top of page
  • Writer's pictureMaryna Paryvai

How to do 24/7 Customer Support: A Practical Guide

Globalization has been steadily increasing for decades, with more businesses expanding internationally to reach markets across continents and time zones. This expansion comes at a cost with customers expecting quick responses, regardless of whether it's daytime or late at night at your company's headquarters.


As the global customer base continues to grow, it's not uncommon for support teams to consider 24/7 coverage to ensure an optimal customer experience across all markets.


Of course, this transition doesn’t happen overnight. You need to assess capacity and requirements, determine staffing needs, develop new processes to support the team, hire and onboard new agents, or negotiate schedule changes with existing ones, and much more.


In this article, we’ll go over practical steps you can take to smoothly transition your operations for 24/7 support coverage, things you should consider throughout the process, and some expert tips to help you along the way.


The game plan for switching to 24/7 customer support


24/7 support means that customers can get help and answers to their queries any time, day or night, seven days a week.


There are different approaches to achieving this level of service, and since each organization is unique, the transition process will largely depend on your current infrastructure and end goals.


That being said, there are essential steps you'll need to take to start offering 24/7 assistance.


1. Assess capacity requirements


Start by analyzing your peak support periods and identify the busiest hours each day and the busiest days of the week to determine where you need the most coverage and where a single agent might do.


Zendesk allows you to view ticket volume per hour with a custom report, while Intercom provides insights into the busiest hours of the week right out of the box. Help Scout also offers a native report on peak hours.


Zendesk explore recipe

If your volume is low throughout the week and a single agent can handle it all at any given time, you might manage round-the-clock service with six people or fewer depending on how flexible your team members are.


There are different shift patterns to make it work, including:


You can use tools like an Erlang calculator for extensive planning or a simple spreadsheet with staffing formulas if you’re running a small team.


Here’s an example of a schedule I used for one of my teams, where agents preferred a routine with consistent working hours and two consecutive days off every week. Given that weekends were quieter, we opted for added coverage during weekdays to ensure faster replies during peak hours.

example of a schedule

If you’re running a small team, gaps in coverage are almost inevitable when someone is "out of the office." If you have strict service level agreements (SLAs), you'll need backups for emergencies, sick leaves, and vacation time to avoid possible breaches.


For robust 24/7 support, when your volume isn't high enough to justify at least double coverage (two agents working at any given moment), you’ll likely end up with an overstaffed team. My advice is not to commit to strict SLAs in this case unless your overstaffed team makes sense from a return on investment (ROI) perspective.


If your customer base can tolerate some gaps in coverage and strict SLAs aren't necessary, you might manage without backups, allocating your resources more efficiently.


Things to consider


  • Does every segment of your customer base require 24/7 assistance? You might find that it makes sense to offer round-the-clock support only for your Premium customers. Providing different levels of support per segment can help use your resources more efficiently and offer a better ROI.

  • Do you really need 24/7 customer service? We've had clients who requested 24/7 coverage only to realize that the significant investment didn’t yield a clear ROI, leading them to scale back after costly implementation. Take time to assess your true needs and the potential ROI before making the leap. Many businesses choose to provide high-quality support without extending operations to 24/7 coverage and still keep customers happy. For instance, Figma, with over 4 million users worldwide, currently only offers support on working days.


2. Build the team


Once you've identified your staffing needs, the next step is to build the team to accommodate the required schedule and shifts. You have a few options here.


a. Rearranging your current team


If your current team is flexible with working hours, you might allocate existing team members to fill the new 24/7 shifts. Consider offering night shift bonuses or increased rates (for example, double pay) for night hours, to make inconvenient schedules worthwhile for your agents.


Keep in mind that working night hours can negatively affect productivity, and this is something you’ll want to monitor if you take this route.


b. Hiring new staff


Before opening new roles, make sure you give the current team members the option to choose their preferred shifts.


Hiring across different time zones can be challenging from a legal perspective, but ideally, you want to hire people who work daytime hours in their local time zone. Night shifts often lead to low productivity over time, and agents who initially think they can handle night hours tend to leave eventually. For example, strong support teams at companies like Help Scout or Zapier typically hire in specific time zones to match working hours requirements with no exceptions.


c. Outsourcing


If your volume fluctuates throughout the year or your current team can't handle the added workload associated with hiring and onboarding new team members, outsourcing can be an optimal solution.


