The VAR Guy Blog

Should Resellers Outsource Support for Office 365?

Technical support has been listed as one of the top five challenges businesses face when they move to the cloud. This is a great opportunity to deliver customized support to your clients.

Ask any IT provider and they’ll tell you the same story: Offering high-level cloud support to clients is a tough job. Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program has been touted as a great opportunity for resellers to tap into the booming market for Office 365. But, to qualify as a Direct CSP partner, you have to be ready to offer your customers 24/7 technical support. Are you up for this? Quite frankly, few resellers are.

Competition is fierce, and customers keep asking for more. If you’re going to get the most from the CSP, you’ll need a better strategy for technical support that won’t affect the quality of your service. We’d like to show you a few options.

Technical Support Remains a Challenge

Technical support has been listed as one of the top five challenges businesses face when they move to the cloud. Microsoft does offer 24/7 technical support with Office 365’s Business plans, but there is no guarantee of a specific response time for either non-critical or high-severity requests. Subscribers to the Enterprise plans are guaranteed a response within 24 hours for high-severity requests. But, who’s to say what Microsoft considers a high-severity request? Customers who want guaranteed, high-level support will have to pay for a Premier Support plan, but costs are significant and few small businesses want to go that route.

This is a great opportunity to deliver customized support to your clients. You can either build your own support program or join forces with an Indirect CSP partner like SherWeb that will support your clients for you.

You Want Repeat Business

Offering technical support will help you build a stronger relationship with your customers, which translates into repeat business. It’s also one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition. Think about it. If you offer a variety of value-added services like 24/7 support or migration, you’ll build an interesting cloud portfolio and develop professional services that will address your clients’ specific needs.

Whether you choose to offer 24/7 support or limit your services to business hours, you’ll need skilled and well-trained staff who can troubleshoot and fix technical issues. You’ll have to decide if you have enough people to fill these roles.

Don't Forget the Infrastructure

It’s important to remember that customer support goes well beyond staffing. Have you thought about the infrastructure you’ll need to supply the services? You’ll have to decide whether you’ll offer support by email, phone, web, chat or all of the above. You’ll need telephony (PBX solution, devices, headsets, etc.), email, a service desk platform, user assistance tools and training solutions.

Remember that all your costs will be transferred to your customer’s bill. You’ll have to think about diversifying your services so your price tags can range from basic to platinum support.

Ask Your Cloud Partner for Help

For many Value-Added Resellers (VARs) or Managed Service Providers (MSPs), investing in technical support just isn’t an option. It requires up-front expenditures that they just can’t afford. On the other hand, some IT providers may be already delivering support to end users but aren’t ready to add new technologies to their service catalog. This requires hiring, training and restructuring that they just aren’t prepared to do.

Your best option is to rely on a third-party cloud provider. Many trusted providers have been helping VARs and MSPs offer professional support to their clients. And they’re equipped for it. By outsourcing your services to a partner, you accelerate your time to market and spend more time focusing on your business.

Will You Offer White-Label or Gray-Label Support?

If keeping customer relationships means marketing yourself as a company that supplies both the cloud service and the end-user assistance, choose a white-label support program. Your partner’s name will never appear in any of the interactions with your customers, and you’ll still have access to all service requests, their status and details. Your sales team can use this information for cross-sell/upsell opportunities.

If you’d rather join forces with a provider and remain anonymous, consider gray-label services. Your customers will get premium support and the provider’s name will never be revealed. Your name won’t appear as the company that delivers the services, but your customers will know they’re being supported by a third party.

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Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.


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