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Reasons Not to Outsource Customer Support

by Alex Yumashev · Updated Apr 30 2021

I've recently bumped into several conversations about outsourcing customer support, mostly among bootstrapped software founders who are (obviously) overwhelmed with work.

Before running a help desk software company I used to work in support myself - as a developer intern I had to do all kinds of techsupport. And not just customer tickets, but also running around the building fixing printers and crimping RJ-45 ethernet jacks. So here's my take on why you probably shouldn't outsource it (nb: in a B2B software business)

1. Support won't magically "go away"

There are four types of support request an average software company gets:

The first two - bug reports and feature requests - should keep coming through anyway. An external support team won't fix your bugs or make product decisions for you. You will keep getting those tickets, just from "the support guy" now. In a more convenient, readable, filtered and verified form.

You're not "outsourcing support", you're just moving your support from your email to your Slack.

By basically hiring an expensive speech-2-text filtering autoresponding human machine.

"But that's exactly what I need!" Well, let me rephrase: if "making support go away" is the main reason you're doing it, then don't. There are other ways of decreasing the load besides outsourcing.

The "make it go away" vibe can spoil the whole process. Bad things happen when a support team thinks its main job is to minimize interaction with developers and founders, keeping support as "invisible" as possible. We've been there. Not pretty.

2. It takes time

Even when hiring a fulltime support agent (not to mention ousourcing) to deal with the last two categories - the how-to's and the billing issues - it will take many months of training. You didn't bother to write KB articles for customers, did you? Well, guess what, your support person has no KB articles to learn from. They will come to you for answers during those months (see #1)

3. Embrace the "small"

Being a small company is an advantage and by outsourcing support you're losing some of it. One of the reasons I, myself, as a customer, choose to buy from a small business is because I have this magical "shortcut" to connect with the founder/CEO/management directly, without all the "apologies for the inconvenience" crap.

Sometimes that's the only reason for choosing a small quirky "indie" product over a polished behemoth.

4. Not doing support leads to not fully understanding your product

"Dogfooding", "all hands support" and similar hacks were invented for a reason. Without being close to support you understand your product less. You eventually start living in an imaginary world with imaginary customers using your product in imaginary ways. Having tickets pouring in is a luxury, embrace it, don't avoid it. It's dogfooding on steroids.

5. There are ways to minimize "howtos" and "operations"

There are ways to ease the support burden without outsourcing it. The "how-tos" can be automated by canned responses, documentation, knowledge base and searchable FAQ (and having a more intuitive product overall). Think of it as a marketing task - you're creating more content for Google to index. And you're removing friction from your conversion funnel by making the product more obvious.

Billing and licensing questions are resolved by baking self-serving features right into the product: PDF quote generators, switching pricing plans, trial extensions, updating CC info, cancelling - everything can be automated. No need to write polished beautiful code, just cook something up using ugly scripts and no-code tools.

Not to mention minimizing bugs - by writing unit tests, having a staging environment, backups and implementing robust coding practices, but you already know that.

Every company goal is building a product that triggers minimal support. Ironically, if you outsource, you won't know which parts to improve.