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You are the VP of Support of an enterprise product company. You are looking at outsourcing or offshoring the Tech Support. How do you choose the right partner?

Here of some of the tips, based on my 24 years of experience in Tech Support.

Do you really need to outsource?

You need to be very clear of the benefits of outsourcing the tech support function. If Tech Support revenue is a significant portion of the overall company’s revenue, If support is one of the core competence of the company, if your operation is highly efficient, if support is making good profits, if customer satisfaction is high and your products are doing well in the market, you may not want to outsource Tech Support unless there is a compelling reason, which I am not able to think of.

Identify what to outsource

I would not recommend you to outsource everything in one shot. Depending on the priority, you may want to decide to outsource Tier 1 or Tier 2 or Tier 3 services in Phase 1. Deciding on which tier service to outsource depends on the current pain points in each of the tier services. Tier 1 and 2 are easier to outsource than Tier 3.

Who is the right partner?

Remember, your product is an enterprise product. It is vastly different from a consumer product. Your product needs to work in a complex environment. The interdependencies on other products are high. Any adversities in the environment can affect your products performance. Let us list the top five aspects you look in your partner:

1. High Quality Support Engineers

The most important aspect you want took at your partner is their ability to attract and retain high quality, experienced and skilled support engineers.

The support engineers form the backbone of enterprise support. They should have the ability not just to identify and fix problems of the product, but also understand, comprehend and resolve issues within the environment where the product is part of. For example, if the product is Firewall, the support engineers should have knowledge on other security products, routers, network products, Network protocols and access control. The domain knowledge of security is a must. Though you can train them on the product, they should come with security and network domain knowledge. You need to make sure your partner has the ability to attract and retain these talents. Bright Tech Support engineers look for a career in a company where they have an option of both technical and managerial growth. Is your partners company a preferred employer for Tech Support Engineers?

2. Tech Support Operations Expertise

The partner should have best practices put into operations. They need to have good models and metrics for sizing, scheduling and managing the day to day operations. Their training capability with respect to soft skills, processes and product and their ability to ramp up and down the team to take care of peak/trough loads need to be examined thoroughly. As I mentioned earlier, it is relatively easier to train the engineers with the product specific knowledge, but relatively tougher to train them on process adherence, operational efficiency, team work, soft skills, etc. The partner organization should have all the ingredients built into system and have a culture of operational excellence. The focus on quality, implementation of best practices and training capabilities are the benchmarks to measure the operations expertise of the partner.

3. Focus on metrics and CSAT

I believe that the partners who invest their money and energy on two critical factors Continuous Improvement of CSAT and First Call Resolution need to be taken seriously. At the end of the day, tech support is all about CSAT. One aspect of the CSAT comes from the quality of the product itself and the other comes from quality of support. The FCR and CSAT are related directly. The better the FCR, the better will be the CSAT. So ask your partner about their methodologies to improve FCR and CSAT. Talk to their customers.

4. Focus on Enterprise Tech Support

You need to ascertain if your partner has a roadmap for Enterprise Tech Support. The rhythm of Enterprise Tech Support, Consumer Tech Support and Transaction based call center activities are totally different. Many call center companies offer Enterprise Tech Support. How serious are they with Enterprise Tech Support? The infrastructure required for Consumer Tech Support, Enterprise Tech Support and BPO operation are pretty much similar, but the Enterprise Tech Support needs intense engagement with the end users and high tech content. Make sure that they have sizeable Enterprise Tech Support clients.

5. Tech Support Infrastructure

This is pretty much hygienic requirement. This include Call Center Infrastructure with ACD, Voice logger, Multi Channels (Voice, Email, Chat and Web based support), Multi level support (Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3) 24×7 NOC, 24×7 logistics (Transportation, Pantry, Buffer and Absenteeism Management) and an environment where Tech Support Engineers can work comfortably.

Once you have all the above in place, you may feel comfortable that your product support is in safe hands.

Your views, feedback and thoughts are welcome.


About the Author

Ram C Mohan
Executive Vice President and Global Head - Infrastructure Management Services

Ram Mohan is currently working as EVP and Global Head of Infrastructure Management Services at Mindtree Ltd. In this role he manages business and delivery of this business across the globe. As a founding member of three successful start-ups in Infrastructure Management and Technical Support Services, Ram is a distinguished speaker in many Infrastructure and Support forums and seminars. He has also taught MBA (IT) students of Symbiosis International University. Ram Mohan has 27 years of experience in Infrastructure Management and Technical Support. He has been in senior management positions for the last 15 years. Prior to Mindtree, he was EVP (operations) of e4e. He was the founder and COO of Vinciti Networks, specialized service provider in Infrastructure Management and Technical Support. Ram also worked in Support division of Wipro for 11 years in various capacities from customer support to business development. He helped formation of Wipro's Global Support division in 1997, which is now Global Infrastructure Services division. Ram also worked as a Systems Manager in MPACT Immedia, Michigan, USA from 1993 to 1997, thus acquiring the multifaceted experience in Infrastructure Management, from operations to business development. He also has experience of working both in service organization and product companies. Ram holds Bachelor of Electronics Engineering degree with distinction from Bangalore University.

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