Is 24/7 support necessary when you startup?

help desk 24/7Is the promise of 24/7 support really necessary for SaaS companies focusing on SMB customers or is it just hype? While support is crucial, does NOT promising 24/7 support really affect SaaS startups? 

First touch – What really helps conversion.

I am impressed when I receive a personal short note from a real person, as soon as I signup for a service. I respond to such a mail with a nice note, expressing if I was just checking out an application or if I was serious about evaluation.

The speed at which your team responds to initial queries from your customers, be it via social media, emails or ticketing system sets the right expectations.

Smart startups use ways to identify serious users vs. tire-kickers. Tire Kickers are those who want to checkout the application, coming across as highly responsive initially but becomes silent after that. They were just poking around and weren’t overly interested.

What helps companies build engagement?

Obviously there is no standard formula to build engagement with users. If there is one, every one of us would have thousands of serious paid users by now.

So what stands out?

One of the biggest reasons for high churn percentage is lack of timely support. According to a study by Convince and Convert, 42 percent of users who complain on social media expect support within 60 minutes.

Characterized by small teams that take active all-in-one roles, SaaS companies can focus more on development and customer acquisition and still offer excellent support. This can be done without a 24/7 support team.

Why is it different for SaaS?

With SaaS, founders are able to operate with lean teams and scale quickly to reach global audiences without enormous increase in overheads. Most successful SaaS companies have bootstrapped their way to profitability. Sridhar Vembu, the co-founder of Zoho, Corp. has great tips on how the company bootstrapped to success.

Cloud technology makes SaaS businesses easy to launch and while customer support is important, it does not necessarily have to take center stage while there is still a lot of work to be done in product development.

Let us not confuse “need for 24*7 support” with exceptional customer support within reasonable hours. 

In our organization every member of the team is also a support person. And this sets the company culture that customer support comes first. Stripe is a great example of team where pretty much everyone does customer support in turns. Sometimes we do hear from HNers about how thrilled they were to receive support email from Patrick Collison to resolve their technical questions.

Stripe - Everyone does Support

The Reality of SaaS Support (It should not be that expensive)

SaaS startups should not spend valuable work hours and capital on offering 24/7 support when they still have lots of development and experiments to run. Don’t get this wrong; support is important but 24/7 support is not a requirement you must fulfill to get customers.

Why do we say SaaS support does not have to be expensive?

Lower Support Infrastructure cost

Contrary to what many people believe, SaaS infrastructure support can be efficiently handled by the infrastructure provider.

If you are hosting your application in Amazon Web Service, Bluelock, GoGrid or in any of the other IaaS vendors, you do not need to worry about tech support in relation to the infrastructure. This means you have more time to deal with support requests for your application.

Having a premium support account really helps with the infrastructure provider. With Amazon AWS it costs $99 a month.

Efficient Application Monitoring and Support

When it comes to SaaS support, you can use various tools to keep your lean team operating efficiently. Online consumers are used to 24 hour response for support requests. Using some application and network monitoring tools, you can immediately detect downtimes and prioritize how to solve them.

Some of the application monitoring tools you can use include PagerDutyPingdomNew RelicSplunkstormUptime RobottagBeep among others. The applications allow you to know the performance of your web application or servers without the need for 24/7 human monitoring.

Most of the tools will notify you of issues with your website or application through email, SMS or calls. This means network downtimes or application interruption is detected in real-time without the needs of in-house monitoring team.

Website and Application Monitoring

Apart from network monitoring applications, you can invest in backup services to ensure uninterrupted access to your application. Most data backup services provide an alternative domain name server (DNS) which will ensure your website is available in case the primary DNS fail.

Building for efficiency vs. building for scale

In the initial 18-24 months of building the product, it is absolutely essential to build for efficiency than scale. Early revenue is not necessarily an indicator of product market fit, if your product requires lots of tweaking, consultation and support to onboard customers.

Reading the stories of some successful bootstrapped companies, it is clear that the founders focused more on product development and tweaking their offers in the initial stages. 37 Signals has profiled inspiring companies that have bootstrapped their way to millions in annual revenues.

Build engagement & streamline process with the right tool

There are plenty of helpdesk applications that are easy to configure, manage your knowledge base and streamline support process. Use the ticketing system with escalation rules to ensure you don’t miss responding to any query from customers.

And most of the helpdesk apps have social media monitoring to ensure that they are your eyes & ears on the ground listening to every conversation in Twitter or Facebook about your brand. You can jump into the conversation and respond quickly, if you need to.

social-media-help-desk

Is 24/7 Support Really Necessary?

SaaS startups have limited resources. The only way a startup differentiates itself is by providing awesome support and the support culture you build within your team. This is why a startup can take on a giant like Google even if they are to launch a product in the same space. Needless of saying there are a number of Analytics providers thriving in the market even when Google Analytics is available for free.

While offering support is important, it is not necessary to provide 24*7 on-call support . You don’t need an army of people to pick up the phone. 

Email with a call back option is still a good option for most products.

Having a customer support line & not responding is worse. Instead you could say we don’t do on call support, but we promise to call back on a need basis. There are always exceptions depending on the type of business you are in. But in general, most SaaS startups do not need 24/7 on call support even if your customer base is global.

Consumers will prefer an application that can solve their problems rather than promise of 24/7 support for a less than desirable service.

As your SaaS company grows you may have to dedicate more time offering support. Using the right tools and setting the right expectations can help you free up crucial time for improving product and still provide fanatical support.

Which tools make your life easier? What has been your experience & learning?

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