When you hear the terms customer service outsourcing, or customer care outsourcing, you might think of frustrating conversations, long wait times on the phone, and a general lack of assistance in solving your concerns with a company. While customer care outsourcing has certainly had its problems in the past, many companies today work diligently to ensure a high standard of service for companies that choose to outsource. In fact, you might not even be aware that you’re speaking with an outsourced agent when you ring them up, chat online, or email them your concerns.
Capital One, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Hewlett Packard, T-Mobile, and CitiBank are but a sampling of the many companies that outsource their customer service support to save time and money. Large companies aren’t the only ones to pursue customer care outsourcing; even small businesses and startups can benefit from this service. So what is customer service outsourcing like today? Learn more about how to outsource customer service using best practices, which companies are using outsourced support successfully, and how customer care outsourcing can benefit your business.
Customer Support as a Service
Outsourcing your customer support as a service sounds like a great idea to most business owners. It has become increasingly popular for smaller businesses looking to provide essential services without the added expense of creating a specialized department or hiring additional people for irregular work.
What is Customer Service Outsourcing?
The answer to, “what is customer service outsourcing?” is that outsourcing is simply the act of hiring a third-party to handle your customer service on your behalf. This is typically done through email, call centers, social media, or freelance workers.
Although you can certainly hire a third-party freelancer to handle some of your customer support outsourcing, it will also require more oversight on your behalf as well. This is one of the ways in which finding the right, comprehensive, professional customer support as a service company can benefit your business.
Customer Service Outsourcing Best Practices
For many business owners looking for an outsourcing solution for customer support, it’s important to consider your outsourcing choice as carefully as if they were a new hire in your company. Not all customer support options are the same and it’s important to find a company you trust with your customer base.
Just as there are best practices in hiring, training, and onboarding new employees, there are also best practices that lead to a successful customer service outsourcing experience—for you and your customers. Here are a few best practices to consider as well as what to avoid as you get your business up and running.
1. Get Executive Team Commitment
If your executive team simply views customer service outsourcing as a way to cut costs, you might not have the buy-in and resources necessary to ensure your customer service is optimized for success. Make sure you have the full commitment of your executive team for providing the best customer service outsourcing that lives up to your company’s standard of quality and service.
2. Find the Right Company
Far from what you may think, customer support as a service is not a one-size-fits-all solution. An outsourcing company that suits the needs of one business dealing with high-volume, repetitive traffic, may not be appropriate for another business that needs complex problem-solving abilities. Businesses should also consider the time zone of the outsourcing company, language competency requirements, how much training the outsourcers will need, and what their minimum volume of calls will be.
3. Take Accountability for Training and Quality Control
Once you’ve found the perfect company, you can’t simply hand them the reigns and fail to provide feedback or set your quality control standards. Maintain a good, working relationship with your outsourcer to make sure your standards of service are constantly and consistently being met. Your customer service outsourcer should meet the same quality standards that you have for your own team.
4. Be Aware of Legal and Security Obligations
Not all information can be shared with a third party without reviewing your legal obligations to protect sensitive customer data. Have your legal team review all of your materials before you outsource and sign a contract. Some companies with sensitive information choose to create a third-party platform that protects customer confidentiality by limiting the sharing of sensitive information.
5. Maintain Your Company Voice
You have a specific tone and voice when your company talks with customers. When you outsource your customer support you need to make sure your company tone is maintained and that outsourcers sound just like your in-house staff. The best way to ensure their tone of voice matches your company is to give solid examples, communicate with your outsourcing company, and provide training. Help your outsourcers really understand your voice and communicate with customers accordingly.
6. Be Realistic About Cost Savings
Although costs per hour are typically lower, your partnership with a customer service outsourcer should be about maintaining quality and providing flexibility to your growing team. In the end, the outsourced customer service cost might not be significantly less, but the overall benefits are worth it.
7. Understand Customer Support Questions
Before you outsource customer service for your small business, consider what kinds of questions your customers are asking and which ones make the most sense to outsource. If you receive a high volume of questions that outsourcers could take care of quickly and efficiently, outsourcing customer service providers might be a great option for your company.
8. Review Internal Support Systems
Before you use customer support as a service, be sure you audit your internal tools to make sure everything is working properly. Failing to audit your tools before turning them over to outsourced support can make it incredibly difficult for them to use your tools correctly, affecting the customer experience.
Simply hiring out your outsourced customer service and failing to communicate expectations and goals won’t benefit you in the long run. Think of your outsourced support as a partnership and maintain communication with your outsourced team. If you treat them like they’re part of your company you’ll foster a more successful relationship.
Taking the time to find the right third-party customer service providers will protect you against support coverage gaps and quality issues with your customer support.
Successful Companies that Outsource Customer Service
When implemented correctly, companies can see just how customer support as a service can help their business become more successful. The key to using customer support as a service is to work with the right outsourcing company for your business. Some of the top businesses in the U.S. have recognized the need and value of customer support outsourcing.
Here is a short list of companies that outsource their customer service quite successfully:
- Ford Motor Company: Ford has outsourced much more than their customer support. In addition to providing email, live chat, and phone assistance, their outsourcers also handle IT and software development.
