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  Post #1 (permalink)   04-06-2005, 12:58 PM
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If you are thinking about outsourcing your support, even to just one person helping you part time during the off hours, you should consider a well-planned "test" of their stated skills.

This can happen many ways. Some prefer to start with a formal Q&A interview, typical of any industry, to get a good feel for the applicant and to verify and flesh out any information from their resume/application. This is a very good start. However, I wouldn't normally hire someone after just this level of interviewing.

The technical expertise and customer service/interpersonal skills of your technical support personnel should definitely be scrutinized. Remember to keep the scrutinizing methods and criteria realistic, based upon the level of support you'd like to hire the person for. Many believe that this can only be done by seeing what the potential hire will do "in action". I recommend setting up a trial period where the applicant can take tickets/chats/whatever and really show their stuff.

You may want to set up a test environment for the applicants, so they do not interact with real customers, if you don't have that level of comfort with them yet. Your customers are your greatest asset so remember to tread lightly with them so as not to shatter that fragile and important relationship. You do not have to tell the applicant that you have set up a testing environment without real customers. You can create all of the issues yourself and submit tickets, etc, and get a feel for how they interact with people and how they solve problems.

Another way to do this is to simply ask them how they would solve certain issues when asked. Feel free to submit some of your favorite questions to this thread if you have them - I love to see what people ask potential support personnel! I usually ask a few straightforward newbie questions about the control panel(s), e-mail and FTP, a couple simple questions that are a little be outside the range of their skillset or outside of the scope of what they are supposed to support to see if they will still at least put an effort into point the customer in the right direction (or escalate as necessary), and a trick question or two (SSL install on an account that they would know has a shared IP, typical exploits of mod_usedir and such that might be "red flags", etc).

Feel free to get a little rude or pushy (within reason). Some customers will do this, it is a reality that we face every day. See how they react to different types of rude customers - do they know that a customer may just feel pressure because their site is down (or think it is) and calm them down effectively while resolving the issue? Will they cut off contact as appropriate after an extremely rude customer goes over the line, and simply escalate to the appropriate person?

All in all, if you are going to have anybody else interacting with your most valuable asset, you had better be sure that they are representing you not only technically but are providing top-notch customer service in a friendly fashion.

Please please please elaborate on this and let us all know your process, questions, stories, etc.
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  Post #2 (permalink)   04-13-2005, 11:26 AM
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Another thing to do is only allow this person to support in open forum as opposed to official tickets. Trial period will let you know how well they understand certain questions being asked. This has worked out well for us as we can easily determine if the interaction with customers is high enough quality for us.

Live support is surely the last place I would have a rep on though until I was 100% sure of their ability to provide the level of support I desire.
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  Post #3 (permalink)   04-13-2005, 11:50 AM
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Quote:
Live support is surely the last place I would have a rep on though until I was 100% sure of their ability to provide the level of support I desire.
Amen to that. The pressure of live support requires skills and knowledge that you really have to be confident your people have before sticking them out there!
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  Post #4 (permalink)   04-14-2005, 07:15 AM
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As customer service is probably one of the limited times you will speak to customers I would probably add to the list they should have the skill and ability to upsell your products as part of the call.

Rob
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  Post #5 (permalink)   04-14-2005, 07:16 AM
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Great addition, Matrixx. That is one of the most-overlooked skills out there when hiring personnel.
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  Post #6 (permalink)   04-15-2005, 01:31 AM
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Funny that you mentioned this. I am actually in the process of creating a support company which will provide admin, ticket and live chat support. Further down the line we will even have phone support once we get some of our virtual pbx (asterisk) software in place. I agree the methods you have stated are crucial to reviewing the candidate for a support position.
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  Post #7 (permalink)   04-15-2005, 07:18 AM
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Great, TheReason! Best of luck getting that started (and making it successful). Of course you'll advertise it here to the people who know they can trust you and should be interested in your services Sounds like you are getting all your ducks in a row before running out of the gate, too.
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  Post #8 (permalink)   05-02-2005, 10:15 AM
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Plexi Hosting - great gem of a thread here!

With much experienced in outsourced support and with a staff abroad, let me lend my two cents of information. I can't get in that much information right now because this cybercafe in India is just about to close.

First of all, shared personnel-based hosting support Just Doesn't Work. It may seem to work at the very beginning but you can be sure that, somewhere down the line, you become a number and play tug-of-war with the other clients for the tech's attention.

A real outsourcing strategy involved hiring personnel that works just for you - and no other hosting company. Personnel should be treated like people - even if they are remote. It's easy to brush off personnel as just some service offering provided by one person. However, once the tech knows your systems inside out and understands your policies like the back of their hand, they are particularly valuable. A good outsourcing company can find you two or three support techs at around $500 to $600 each (so expect to pay that much) and will have you sign an SLA (and reciprocate as well). You should be able to shell out about $1500 to $1800 to get every hour covered in the day (save 24 hours a week). Make sure that, in the SLA, sharing the techs (by the provider) is strictly prohibited.

I do not recommend freelancing techs in any capacity - especially in India. They will eventually negotiate a pay raise and you will lose a bundle of money and time (and eventually faith) in the idea that there's great cheap talent out there. Domestic-though-remote talent may not do such a thing. However, they may surprise you with a sudden resignation notice leaving you with a gaping hole in your support delivery model.

More later...

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  Post #9 (permalink)   05-02-2005, 10:34 AM
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Thanks, Roj! I do know that you have a lot of experience in the field and respect your input and information greatly. You have even taken some very public lumps over business decisions (as we all do) and have come back swinging - kudos there too!

I see posts all the time where people are wanting to do work or need people to do work in the area of hosting support but never see any followup on how this actually worked out for either party (or both!). I'm sure we'd see the very trends you outline, especially the "sudden resignation" or "pay increase request" scenarios.
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  Post #10 (permalink)   05-20-2005, 11:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheReason
Funny that you mentioned this. I am actually in the process of creating a support company which will provide admin, ticket and live chat support. Further down the line we will even have phone support once we get some of our virtual pbx (asterisk) software in place. I agree the methods you have stated are crucial to reviewing the candidate for a support position.
TheReason,

Is there a large or moving market out there for outsourced support? I know it would be difficult to afford for many small firms, but has great advantages for growing companies.

I'm just curious as to the current market for something like this?
 
 
 


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  Post #11 (permalink)   05-21-2005, 05:52 AM
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I think there is a HUGE market for it, many are already successful at it. I see a lot of top-dollar solutions and more than a few very reasonable ones. Looks like the middle-tier is the sweet spot if you can find a solution that meets their needs.
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  Post #12 (permalink)   05-21-2005, 10:45 AM
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Do you have a domain yet TheReason?
 
 
 


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  Post #13 (permalink)   05-22-2005, 09:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CLCook
Do you have a domain yet TheReason?
Hello CL,

We will be working on a site in the near future. Feel free to send me a PM if you have any questions or comments.
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  Post #14 (permalink)   05-23-2005, 02:22 PM
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Hi folks:

Honestly, those that need/want outsourced support usually don't pay enough and expect the world on a silver platter for the dime they're spending.

Outsourced Support works the best when you have your own people working just for you.

Roj
 
 
 
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