With the holiday season in full swing, handling after-hours support takes on extra importance. Between parties and house guests, clients are counting on their systems now more than ever to “just work.” With the increased level of urgency this time of year can bring, ensuring your clients can reach someone in their moment of need is vital.
The challenge, of course, is that you and the rest of your team surely have holiday plans of your own. Spending your evenings and weekends handling support calls is not likely to be high on this list. While this challenge carries extra weight during the holiday season, covering on-call shifts is a year-round struggle for many integration businesses.
At OneVision, we work together with our partners to address this challenge by helping to establish incentive programs designed to ensure after-hours coverage and maintain team morale. Here are some proven strategies you can deploy during this critical holiday season:
Approach the Team
Beyond simply creating a rotating schedule and crossing your fingers that no one “burns out,” creating an on-call incentive program should be a collaborative effort. Nobody really gets excited about the prospect of being on-call during the holidays. However, assuming you have built a team that is focused on delivering exceptional service, everyone should be aligned on a plan to take great care of your clients during this critical time of year.
This being said, it is equally important to openly address the personal challenges at hand. By bringing your team together to discuss these challenges, you demonstrate that you care about their experience and are seeking to reward them appropriately to make this a win-win.
Offset for Higher Service Compensation
Creating a compensation structure for on-call shifts is the most common strategy. This may include providing a stipend for on-call shifts, paying a higher rate for hours worked, or a combination of the two. While for many this approach provides a clear incentive, it can also have an obvious impact on your bottom line. To offset this, consider raising your billable rate for night and weekend support and using the increased revenues to offset your costs.
The amount by which you can raise your rates will vary based on your market. At OneVision, we have seen partners go as far as doubling them with success. However, even a smaller price increase, on the order of 20 percent for example, will shore up your bottom line, providing you with extra dollars to apply to your incentive program.
You may decide to provide a basic level of remote support (i.e. simple troubleshooting and remote reboots) for free in order to keep your clients happy. However, raising your rates for more advanced services (i.e. remote programming and on-site support) has the added benefit of managing client expectations. Having received a basic level of support and knowing that there is a premium to be paid for additional services, some clients may opt to wait until the next business day to receive additional service. Make sure you have a terms of service signed so clients understand this ahead of time.
One creative approach we have seen to providing extra compensation involves using gift cards, to a nice restaurant for example, as opposed to cash. The idea being that a nice dinner out creates a more memorable experience than the equivalent amount of cash. This approach also allows you to treat the gift cards as a marketing expense tied to premium services program as opposed to a payroll expense. (Thank you, Matt Walin at Brilliant AV, for sharing this approach with us)
Value Time Over Money
In planning your incentive program with the team, you may find that some employees value time over money. In other words, additional compensation may not be enough to offset the emotional cost of giving up their nights and weekends. This can be especially true during the busy holiday season.
A better approach for these team members is to get creative with your scheduling. For example, instead of the typical Monday-Friday schedule, you could shift to Tuesday-Saturday or Sunday-Thursday. Or, instead of the typical 8 to 5, you could shift to a 12 to 8. This approach can help reduce the stress and emotional impact of on-call shifts by allowing teammates time to handle personal tasks or just plain relax. Schedule changes like this present their own challenges, of course, but can be a highly effective solution in certain situations, especially during the holidays.
Offer Rewards and Bounties
Another effective approach can be to put rewards in place. For example, a cash prize, day off, or dinner at high-end restaurant could be offered to the team member who handles the most on-call shifts or after-hours support tickets.
Putting a “bounty” on support tickets is another effective approach and one that is especially useful in states like California with tough overtime labor laws. Using this method, after-hours support calls are routed into a “pool”. No single technician is required to respond to a ticket. However, a bounty (cash, gift card, or something more creative) is put in place and is up for grabs by the first team member to respond. This bounty can be offered in addition to other benefits like your elevated compensation structure.
This approach does require that a salaried manager or business owner be willing to step in if no one claims the bounty. It also requires that use some sort of tool to provide instant group notifications such as Slack or PagerDuty. In many cases, this flexible and competitive approach will result in support tickets quickly being snapped up by team members eager to claim the prize.
Conclusion: Acknowledge Service Team
Balancing the need to provide exceptional client-service around the clock with the personal well-being of your team is one of the most difficult tasks for any integration company. This is why the 24/7/365 tier-1 support we offer on behalf of our partners serves as the foundation for all of the premium memberships we help them sell.
By bringing your team together to openly address this challenge, you ensure that your they feel acknowledged. More importantly, you allow them to be part of creating a solution, vastly increasing the likelihood that they will buy into whatever incentive program you create. This organic and collaborative process will put you and your team on the same page while ensuring that your clients are well taken care of over the holiday season.
Lastly, do not forget to raise a glass to your service team at this year’s company holiday party! Service is a vital and highly-demanding job. A little extra acknowledgement, especially this time of year, can go a long ways towards making them feel appreciated!
Discover proven strategies to conquer the service challenge by visiting our blog: www.onevisionresources.com/blog.
Alex Boyle is a partner development manager at OneVision.