A common theme around team scaling was seen in the Support Driven #leadership channel this month.  Two main questions emerged: The first was a question about 24/7 coverage and strategies on how to build that into our offering and the second was about the building and structure of a support operations team as the team scaled. Thank you to everyone who participated and shared their experiences. As was clear in the discussions, round-the-clock coverage is a challenge faced by many growing organizations. Several people had great suggestions and I wanted to break them down here.

Location Selection

Choosing a location for a remote team, or one or more remote workers may seem like a no-brainer. Do you have caseload coming in from a specific timezone? Hire a person in that time zone!  But there are several factors to consider:

Company Expansion Plans

When considering a 24/7 model, the company plan for expansion should absolutely be taken into account. First, understand how you will finance this team through new customers.  Sales and support are often the first to make the jump to a new location to both prospect revenue and maintain the customers once sold. So choosing those locations should be very strategic. If the company wants to be more remote-worker based than that makes the decisions easier and more focused on the other considerations.

Customer and Ticket Requirements

If you already have a sales presence or a customer presence in some region, does that automatically require support to be there too? Consider the needs of the customers: language, culture, support channel(s) etc. For example, if your customers are demanding phone support in their native language, does that change the decision you are going to make? Or is the requirement of your customers more about time of coverage rather than language?

Do your different time zones need to overlap? If you have cases that run for a long time and require constant oversight, consider that hand-offs between offices may be necessary.  Having no overlap between your offices could cause a disconnect in your teams, and ultimately impact your customer experience. World Time Buddy is a great resource when trying to plan how times overlap (and don’t forget Daylight Saving Time!)

Trend vs Spike

Many global companies run projects at different times of the year. Is the load you recognize as needing regional support a function of a local customer doing some work abroad, or is it because sales have taken off for your company? Always assess the cause before making a decision,

Time shifting in HQ

One member mentioned that having different shifts within your main office can also work. This is popular with companies in North America, for example, to cover the hours 8 am – 8 pm EST spanning most of the time zones within North and South America.

A downside to this model is that, in many areas where there are comparable jobs where shift work is not needed, you can see a high level of attrition to more traditional work-life balanced roles.  You need to ensure the people you are hiring are willing to work those shifts and have an expectation of how often they will need to do so. Alternatively, you can hire someone specifically to cover the odd-hour shift based on their self-care needs.  Regardless, this is an option that needs to be considered, not just in the realm of your company, but your environment and applicants as well.

Outsourcing/Partnering

Another option to research is if partnering or outsourcing is an effective way to scale. There are different considerations with this type of team, however, this method can be used very successfully to help you with a freemium support model or any model where cost is a major concern.  It also helps you when it comes to employment laws, hiring expertise, legal issues, and other cultural considerations. A Support Driven user pointed out that to do this you need clearly defined processes, and while you aren’t responsible for hiring, training, and QA (in most cases) you do need to manage a relationship and make the outsourced team feel comfortable.

Support Operations

For a variety of reasons, including global team scale, it may be necessary to create a Support Operations team. Supports Ops teams help to keep the team running well through various operational activities.  However, starting a new team to solve a set of potentially non-full time actions while you scale may not be cost-effective.

One way to solve this problem, while not expanding your budget is to create an engaging Job Model. Focus on the skills of team members with an affinity towards specific operations and engage with them on tasks outside of their normal support tasks. For example, a member of the team could own the schedule or your ticketing tool maintenance.  Support Ops could also contain training, on-boarding etc. which arguably, existing support agents are already adept at doing. The team should be as large as the amount of work dictates. Most times the work is not heavy and can be managed as a side task.

When building a plan for the types of Support ops activities you have, consider if these are best suited to one person full time, or multiple people part-time. Consider whether or not the current team has the bandwidth to perform these activities or if it is necessary to add more team members/employees. These considerations can help you make the right decision that best suits you, your team, your company, and most importantly your people.

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