Developing your systems to stay open 24 x 7 (pt 1)

I have been lucky to have been a director for businesses that moved from a 9 to 5 operation to one that was effectively 24 by 7, i.e. ‘always open’ – these were software development and support based companies). Also I have worked with owner managers who have stumbled into this growth scenario, and paid a very expensive price because they did not plan for this new way of doing business. The next set of blogs shows some ways for this growth not depressing underlying profits and keeping a productive team.
For companies that develop an international business or that provide a business service via the telephone, email or other electronic channels, there usually comes a time when they ask themselves 3 questions, namely:
– Do we really need or want to go 24 by 7 or even extending our business day?
– Do we need to do this by using existing staff and facilities?
– Can we afford to do this or more likely can we afford not to?
Moving operations from the normal working week is a big jump in terms of logistics and costs, luckily for cash strapped small businesses, there are a now many companies that can help you give the impression that you are “open all hours”.
Call centres and virtual assistants are a cost-effective method of filtering calls and taking messages outside working hours. They answer the phone using your business name, and most call centres can even follow a pre-defined script to identify the nature and urgency of the call. If you have fewer than 20 support calls during evenings and weekends, this can be an excellent interim solution.
For companies that need to be physically open, 3rd party security guards can also act as receptionists. However the main business concern is one of liability (both yours and the security company’s) as the type of work that guards can engage in is usually quite limited. For example, you would not want an untrained security guard rebooting some technical equipment if they do not know the difference between a server and a PC.
There is a tipping point at which the cost of switching from outsourced staff to an employee based team is relatively negligible, but the operational benefits are significant. It is at this point that you need to look at the timing and costs associated with a transition; not least budgeting the time to train new staff while still paying for outsourced services.
Part 2 will discuss how to address some operational and other cost issues, read here

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