Going all out in support

What happens when you make support the core of your business? As backup service Altaro found out, it can make a world of difference to clients.

Altaro EMEA vice president Colin Wright

When your goal is to be the most efficient IT support company globally, you need to pull out all the stops to get there.

For Altaro, which offers backup solutions for services like Hyper-V and VMware, it’s turned support into a fine art. Providing 24/7 support for clients at no extra charge, it now has the average time waiting for a response to a call down to 22 seconds while the average time waiting for a response to chat is 16 seconds.

It’s hitting all of the right notes, and doing so reflects the reality that companies are going to need support one way or another said its EMEA vice president Colin Wright.

“We really, really lead with support,” he said. "It’s heavily staffed and that’s not because the product is difficult, it’s really because we want to respond in 16 seconds. That’s the target.

“We accept that you’re going to get a problem, and if you’re in a finance house and you have a problem at 11 at night, we don’t want to stop you from getting support then so you buy our product, you get full 24/7 support”.

That approach has served it well as Altaro has more than 40,000 businesses worldwide trusting it to keep their environments backed up and safe.

That trust isn’t by accident. The company decided to put its efforts into developing a world-class support system in both expertise and speed. By making sure its clients only use what they need and keeping things straightforward, it’s developed a positive reputation.

All of its facilities are based in Europe such as its development teams and support so it’s able to respond to clients quickly, something that’s crucial to the company’s ethos.

“It’s important that we support them effectively especially now with a large part of our business, like most vendors’ business, are usually based on a MSP (managed service provider) model,” explained Wright. “For a MSP, they can’t afford to be sitting there for hours waiting for them to come back.

“We recognised that we have to put as many resources into support as we possibly can, and we do. We have a big, big team of people and for us in the field, the confidence that I have to rely on and lead this business in Europe, the confidence I have in support… we really do have the best support team you can find and we back that up.

“Everyone gets the right access to a qualified person… they’re all highly specialist and they deliver a game-changing solution for us”.

Much of what Altaro does is the unfashionable part of IT. Few people are going to be wowed by the intricacies of backing up services, but what it does is now crucial. Every business now has an online presence and downtime of any kind can be disastrous.

Alongside this, it’s unrealistic to assume that all businesses have the necessary IT skills to adequately deal with technical products, which is why Altaro’s approach is a lifeline to them.

“We recognise that backup and recovery is not sexy, it’s plumbing”, he said. “Now it’s a very important bit of plumbing… [and] we make sure we mobilise our guys to quickly get that customer’s problem resolved.

“It’s our ability to execute, get them back as quickly as possible [so they can say] ‘you’ve gone over and above, you’ve done a sterling job and we recommend you to everyone’. That’s the sign of a really good support team”.

Wright says its product is developed with the intention of being downloaded, restored, and backed up within 15 minutes without needing any technical skills.

That simplicity is key for its success. The company continues to update its product - it is currently testing version eight of its backup service - and ensures that clients are only using the services they need. Any features like Office 365 can be plugged in to the service but only if the customer wants it.

Exposing its end users to complexity will only serve to frustrate them instead of serving them. It also keeps the fees users pay low, which is another benefit. Overall, it takes a pragmatic approach and one it’s committed to in the long-run.

“The challenge is, and we’ll face this challenge in the years to come, if we look at some of our competitors, they’ve been around a lot longer than we have, and they have to keep adding more and more functionality,” he said.

“By adding more and more functionality, you fall into the black hole of maybe 60% of your customers saying ‘I don’t need that, I only need 60% of these features so why am I paying for 40% of functionality that I’m not going to use’.

“We really take that on board so we develop for the majority, not the minority, we listen to what the customer says".

Further down the line, Altaro is going to place more of a focus on prototyping while maintaining its core focus on support, simplicity and resources.

The company is flexible enough to both focus on both core features and work on developing new services that will benefit clients further down the line.

“You have to be flexible, from all parts of your business, you could have all the best products in the world but if you’re not easy to do business with then nobody wants to deal with you in the long-term,” said Wright.

“What we’re looking to do is bring [virtualisation] into a simplistic environment for these users so they can focus on their core business. They may be veterinary, they may be retail, IT to them is it a burden or is it an enabler so we want to turn that into an absolute enabler so they don’t have to invest significant skills in.

“We really want to leverage the power of the cloud, whether that be Azure or Amazon or whatever the customer chooses, to really give them a deliverable, full-availability solution of anything in their environment”.