Growth necessitates change
As your business grows, so will its demands on you, especially when it comes to servicing your customers. The last thing you want is to have your customer base grow while your customer experience and resulting customer satisfaction rates deteriorate.
Brands in this fortunate position frequently ask, “Should we consider customer service outsourcing?”
Your first reaction to this question is likely to be influenced by your own previous experiences with outsourcing. We’ll clarify some of the uncertainty and assist you in determining the appropriate questions to ask if you’re contemplating outsourcing.
What is customer service outsourcing?
Customer service outsourcing is the process of handing off aspects of your customer service operations to a third-party service provider.
A contact center run by a business process outsourcer (BPO) is made up of outsourced agents who learn about your products, services, rules, and corporate voice in order to successfully handle consumer inquiries via multiple communication channels on your behalf. These channels often include phone, email, chat / messaging, and social media.
The benefits of outsourcing customer service
If your initial reaction to the notion of outsourcing is negative, it’s possible your view on outsourcing needs updating.
Domestic and international (i.e. offshore) outsourcing grew quickly in the latter years of the 20th century. This outsourcing boom brought with it a number of issues and frustrations. However, as technology and process have developed over the last couple of decades, these issues have widely faded for those brands that have kept up with the times.
Today, shifting work to an outsourced provider is an increasingly common move for fast growing companies. The benefits of outsourcing your customer service operations include:
- Scalability: An outsourced provider can improve your ability to staff up for a busy season, provide after-hours support, and generally grow with you.
- Quality: Outsourced providers understand the technology, hiring requirements, people management, and process improvement best practices to create better experiences for your customers.
- Flexibility: Quickly scaling up and down when it comes to both your labor pool and technical infrastructure are critical to cost management.
- Focus: Building a product and taking it to market is difficult enough. Successfully outsourcing basic and possibly advanced customer service topics can keep you focused on mission critical activities in your business.
- Compliance: Depending on your industry, an outsourced provider can bring tools and experience in HIPAA, PCI-DSS, GDPR, and related compliance areas.
How to choose the best customer support outsourcing service
1. Virtual or physical contact center?
There are a slew of benefits to working from home. If you already have remote workers—or if you’ve looked into adding more—you’re probably familiar with the advantages and drawbacks of working remotely. When it comes to selecting an outsourced call center, these same perks and challenges apply.
A contact center using remote or virtual agents brings several benefits:
- Talent: The very best talent is easier to find when recruiting and hiring processes aren’t restricted by location.
- Business Continuity: You may sleep well at night if your outsourced customer service staff are distributed, knowing that a power outage, inclement weather, natural disaster, or similar force majeure event will not jeopardize your ability to serve clients. For example: By deploying this strategy, many geographically dispersed customer support provides benefited (or at least were not harmed too badly, relatively speaking) during regional Covid outbreaks.
- Agent Happiness & Effectiveness: Remote work can correlate with improved employee wellness, fewer unscheduled absences, and greater employee loyalty.
Working with a physical contact center might negate some of these advantages. However, on the other hand, a physical call center can help establish camaraderie and relationships between your outsourced agents, and between those agents and your internal team.
If you decide to outsource your customer support operation to a remote team, make an effort to link the outsourced team members to each other, and with your internal colleagues.
Asking your prospective customer service provider how they structure in-office versus remote work can be critically helpful in understanding the culture the provider is creating. Then ask yourself if this culture has a high likelihood of meshing with your company.
2. Onshore or offshore customer service?
Many people believe that when it comes to outsourcing, you’ll be transferring work overseas. While this is true in some cases, it isn’t always the case. Outsourcing your customer service operations to a domestic customer service provider may make perfect sense in certain situations.
One of the largest and obvious benefits of outsourcing internationally is that it’s almost always cheaper. If a country has a lower cost of living than your own, you may hire top-tier support personnel and pay them a fair wage while still saving considerably more than you would for high-level support agents at home.
Another major benefit of outsourcing internationally is that you’ll frequently discover a large talent pool that can work across several time zones. Well-educated and well-trained customer support professionals in the Philippines are widely available and searching for meaningful work with growing brands.
Two advantages of domestic outsourcing should also be kept in mind.
The first is cultural awareness. Domestic support agents may have an easier time understanding customers’ problems, if most of your customers are from inside your home country. However, international agents can deal with virtually any question that domestic agents can handle with a little training. The cultural differences can be overcome.
The second potential benefit of domestic outsourcing is customer perception. In some countries and cultures, outsourcing tasks to another country might be seen as a big negative. This decision needs thought and sensitivity applied. If you think your customer base would be upset if work were moved overseas, domestic outsourcing may be the best option for your brand.
Lastly, you don’t always have to choose between solely international or domestic outsourcing. In many cases, a hybrid model including both international and domestic customer service agents can produce amazing results. Hybrid models may involve segmenting work based upon each team’s skillset, or finding temporary solutions to put in place while you train up international agents to be true experts in your products. At Rush Order, we leverage both on and offshore agents, all in an effort to find the right mix of talent, cultural awareness, and cost for each specific situation.
3. Which countries should you outsource to?
If you’ve decided you will benefit more from using a contact center solution with agents in another country, then the next logical question is “where?”.
As mentioned above, certain countries have an abundance of customer support talent. These countries include several in Central America, Eastern Europe, India, Mexico, and the Phillippines.
At Rush Order, we built our teams in regions where we feel confident in the agent talent pool, technology infrastructure, political stability, and language capabilities. This tends to focus our teams in A) California, for top tier local talent, B) The Phillippines, for well educated & affordable talent, C) The Netherlands for European language support, and D) Asian countries like China and Japan for local language requirements and cultural awareness.
4. Dedicated or shared agents?
This one is simple: When inquiry volumes are high and/or brand-specific knowledge is paramount, dedicated agents are the only way to go. In this scenario, your cost per inquiry will be lower with dedicated agents and your quality of customer support provided will be much higher.
Because shared agents work for numerous brands, they will have a harder time becoming familiar with your products and responding to consumer inquiries with the nuance you would expect from a knowledgeable, highly trained, and experienced team. If you decide to go with shared agents, try to only send simple requests their way. An example of a simple request might include a customer address change.
In contrast, dedicated agents are solely focused on providing support for your brand, not anyone else. This brings significant advantages:
- Dedicated agents can concentrate on getting to know your products, company, and culture, in order to provide exceptional customer service.
- Dedicated agents are easier to integrate as part of your team. You’ll know their names and faces.
- Dedicated agents can develop a more intimate understanding of your customers. Dedicated agents can identify changes in customers’ tone, perhaps in response to changes in your policies or products. As a result, dedicated agents can more easily provide useful feedback to help you improve your products and services.
At the end of the day, does outsourcing really make sense for you?
Although outsourcing can carry significant benefits in terms of building a great experience for your customers, potentially at a lower cost, it’s not always the right solution. You may want to retain customer support inhouse for a variety of reasons.
For example, perhaps you only have a few inquiries trickling in each day, but it’s not enough volume to necessitate a full-time rep. You could find an outsourced partner willing to offer shared / part time agents. However, it’s very possible you may gain more benefit from talking with your customers directly at this early stage. Rush Order has several clients who opted to outsource customer service to us early on so they could focus on other things, but both sides of this debate are something to consider.
The customer service function, and the resulting customer experience you create, is critical to the growth of your business. Outsourcing customer service can feel like you’re trusting someone else to take care of your baby. But, if an outsourced provider can do a better job through labor management, technology, and cost, the decision is worth a lot of careful consideration.
If you are looking to improve customer support performance, quality, and/or cost, please contact Rush Order for a no-obligation consultation.