As your business and customer base grow, there’s a question every support leader has to answer: Do we need to expand our support operation?
When you serve more customers, the demands on your support team grow. But that’s not all—those demands fundamentally change, too. Like when you enter new global markets and, suddenly, your team has to grapple with language and cultural barriers.
Customer expectations don’t change just because your business is growing either. Seventy-five percent of customers online still demand help in 5 minutes or less.
And when you add in support across time zones, 24-hour customer support eventually becomes the answer. In fact, Inc. notes that 51% of consumers want a business to be available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The biggest problem businesses face when they move to 24-hour support is quality. When you extend your hours and grow your operation, it’s all too easy for the quality of your support to falter.
So how can you build a 24-hour customer support operation that exceeds expectations and inspires customer love? That’s what we’re tackling here.
Do you need to offer 24/7 customer support?
Offering support around the clock is a big undertaking—financially and otherwise. That’s why so many businesses compromise on support quality when they do. With that in mind, let’s first make sure you’re really at a point where your business needs a 24/7 support operation.
Generally, it all comes down to two main things:
- Your core business offering and
- Your customers.
Depending on the products or services you offer, your customers may not need support at all hours of the day and night. Similarly, if all of your customers live in the same time zone, you might have less to lose by offering 9-5 support exclusively.
So the first “pre-step” to setting up a 24-hour support operation is asking yourself these four questions:
- Does your product or service deal with anything time sensitive? For example, Airbnb prioritizes 24-hour support because customers need access to lodging 24/7.
- Do you have many customers in different time zones? Even if your product isn’t typically used during off-hours, if your customers are spread across the globe, their “business hours” will vary. That was the case for Basecamp, which moved to 24-hour support as they grew.
- Do customers use your product extensively 24/7? If not, you might be able to consider other options, rather than staffing a full 24-hour operation.
- Are service and support core differentiators for you? Top notch customer support can be a key competitive advantage—if support is how you set your business apart, it’s a good idea to expand that differentiator by offering 24/7 help.
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, it’s a good bet that a 24-hour support operation is worth your time and investment.
Step 1: Ask the Right Questions
Now that we know you actually need 24-hour support, let’s talk about how to set it up. The secret to building a support operation that customers love is to start with the right frame of mind.
The best support system is driven by customers, their needs, and their preferences—so it’s vital to develop a solid base of knowledge about your current support operation and how well (or poorly) it serves customers.
Are we meeting customers’ service expectations right now?
That’s the first question you need to answer. If the answer is yes, you have a good foundation on top of which to build your 24/7 support. If not, your efforts might be better spent working to optimize and improve your existing operation—before you expand it to 24 hours a day.
Either way, your 24-hour support operation should be built upon real data and information about your customers’ tendencies and your support team’s activity.
How do your customers prefer to get support?
If 99% of inquiries come through live chat, you may not need to offer five different support channels during off hours.
Are their language or cultural concerns that need to inform your support team’s location?
As we’ll get to in the next step, you have options to consider around the logistics of expanding your operation. It’s important to take language, time zone, and cultural concerns into account when you weigh those options.
What does your team’s case load look like throughout the day, and how is it growing?
It’s not always necessary or workable to jump right from 9-5 to 24-hour support. Looking at the data around case load and growth can help you decide where to focus your efforts and set both short- and long-term plans for building your support team.
Step 2: Consider Your 24-Hour Expansion Options
Once you’ve completed what we’ll call the information gathering stage above, you can use that info to inform your decision on how to expand your operation. You have 3 main options around the logistics of how your team will cover 24-hours worth of support:
- Expanding your local team and/or their hours
- Adding remote employees or dispersed office(s)
- Outsourcing or partnering with another support organization
The best option depends heavily on your individual team, long-term business goals, and your customers. And you don’t have to choose just one—you can draw on any combination of those options (and at any time) as your support operation and demand grow.
Expand Your Local Team and Hours
Your first option it to simply grow your local team—by hiring more support agents, expanding their hours, or both. Expanding your local, in-house support team works best if your product is complicated or involved. You end up saving time, money, and effort because it’s easier to train existing and in-office employees.
Add Remote Employees
Remote employees are your best option if you answered “yes” to the question about cultural or language barriers back in step 1. Support agents located in the same time zone as your customers means you don’t have to worry about staffing during off hours (by offering higher pay or other perks to entice agents to take off shifts.)
Bringing on remote employees can also be a good way to get your feet wet in a new region where you’re considering opening an office or location. And if your company already has a remote employee strategy, much of your work is already done here. It’s a win-win.
Outsource or Partner
Outsourcing your customer support operation is an option during business hours, too. You may have even looked into outsourced support for the 9-5 shit already.
Even if outsourcing wasn’t the answer then, here’s the thing: the calculus changes a little when it comes to offering support 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
Handing off support during non-business hours might be the most pain-free and quickest way to expand your support hours—while still offering the personalized, in-house support you’re known for during the hours when most support queries come in.
Step 3: Implement and Tweak Your Support Operation
The best support operation expands and evolves in line with your need and business growth.
The first 2 steps are aimed at setting up a 24-hour support operation that works for both you and your customers. The last step is all about maintaining the quality of your support, during and after that expansion.
What does that look like? To start, it’s vital that your support team’s culture continues to strive for customer happiness above all. When you hire and train new agents, prioritize things like emotional intelligence and customer empathy. These are the traits that lead to quality at scale.
The next step is to gather customer feedback on your support operation constantly, and continuously use that information to improve your 24-hour service. Building an operation customers love is mostly just about listening to what customers tell you—and then actually acting on it.
Finally, as your support team and the demands upon it grow alongside the business, set aside time to audit and reassess your operation. Are your answers from step 1 still the same? Is your decision from step 2 still the best option?
24-Hour Support Your Customers Love
Making the jump from Monday through Friday 9-5 support to a 24-hour operation can set your business up to build an enduring competitive advantage that makes customers fall in love. By gathering information and asking the right questions upfront, you can build 24-hour support that works for you and your customers.