Outsourcing Customer/Technical Support


One of the most important aspects of the web hosting business is customer/technical support. In fact, it’s one of the main considerations many customers have when choosing their hosts. But with increasing customer demand, do hosting companies, especially small to mid-sized ones, actually have the resources to provide quality support, much less offer it 24/7? One solution to this is of course, outsourcing.

But should web hosts actually consider outsourcing customer/technical support?

According to Rawlson King in his article ‘Outsourced Support Shifts to Training, Maintaining,’ in theWHIR.com, outsourcing support has a number of benefits. Not only would it give you more time to growing your business, it also allows you to control the amount of customer churn you experience.

He further adds, this time in his article `Using Tech Support to Fortify Sales, Revenues,’ also in theWHIR.com, that hosting operations can cut costs by eliminating the use of an in-house, salaried, technical staff. This increases revenue since most experts estimate that nearly 30% of a hosting company’s revenue stream is spent on support.

The industry seems split on this issue though if the following forum threads are an indication:

Some highlights:

Why outsource?

  • It’s getting harder (and more expensive) to find (and hire) good techs full-time
  • Allows sorting of calls to give more time to deal with small/server side stuff
  • Potential savings with less overhead as it can be a financial drain to offer 24/7 support inhouse
  • As a short term solution for support needs
  • Can develop a scalable cash flow model
  • Allows hosts to offer honest 24/7/365 support
  • Can be used as Level 1 support

Why not?

  • Hosts differ by the quality of their support, if they outsource support, they lose their main attraction to customers
  • What if outsourced tech support screws up?
  • Might become dependent on them for customer service
  • Potential security/liability issues in providing outsourced techs root access
  • Problem with techs acting on their own without consulting with web host
  • Support personnel might get confused as to which companies they’re providing support for (shouldn’t be a problem with good outsourcing companies)
  • Outsourcing companies generally don’t care enough about the company they’re offering support for so quality of service is not guaranteed
  • Lack of accountability
  • Outsourced techs may not answer fast enough
  • Language issues if outsourcing company is based outside customers’ base of operations

Some considerations when outsourcing:

  • Proper tools and access to server administration
  • SLAs, confidentiality agreements and/or customer agreements
  • Techs need to be knowledgeable in every control panel and system configuration
  • Different levels of support needs should be addressed
  • Client records for each call
  • Performance stipulations in the contract
  • Quality of service provided by outsourcing companies
  • Need to set up a system where people can get taken care of in reasonable time with right amount of support
  • You get what you pay for

If you’re planning on outsourcing though, some providers for your consideration are:

  • CyLynx Inc.– Based in the U.S. with operations in the Philippines; No pricing plans on their site
  • The Live Help – U.S.-based (Linux & Windows); expensive at $3500/$6000 for 24/7 support
  • BobCares - based in India (mostly Linux but with Windows plan); $30 for 10 tickets; for 24/7 support: $100/server for startups; $200 per server plan; $140 for 50 tickets + $2 for every additional ticket; as low as $24 per server for reseller plans
  • Act support – US-based concern having technical expertise in India; $30 for 10 tickets; $120 for 50 tickets; $1250/mo/seat for 24/7 support; $625/mo/seat for 12/7; $416/mo/seat for 8/7
  • eSupportpro – (Windows/Unix/Linux); $25 for shared hosting Level 1 support; $75 dedicated hosting Level 1-2 (4hrs/mo with $20 per additional hour); corporate servers: $65 and $150 Level 1-2 (for 2 and 6 hrs/mo, respectively)
  • EHOSTCare - support center in India; $20 for per ticket plan; $95 per server/month; $700-$1200 unlimited for 12/7 and 24/7 support

* all prices quoted as of April 5, 2004

Another option:

Joint Support Forum – for hosting company support of clients by hosting company operators

Some tips for hosts and outsourcing companies/techs are provided at: