Think you can get away with catering only to the classic 9-to-5 business hours? Itâ€™ll be tough in todayâ€™s world of international business and flexible hours. Hereâ€™s why 24/7 support is so vital.
Editorâ€™s Note: This post was submitted by guest blogger, Patrick Foster. Enjoy!
Do you ever think about people who live in nations that massively limit Sunday trading and dwell upon how much you envy them? I doubt it! Whatever you think of consumerism, itâ€™s fantastically convenient to know that thereâ€™ll be a store open somewhere whenever you need something (even if it happens to be 4am on Christmas Day).
This is because your needs donâ€™t fit neatly into a set schedule, and you never know when an emergency will arise â€” but this doesnâ€™t stop with retail, of course. Itâ€™s just as important (in fact, even more so) when it comes to the world of customer support.
But why is this? Whatâ€™s changed to make 24/7 support so important, and why is it a huge mistake to think you can get away without it? Letâ€™s take a look.
Working hours are becoming as unique as people
When do you think most clearly? If itâ€™s in a convenient 8-hour slot around the middle of the day, youâ€™ve been very fortunate, because thatâ€™s not the case for most. For various reasons â€” genetics, experience, scheduling conflicts â€” any two people chosen at random will likely be most alert at totally different times of the day.
And though this would once have been irrelevant to most (locked as they would have been into standard office hours), itâ€™s actually being acknowledged and catered to quite commonly these days. Times have changed, and as many of the biggest brands in the world have made gains through allowing more flexible working, it continues to rise in popularity.
What this means is that the average worker may well end up working on something in the early hours of the morning, or late at night, or at the weekend â€” out of preference, not resulting from necessity â€” and could need assistance at any time. If youâ€™re trying to support people, you need to be aware of this, because insisting that people contact you during standard hours is likely to cause no small amount of frustration.
Smart video conferencing tools built for the restless generation like tech-favorite Highfive are changing the way in which teams choose to collaborate. Nowadays, a daily scrum meeting or standup can simply be a short video delivered over Slack, allowing team members to pick it up when suits them.
The internet has boosted international business
It wasnâ€™t all that long ago that maintaining a business relationship across national borders was a logistical nightmare requiring consistent long-distance travel and the occasional confusing translation. Updates were hard to track, causing a lot of problems given how quickly the business world moves. That all changed with the advent of the internet.
Now, you can connect with people from the other side of the world with ease. Video conferencing and collaboration tools make it easily for people to work together effectively regardless of their locations. Consequently â€” and particularly when it comes to ecommerce â€” international commerce is booming, and any given business may find itself serving customers in radically-distinct time zones.
In such a scenario, even catering to the 9-to-5 workers wouldnâ€™t get you very far, because the 9-to-5s would be so different. There are only two options that make sense when you have a truly international audience: provide a localized support team for each time zone, or maintain an international support team thatâ€™s available 24/7. If thereâ€™s any meaningful overlap between the tasks, then itâ€™s likely to prove more efficient to do the latter.
Support can be innovated and automated
What does it mean to provide 24-hour assistance? If youâ€™re picturing yourself (or your support team) sitting bleary-eyed in front of a desk in perpetuity, your notion of customer service is behind the times, because the options available to you now are much more expansive.
For instance, you can use a combination of outsourced U.S. based call center coverage and internet chat services to ensure even 24/7 coverage using a varied team of fresh support agents. You may be able to handle some cases using chatbots, but for the most part youâ€™ll want to offer help from real people who can then forward issues as needed.
The point is that 24/7 support wonâ€™t cost the same as regular in-house support extended to the entire day, particularly since the load wonâ€™t be even. You might find that you almost never get support requests during certain hours, so you can maintain a basic level of support (at minimal cost) and scale up as needed.
Wrapping up, 24-hour assistance is so important in this connected world because issues can arise at any time (due to time differences and unconventional schedules) and itâ€™s easily cost-effective enough to justify being made a priority. Is your support system up to the task? If not, itâ€™s time to make the change.
About the Author:Â Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert for Ecommerce Tips. He really hates dealing with automated support systems. Visit the blog, and check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.