Editor’s note: Veranika outlines key choices that shape customer-facing and enterprise application support models. And if you need help with building structured application support for your mission-critical software, you are welcome to consider ScienceSoft’s application support offering.
Australian companies mention that application support is about 10% to 20% of the development budget, so app support is no less important than application planning and development, especially when it comes to mission-critical or customer-facing applications. I see more and more medium and large companies seeking professional support for their internal applications to ensure the continuity of critical business operations and for customer-facing applications – to sustain their customers’ trust and the company's reputation. They also want to keep applications relevant to business needs and in line with the business growth strategy to remain competitive.
All these needs are well-covered by ample application support. In the article, I will show how to choose among the diversity of support scenarios and structure your high-level application support needs into a working application support model.
Decide on support team composition
The first step is to define who you actually need on your support team.
The user support staff (L1 support). They answer general questions about software usage and provide instructions to solve simple issues, such as login problems, software reinstallation, checking hardware configurations. L1 support agents usually resolve problems either by verbally walking a user through to resolution or via remote desktop capabilities.
The user support staff is also the first point of contact for all incoming support queries. They register user problems, collect their comprehensive description, prioritize, and escalate advanced queries to technical support.
The technical support staff (L2 support) deals with more advanced problems that require the introduction of minor changes to an application, such as configuration issues, account administration, services restart. They can also perform application monitoring activities to proactively fix evolving slowdowns and failures before they get detected by end users. Technical support can be provided only by specialists with a deep understanding of supported software who will investigate application logs to solve registered problems.
Software engineers (L3 support) tackle complex issues on the code and database level, provide hot fixes and minor enhancements to a supported application.
The support focus can be shifted depending on the application context and nature. If it’s internal enterprise software, you’re likely to have more technical requests, so L2 and L3 support should prevail. And if it’s a customer-facing app, more attention should be given to the general user support and guidelines within L1 support.
Decide on the channels that will be used to request support
The support team can receive questions and tickets via:
- Contact email.
- Ticketing system / case tracking system.
- Embedded live chat.
- Instant messenger.
- Social network.
- Customer (employee) portal.
- Contact phone (mostly for emergency).
When you’re settling on where to support your users, the decision bases on three pillars – the availability of channels, user preferences, and your industry trends. Also, take into account that while covering more channels is more convenient for users, it may entail more work to your support team and lower their efficiency.
Decide on the support team’s timetable
Your support team can be available 24x7, 24x5, 12x5, 12x7, 8x5. The support team’s schedule mostly depends on the types of applications. For mission-critical internal systems, 24x7 support and monitoring is a preferred option. Around-the-clock support availability is also required for external applications, whose downtime can incur huge financial or reputational damages, for example, a large ecommerce solution or online banking services. In other cases, support during a business’s working hours is a good cost-saving option.
Decide on the hiring model - in-house or outsourcing
You can build an all-level support team in-house by reassigning and upskilling your staff or hiring new people. Otherwise, you can cooperate with a support vendor who will assume the full responsibility for the support arrangement and management, quality of the results (in accordance with the agreed KPIs) and related risks. If you don’t have experience or time to establish and coordinate complex support processes or don’t have the required skills in-house, this option deserves your attention. Here’s a quick checklist to choose a good outsourcing partner for app support. A reliable vendor should ensure:
- Long-term commitment.
- On-demand scalability.
- Established security.
- Cooperation terms flexibility.
- Structured, tailored communication.
- Specific skills on board if required (field knowledge of financial, eHealth, industrial and scientific apps, transactional applications, etc.).
Decide on the outsourcing options
Onshore vs. offshore outsourcing
The offshore option is often considered more cost-effective. But such cooperation can be vulnerable to communication problems, time zone differences, a language and a cultural gap as well as imply legal issues. For you to avoid such risks and optimize your support costs, we’ve compared some attractive offshore IT outsourcing directions in our recent article.
All-round or partial outsourcing
You can opt for all-round or partial application support outsourcing depending on your in-house resources availability and readiness to establish support processes and manage the team. As an example of partial support outsourcing, I can mention the case where ScienceSoft provided the client assistance with advanced issue resolution (L2, L3 support), while a user support team (L1 support) was on the Customer’s side.
One vendor vs. multi-vendor outsourcing
Multi-vendor outsourcing is especially relevant for large enterprises that outsource support of heterogeneous applications. You can also independently outsource different support levels of one application.
Multi-vendor outsourcing allows for reaching wider tech options, avoiding vendor lock-in, reducing pricing risks and taking advantage of a particular vendor specialization. However, if you decide to outsource applications or app support levels independently, make sure your vendors will be able to smoothly communicate and work jointly on case resolution. Otherwise, you can experience significant delays in case resolutions and deterioration of the quality of provided fixes.
Go for smooth business operations and solid reputation
An accurately tailored application support model is at the core of support’s success and cost-efficiency. If you don’t have the desire or resources to implement a dedicated in-house support team, or not sure your in-house team will be able to comprehensively cover the needs and challenges of your application support, ScienceSoft’s support team is ready to help.
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