While technical and Tier 2 support requires a lot of context and might be best kept in-house, Tier 1 and e-commerce support can be outsourced quite easily.


Look for outsourcing partners that focus on quality, iming to provide an in-house level of service to your customers. Some go-to options include PartnerHero and Dream Support.


d. All hands support


A less popular solution is launching an all-company support initiative, engaging other teams within your organization to cover some support hours.


While this can be helpful in the short term, it’s usually not an ideal long term plan, as other teams will prioritize their own goals over support coverage in case of conflicting priorities – leading to potential gaps or subpar support experiences.


3. Invest in self-service and AI tools


Many companies offer 24/7 support through self-service chatbots. If the majority of your support tickets involve simple questions that can be answered with help center content, setting up a chatbot or an AI assistant can help as your team is transitioning to 24/7 support.


Chatbots are especially useful for service teams handling typical inquiries like bookings, cancellations, order changes, and so on. Therabody’s bot, for example, has well-structured flows for the most common queries and can serve as an inspiration for offering quality assistance without human interaction.

Therabody's chatbot

You can also opt for conversational AI bots, which are great for Tier 1 requests that can be answered by pulling information from your docs.


For more complex issues, especially in SaaS and tech support, over-relying on chatbots and conversational AI can, sadly, lead to poor customer experience as they currently aren't advanced enough to fully replace human agents.


4. Configure the workflow


You may face additional challenges if your team is used to flexible working hours or if your head office and escalation teams don't operate 24/7 (which they typically don't). Here are some steps you can take to streamline the transition process:


  • Create clear escalation and emergency processes for your team to follow during the off hours of your head office.

  • Document guidelines for attendance and coverage for your team to know who they can contact when running late or when they can't make it for a shift, how to coordinate backups, and how to communicate potentially slower response times to customers if a gap in coverage is unavoidable. Your team members must show up exactly as scheduled, as coverage can be significantly affected if someone is even an hour late. 

  • Develop instructions for shift transitions and scenarios when the next person to take over the queue is running late. Consider offering incentives for overtime, such as an increased rate, to maintain continuous coverage.

  • Maintain schedule visibility to ensure that everyone is aware of their scheduled shifts and comes in on time. You can use dedicated tools like Homebase (most of them can send reminders to your team members, which is helpful especially if the schedule rotates) or a shared Google Calendar that works perfectly well for smaller teams.


5. Launch, asses, iterate


Launching 24/7 service is rarely perfect from day one. The key is to learn from any problems you face and consistently refine the process. Here are a few common metrics you can track to pinpoint issues before they become bigger problems:


  • Response times and how they fluctuate throughout the day can help identify understaffed periods.

  • Unresolved issues and stuck escalations can hinder your ability to provide excellent support. Keep an eye on resolution times to address bottlenecks quickly.

  • Check whether customer satisfaction rates are increasing with the introduction of 24/7 support. Diving into customer feedback to understand what aspects they appreciate and where further improvements can be made in your service offering.


By keeping an eye on these metrics, you can iteratively improve your 24/7 support operations and provide the high-quality service your customers expect.


Equip your team to operate effectively 24/7


Despite all your efforts, 24/7 support won’t yield the results you want if resolution times can't keep up. Invest in training and bring on team leads and escalation contacts for different time zones as your team scales to ensure quick resolutions throughout the day, not just when your head office is open.


Another way to bring resolution times down is to look for processes that you can automate and lighten the load on your team as you transition to 24/7 coverage.


With Swifteq's automation apps for Zendesk, you can automatically tag, assign, and address common questions. This enables your support team to focus on assisting customers without wasting time on routine manual tasks. Our AI-powered Zendesk translation app also makes it far easier to provide support across virtually any language, no matter where your customers and agents are based. 


Book a free demo today to learn how Swifteq can elevate your customer support to the next level.


 



Written by Maryna Paryvai Maryna is a results-driven CX executive passionate about efficient and human-centric customer support. She firmly believes that exceptional customer experiences lie at the heart of every successful business.


Comments


Start your week with great quality articles on customer support

Thanks for submitting!

Subscribe
bottom of page