Friday, October 8, 2010

Going Google Across the 50 States: North Carolina based American Support relies on Docs, Sites and Chat to run its business

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over 3 million businesses have adopted Google Apps. Today we’ll hear from Matt Zemon, President of American Support, headquartered in North Carolina. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google cloud calculator.

At American Support, we provide back office services to over 400 cable, phone and internet franchises in 29 states. Our services include billing and subscriber management along with 24/7 customer care and technical support.

When I originally founded the company in 2006 we had a joint venture with a Philippines-based call center to provide customer service at a reasonable cost to our clients. In the first couple years of business it became evident that our clients and their subscribers wanted to have American-based customer service. Our clients were not happy with the off-shore customer service we were providing and we were having difficulties winning new business. As a customer service outsourcer the challenge was finding a way to provide the American customer service they desired at a price point they could afford.

To save our business we ended up rethinking our business model and looking to the cloud to drive down costs and increase our efficiency. The first change was migrating to a call center in the cloud platform which enabled us to recruit, train and route calls to rural American home-based employees who needed and wanted the work. With this technology solution in place we began bringing our call center jobs back to America. As of May of last year we are a 100% American customer service organization.

The second change was moving from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps in 2009, which allowed us to more efficiently and effectively collaborate with our employees and clients spread out across the United States.

Today we maintain a small office in North Carolina and a technical assistance center and network operations center in Montana. The rest of our management team is spread out between Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Georgia and Nebraska. Our entire customer support team works from home.

Tools that fostered collaboration were absolutely essential to running our business. Each manager and their team really live in the Google Apps environment. All of their meetings are done through Google Docs and video chats. I’ve never met 90% of our employees in person. Every meeting agenda is built off of a doc with everyone logged into the same doc at the same time, taking notes and keeping track of next steps as we move along through the meeting agenda. Plus, our clients across the country have started getting used to the value of moving away from attachments to using Google Docs. Working together internally and externally is so much easier when we’re always sure we’re looking at the most current document and you can collaborate on it in real-time.

Google Sites is also a key aspect of our business operations. We create a custom site for each of our clients that contains the most frequently asked questions, their unique policies and procedures, and other useful information for our teams. Sites allows us to keep all information in one place that everyone on the team can update and reference.

We had initially looked at Google Apps for its 25 GB of mail and shared calendars, but it’s Google Sites, Docs and Talk that allow us to communicate successfully and efficiently so that we can support customers with a team all over the country. We attribute our successful collaboration and the ability to run a coast-to-coast virtual team to our use of Google Apps.