’s people will also bring valuable and diverse work experience to the table. On top of that, partnering with a Managed Service Provider preserves resources for more lucrative fields of operation.
Choosing a Managed Service Provider is complicated. It primarily depends on the specifics of your software. Even if you contract the perfect fit for an application, there are still risks. An external party will always take some time to build knowledge around an unfamiliar product. You should not expect the service provider to deliver immediate results on par with internal, in-house experts.
When weighing your decisions, take into consideration the annual productivity loss from managing vendors, handling IT staff problems, and from dealing with network downtime. When these costs are added up, compare that figure to the fee proposed by a prospective MSP.
PROs of using MSP:
- Expanding your in-house expertise with a team of industry experts and specialists
- Leveraging a MSP’s support procedures and infrastructure
- Providing reliable SLAs
- Supporting 24/7 global coverage with fewer staff
- Having predictable support expenses
- Focusing in-house resources on more important tasks – development and growth
- Scaling quickly with on-demand access to additional MSP expertise in various areas
CONs of using MSP:
- Working with a distant MSP could be a challenge
- Discovering, evaluating, and integrating with the right MSP requires a large time investment
- Defining the scope of services clearly. An internal team cannot be involved in everything
- Allowing the MSP time to achieve a high level of expertise in your product
- Relying on an external organization’s support ethics and work quality
A mix of internal and external MSP
This is the option that most companies go for, as it has advantages from both worlds.
There are many cases where support is delivered by both an ISV and a Managed Service Provider. Within these hybrids, it’s common for complex issues (like bugs and feature requests) to be resolved by the ISVs while less technical (or more repetitive) tasks to be handled by the service providers. This model works best when just starting to outsource support; working with the MSP to build up their own expertise.
Teaming up with an MSP doesn’t mean giving up full control of an application. Setting clear borders on the scope of services an external organization provides keeps things organized.
While Managed Service Providers are no substitute for an IT department, this dual system is usually conducive to company growth. By working with a Managed Service Provider, a company has the time and energy to focus on strategic improvements, innovate, pursue long-term goals, and keep customer satisfaction high.