What are “business hours”?

By Technical Support

Many vendors offer a choice between “business hours” support and “24×7” support. It seems simple enough: if the customer has an issue during daytime hours, Monday through Friday, it falls under business hours support. Otherwise, it would qualify for 24×7 support. But in a global world this simple definition quickly fails to provide a standard that can be used to categorize cases. What to do?

1. Define the frame of reference for business hours. You can define business hours as the business hours for either the country where the contract is signed or the country where the technical contacts are located. Say you sell a contract to a US customer who has technical contacts in the US and in Europe. Under a contract definition business hours would be US business hours (so the customer’s European contacts would get only limited service during their business hours.) Under a contactdefinition business hours would be US business hours for the US-based contacts and European hours for the European contacts. Note how much more generous the contact-based definition is. Further note that if you use very different pricing mechanisms in different regions a customer could get very cheap support under a contact-based definition by making a purchase in one of your low-price regions.

2. Define whether business hours are determined by region or by customer. Imagine you have a customer based in Hawaii and your support center is in California. Depending on the season Hawaii is 2 or 3 hours behind Pacific Time. Do you provide business hours service until 5pm Hawaii Time or 5pm Pacific TIme (2 or 3pm Hawaii Time)? Most vendors use a region-based definition, so for instance in the US customers get business hours from (say) 5am to 5pm Pacific Time, which means that East Coast customers are within business hours until late in the day but West Coast customers get early-morning service (and those poor Hawaiian customers get cut off mid-afternoon.)  Some vendors choose to calculate business hours from the customer’s time zone instead. The customer-based definition requires slightly more work for entitlement checking but it’s not insurmountable.

3. Consider limiting the number of technical contacts. It’s a good idea to limit the number of authorized support contacts, not so much because it limits the number of inquiries (although it might) but because the authorized contacts, over time, become more knowledgeable about the product so the caliber of the questions they pose is higher. But limiting the number of contacts is especially important if you make the choice of defining business hours from the contacts’ perspective. If a customer happens to have operations (and contacts) around the world it could get full support around the clock (on weekdays) for the price of business-day support. Perhaps not what you intended?

4. Expand the definition exercise to weekends and holidays. Business-hours support typically excludes weekends and holidays. But what’s a weekend? If you think Saturday and Sunday, you haven’t worked with Israel or Indonesia, say. July 4th is not a holiday in 99% of countries in the world. As in step #1 you can either go by your calendar or the customer’s, but be clear about it.

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