- CISCO: This tech expert offers live chat and email through outsourced customer support. CISCO also found that outsourcing their R&D department was a way to get new technologies back to their customers faster than ever, resulting in better customer satisfaction and growth for the company.
- American Express: Customer service outsourcing to India and the Philippines is only the start for AMEX. They also use business process outsourcing to third-party providers for IT, tech assistance, software apps, and database management.
Each of these companies maintains high standards of quality control while providing excellent customer service in a way that not only saves their company money, but also time. Just because your customer service is outsourced doesn’t mean you must sacrifice quality, as these companies have clearly shown.
Outsourced Customer for Service Small Businesses
As with any major business decision, there are pros and cons to outsourcing your customer service support. No matter what type of company you manage, it’s important to weigh all the options so you can make the right choice for your business and your customers. Here are a few of the top pros and cons of outsourcing customer service for your small business.
- Save Money: This is a major point for small businesses. Outsourced employees usually cost less than hiring in-house and give you lots of flexibility as your company experiences ebbs and flows in customer support needs.
- Greater Resources: Customer service outsourcing can give you access to technology and resources you may not otherwise want (or need) to invest in.
- Expanded Language Options: Outsourcing your customer service, especially to another country, gives you the option to expand your customer service language options without the trouble of managing them.
- Shorter Response Time: More people providing customer support means shorter wait times for customers because people can respond to their queries faster.
- After Hours Support: Outsourced support can help you provided extended hours of service to your customers when you might otherwise not have staff available.
- Inflexible Contracts: While customer support outsourcing can help companies save money, they can also lock you into rigid, long-term contracts that make flexibility difficult.
- Customer Support Quality: Your standard for customer support might not be the same as the outsourcing company you’ve hired. Make sure you’re on the same page so your outsourcer provides the quality of customer service you expect.
- Brand Disconnect: While your brand certainly has a feel and strategy, outsourcers might not be on board with your company vision. It’s important to make sure your outsourced support is aligned with you as a strategic partner.
Although outsourcing support is a great way for small companies to meet their growing needs, you should make sure you’re not outsourcing just to lower your costs or to avoid focusing on your customer service. Choose an outsourcing company that meets your needs, not just because it’s the cheapest option available, and communicate your customer service expectations regularly to ensure your standard of quality is being met. Failure to consider your customer service experience just because someone else is “handling it,” is a surefire way to have dissatisfied customers.
What Does Outsourced Customer Service Cost?
The outsourced customer service cost varies and really depends on what services you’d like to provide for your customers, or what kinds of services your business needs assistance with. For example, high volume, repetitive call assistance will cost less than technical support or complex support assistance.
For most inbound calls, outsourcers typically use shared or dedicated services that vary per hour and the same can be said for outbound call centers. The greatest determiner of how much your outsourced customer service will cost is based on where your call center and call center associates are located. Countries like India, the Philippines, Pakistan, and other Asian countries tend towards the lower end of the price range, whereas countries like the U.S., Australia, and Canada are on the higher end of the price range.
What Are the Top Customer Service Outsourcing Companies?
When shopping around for the best customer service outsourcing companies, it’s important to consider a few different factors to ensure you’re getting the best quality service available. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when finding a top customer service outsourcing company.
- Look over consumer reviews to see what kind of service the company provides.
- Make sure the company uses call center software to record calls. This helps with customer service issues and for legal protection.
- Talk with the customer service for a company whose outsourcers you’re considering, to get a feel for their service.
- Make sure you’re able to quickly and easily communicate with the customer service agents.
- Look for companies that provide employee incentive such as rewards, bonuses, fun competitions, etc., that make the environment uplifting and encouraging for employees.
Once you’ve done a little research, you’ll have a great idea of where to start when it comes to finding the right company for your business needs.
Benefits of Customer Service Outsourcing
Along with saving money and time, there are other great benefits to learning, “what is customer service outsourcing?” Once you’ve established what your team is able to accomplish and what work can be done by someone else, you can free up your people to perform critical tasks and leave customer support to your outsourcer. Here are a few more benefits of customer service outsourcing to consider.
- Improve Business: Outsourcing support isn’t just about having more people to work for you, it’s about having better people to work for you. Outsourcing companies can work to train their employees specifically to suit your needs and make your business better.
- Flexibility: Many businesses have increased customer service needs at varying times of the year. Outsourcing your customer service support means you can increase or decrease team size at any time without the hassle of hiring or firing when your support needs change.
- Learn About Customer Support: For business managers who are new to the game, outsourcing support may actually help you learn what a functioning support team and great customer service look like. Outsourcing might also give you ideas on how your in-house team can work and what tools will help them fulfill their customer support roles.
- Lower Your Business Response Time: An outsourced customer support team means you can have greater availability during specific times of the day or week when your internal team might not be available. This can lower your customer response time during those hours and lead to greater customer satisfaction.
Customer service outsourcing provides a myriad of benefits beyond saving money and time, and can be the extra edge small businesses and startups need to allocate their resources effectively. With fewer resources at their disposal, small businesses can benefit from outsourcing support to get the freedom they need and adapt their companies to their growing business needs.
Businesses that free up their resources for additional growth, increase their capital, and have more time to put towards other business activities that will benefit them and their customers in the future.