<span style="font-weight: 400;">The term ‘support services’ can seem a little ambiguous to even the most experienced professionals. However, this is fair enough – the definition shifts depending on the nature of the organisation. In essence, support services are everything a company needs to function aside from its core business. These services generally do not generate income or impact production or sales. Despite this, they are essential to the smooth running of a business. This is because if properly managed, they are key to optimising operations and reducing costs.
What constitutes support services will vary from business to business, depending on the size and sector of the organisation. Whereas small companies will often outsource these ancillary operations, large companies will often establish internal shared services. Furthermore, the character of these services will shift depending on a company’s core operations. For instance, IT might be a support service for many businesses, but for tech companies, it is likely to be their core business. Here, we look at support services in more detail and discuss how innovation is affecting how businesses approach operations.
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Typical examples of support services
As we initially established, the definition of support services will depend on the nature of your business. However, to illustrate, a common support service is legal advice; for example, many large companies will outsource legal matters to external solicitors. Furthermore, many small businesses will hire external accountants to take care of their bookkeeping. Other examples include:
- Secretarial services
- Human resources
- Infrastructure management
- Customer support
However, these operations aren’t always outsourced. Large multinational corporations frequently establish internal departments to manage operations such as IT, administration, and human resources. In this instance, they are also known as shared services. Currently, more than 80% of the Fortune 500 have integrated shared services. However, shared services aren’t necessarily located on-site; many companies will host these departments at off-site on-shore locations or offshore sites. For instance, it is common for large companies to operate offshore customer services departments.
Innovation in support services
Support services allow companies to focus on the core of their business whilst reducing costs and driving productivity. Moreover, many businesses now benefit from numerous innovations in support servicing. For instance, technological advancements mean that businesses can now develop customer support initiatives that utilize artificially intelligent programs like chatbots. Furthermore, businesses can also use similar technologies to implement robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning protocols that reduce the time and effort required to perform routine administration. However, as technology advances, cybersecurity becomes more of an issue. Therefore, further innovative support services include outsourced IT architecture and data security support.
Support services: The key to focused operations
Support services are essential to staying focused on a business’s primary concerns whilst optimizing operations. Most importantly, they allow management to spend more time developing strategy and concurrently provide extra staff to support company growth. Furthermore, outsourced staff and service teams are often more cost effective and efficient than internal departments due to specialization. In summary, effectively managed support services are essential to a well-managed business, as they leverage innovation, provide the benefits of an economy of scale, and deliver measurable KPIs.