Application support services are nothing new. At their core, they provide bug fixes and generate reports which detail how many fixes were required, how long they took and how many were successful.
However, an effective, business-centric support service, 100% aligned to clients’ need is much more than this.
It is about not just fixing bugs, but proactively ensuring applications work optimally on the latest operating systems and web browsers, resolves user issues and – when done well – enhances existing functionality and flags up areas for future development based on user experience and identified business needs.
Outsourcing to an application support service, however, can prove problematic when selecting the right provider. To help, we have created a list of outsource support questions that you should ask, along with the benefits of asking them.
Q: What Frameworks or standards do they work to?
Look for providers that work to recognised standards or frameworks. ITIL is one of the most widely used and has been adopted by 89% of service desks (according to the Service Desk Institute). It is a significant advantage if the provider can also offer DevSecOps. Ultimately, this means that they can read and write code.
They do not have to wait for a major software release or push back to the development group to resolve an issue in the software’s code. They have the knowledge and skills to review error logs and give you and your customers a detailed explanation about the specific issue as well as fixing it or offering workarounds to provide a faster resolution. This will enable your organisation to react quickly and proactively while ensuring that the solution and your data remains secure.
Additionally, if you are looking for a provider that will develop and support your application, the DevSecOps specialists can specify the information that they need to support the solution during its development.
Q: Where are the support teams based?
Some customers prefer to interact with local support teams to minimise potential difficulties surrounding time zones, differing cultures and local regulations. By asking this question you can ascertain whether the service provided will be suitable to your business.
Q: Do they offer 24/7 support across all tiers?
If the service provider states that they offer 24-hour support, seven days a week, check whether this applies to all levels of support provided. Whilst some companies offer a 24/7 tier 1 service desk for all customer calls or emails, if the problem cannot be resolved by them, do their support staff (tier 2) and developer support teams (tier 3) also provide the same coverage?
If your organisation requires around the clock support, look for providers that can offer a ‘follow the sun’ approach.
Q: What will they report on?
A standard approach is to report on the number of incidents that have been raised and whether they were resolved according to the SLA. However, more thorough providers go beyond this. By providing advanced, flexible analytics to track support team metrics, organisations can reduce their resolution times by an average of 16% according to Zendesk.
In addition to these advanced analytics, experienced support functions will also be able to measure customer satisfaction levels and therefore be able suggest where their client should focus their efforts based on the intelligence that they have gathered. Understanding the client’s budget, they can then work with the client to provide a better customer service.
Less experienced, lower quality providers will not typically offer this level of insight. The Service Desk Institute (SDI) describes the high number of providers who don’t measure customer satisfaction as “both surprising and concerning”.
As highlighted by the Association of Support Professionals (ASP), “Support must switch its mindset to building and sustaining relationships.”
Q: What application monitoring do they carry out? Is it automated?
A good application support team identifies issues and resolves them prior to the end user identifying and reporting them. Spotting these issues early on, not only drives operational efficiencies but also limits negative customer feedback.
Ask the application support provider what processes and monitoring tools they have in place. For Example, how do they track areas critical to the application’s performance such as disk space, stress on servers or hardware redundancy? A proactive support provider will continually monitor your application, flag any issues with you and can scale up and down resources as required.
Unfortunately, fewer than 60% of organisations in a recent report say they use alerts and monitoring tools, meaning that outages are either being reported by other groups or affected customers.
When qualifying your prospective supplier, look for evidence of a proactive rather than reactive stance to application support.
Q: How do they manage knowledge transfer?
Knowledge Management is key to accelerating support staff learning and ultimately faster issue resolution. It could make the difference between a customer contacting a help desk and waiting hours or days for a critical fix or being given the solution straight away.
Documenting a resolution in detail, and providing training to front line staff, prevents the time and money being wasted by repeating remediation work. What’s more, effective knowledge management feeds back into development and helps prioritise the development of new features or fixing something that keeps breaking.
This is not an exhaustive list, and there may be many additional factors that should be considered when choosing your outsourced support provider. If you would like to discuss any of these areas in further detail or discover more about the tailoring application/software support to your business, consult our Jumar Technology specialists.