How we rolled out 24/7 tech support from scratch in just 1 year
Hello again. Today we would like to discuss not so much the issue of technology development, which we talked about. in this and this articlehow much a question of support for the customers who use these technologies. In fact, this is not an idle question at all, but a solution to a complex problem, no less difficult than training a multilayer neural network. Tech support is one of the headaches for startups and young companies.
After all, I want product support to be round-the-clock and year-round, and customers were happy with everything. When you plan how all this will work, you often paint yourself the perfect picture with pink ponies. Unfortunately, in real life, everything is a little different – pink ponies disappear as soon as the planning of the support service begins with all the details, including the cost of paying for the services of specialists, planning shifts, and the Labor Code of the Russian Federation. Today we want to share our experience.
We start small: you, yes I, yes you and me
We were not going to build everything out of nothing, immediately creating a complex support structure. We started small in April 2020. Then we invited the team lead and asked him to find a fellow engineer. Together, they dealt with technical issues that needed to be addressed by partners and customers. A little more detail on what issues were addressed – below, in the subsection “Diversification of responsibilities”. Initially, there was no question of any round-the-clock work, it was a standard five-day schedule and a schedule from 9:00 to 18:00.
For the first couple of months, they coped with their duties without any problems. Largely due to the fact that we did not advertise the creation of a new department. They didn’t hide it, but they didn’t announce it either – they wanted to check how everything works. But when users, partners and colleagues learned that there was a department that helps to understand the nuances of the product, can solve complex problems and tasks, the workload of these two heroes of the support front increased dramatically. It became clear that the support department needed to be expanded, and we invited a couple more specialists. For another 2-3 months, everything went relatively well.
Saturday and Sunday? We are working!
After 2-3 months of support, it became clear that customers and partners need to be supported on weekends as well. For business, tasks are not limited to the working week; many companies perform certain tasks even when everyone is resting.
At that time, there were already 3 engineers and 1 team lead in the technical support department. Then we thought about round-the-clock support, but this idea had to be postponed. Not because it is difficult to organize it, but because it is expensive.
We calculated how many more people need to be recruited, calculated the operating costs associated with the expansion, and looked at the statistics of calls. As it turned out, the main traffic goes on weekdays from 10:00 to 20:30, so there was no point in paying for an additional 14 hours a day. But they decided to add Saturday and Sunday.
The solution was found quickly: a weekly attendant with additional pay on weekends.
And now – diversification of responsibilities
The company grew, and the support department expanded. Not very quickly – by October 2020, the number of employees in it reached 6 people. This is 1 team lead and 5 engineers.
Clients and partners were quite happy with the support. But, of course, there are more tasks, and their variety has also increased. Over time, we began to notice that the department itself was divided into two parts, just according to the types of tasks to be solved. Conventionally, it was a division into “Help Desk” and “monitoring”. The work has become more efficient, and we have already officially divided the department into two divisions:
Help Desk – 2 people
Monitoring – 3 people
The only thing was that the team leader could not be divided, because he was alone and did not want to be divided. I had to leave him as it is, with the condition that he coordinate the work of the entire department.
Help Desk tasks:
Platform support and localization of its problems (API errors; the button does not work as it should; no access, etc.).
Support for platform services and localization of problems with them (the robot does not call, instead of “hello” it recognizes “evening, sea, I want to go on vacation”, rattles phrases like … a robot and does not look like a human).
SIP telephony support (telephony network problems).
External API support.
Monitoring of network infrastructure and timely response to emerging problems (servers, databases, network equipment).
Monitoring of commercial traffic and timely response to emerging problems (listening to a certain number of calls, tracking key indicators of projects).
After some time, the advantages of separation were appreciated:
The support specialists knew their responsibilities very well and did not interfere with each other.
Specializing within their division has helped employees quickly notice and better understand where improvements are needed.
The tasks were lined up in a coherent system.
Weekends can be closed without an attendant.
The last point is worth clarifying a little. The fact is that at this stage we refused from the person on duty in the Help Desk division. Instead, we offered the monitoring unit a 7-hour workday on weekdays so that employees have 10 extra hours on weekends. This decision was discussed together with employees who were not against it. The scheme is simple: first one person works for 7 hours on weekdays and weekends, then the second, then the third, and so on. Well, then – our song is good, start over.
Well hello 24/7 support
It was already mentioned above that we did not introduce round-the-clock support, since the overwhelming majority of customers and partners addressed their questions at the usual time – from 10:00 to 20:30. Why is that? It’s simple – those with whom we worked earlier were in the same time zone with us.
Everything changed after Neuro.net began to enter the foreign market. Immediately appeals appeared during “after hours” and here they had to take the bull by the horns, that is, still introduce 24/7 support.
At first it turned out like this:
Help Desk – from 9:00 to 18:00 on weekdays. Nothing has changed here yet.
Monitoring – 3 shifts: 9: 00-18: 00 (2 people), 14: 00-21: 00 (1 person), 1: 00-9: 00 (1 person, picked up later from another time zone at the GPC).
But a little later, the number of foreign clients increased significantly, and the traffic also increased. And we introduced round-the-clock support for two divisions – both monitoring and help desk.
Initially, we chose from three promising options for the implementation of a full-fledged round-the-clock support:
Three shifts of 9 o’clock – morning, evening, night.
2/2 for 12 hours
Day in three (Why not? As a hypothesis will fit)
In terms of money, all options were more or less equal, so they began to choose based on needs and external factors. There were four main points:
The desire to keep the team (many people do not like the shift schedule, and this cannot be blamed on anyone)
The need to make payment for shifts worthy (no one needs staff turnover)
The need to calculate the number of employees who need to be invited additionally.
Search for colleagues.
On reflection, we decided to leave the first option – three shifts of 9 hours each. Why is that? The “three days later” regime was considered simply as an exotic option. But to work 24 hours, and then be at home for three days – not everyone agrees to this, and this is understandable. Daily shifts are very difficult.
Two days for 12 hours every 48 hours is a good option. But we are a young company with evolving technology. And I didn’t want employees to drop out for 48 hours every two days, because we have new information and tasks literally every day.
What happened immediately, before the global transition to round-the-clock work?
Help Desk – 4 engineers.
Monitoring – 3 engineers + 1 engineer at night.
Now we are solving our tasks:
We save the team – we leave everything as it is now. Let them continue to work according to the standard schedule – 9: 00-18: 00
We calculate the minimum number of people per shift – it all depends on the load and traffic in the evening and night. In our case, 1 person per night shift is enough for each unit:
Total you need:
Help Desk – 4 am, 1 pm, 1 night.
Monitoring – 3 morning, 1 evening, 1 night.
After solving this problem, we proceed to implementation. We sketch out a schedule with 18-20 obligatory shifts (of course, it can be varied) so that there is a reserve for sick leave / vacations and the guys can pick up shifts up to 25+.
Where did we look for additional staff for the evening and night shifts? And where is everyone, actually – HH, Rabota, LinkedIn, etc. By the way, there were even attempts to find developers on Tinder, but more on that another time.
As a conclusion, it should be said that this option suited us perfectly – it turned out to be more than workable. It is difficult to give any advice here, because each company has its own situation. But we can arrange an exchange of experience in the comments – you can ask additional questions and talk about your experience in creating round-the-clock support and forming the appropriate department.