Trying to handle all your business activities in house can stretch your resources thin. Your staff only have a limited amount of time — ask too much of them and you may see a decrease in productivity on critical tasks. One solution can be to outsource some tasks. This is a particularly good option for handling customer service.
Why Do Companies Outsource Customer Service?
There are a couple main reasons why companies outsource customer service.
For one thing, handling this task yourself can be extremely time consuming. This is especially true during times of high demand, such as after you launch a new product or service.
Another reason is because customer service requires skill and commitment. Providing customers with the best possible attention (i.e. not keeping them on hold for 20 minutes or leaving their emails unanswered for days) can develop loyalty. It can also lead to word-of-mouth recommendations, which are crucial when you’re just starting out. Finally, it helps you avoid negative reviews (including complaints on Twitter), which can make it hard for your company to grow.
Reasons Why You Should Outsource Customer Service
Why outsource customer service? Couldn’t you just hire another member of staff to reduce the pressure on your current employees? You certainly could, but there are several advantages to outsourcing.
1. Work with Specialists in Your Industry
Many people have the idea that outsourcing customer service means using a massive call center in another country with representatives who speak English to varying degrees of fluency. Whereas such places still do exist, many companies now turn to providers who specialize in their industry — maybe even their particular niche.
2. Spend Less
Businesses often find that they spend less outsourcing than they would managing customer service in house. This is particularly the case when the provider offers a pay-per-resolution plan rather than charging by the hour. Furthermore, there’s no need to pay for benefits, office space, and equipment with outsourcing, which leads to even greater savings.
3. Receive the Service Just When You Need It
There’s no need to even outsource customer support all the time. You could insource most of the year and just outsource when you need extra help, such as during busy seasons, when you have an influx of orders, or if you ever have a product recall or a similar issue that requires extra support.
4. Take the Pressure Off Your Team
Customer service representatives are able to answer frequently asked questions fast, but they’ll still refer any complicated issues to your in-house team. This allows your team to stop dealing with routine support and just focus on the matters that only someone from your business can handle.
5. Gain Competitive Advantage
If your main competitors are offering limited customer service, you may be able to stand out as the better choice by increasing the hours clients can contact you. For instance, you could use outsourcing to offer customer service outside business hours and during weekends.
6. Reach Customers in Their Language
Communication is more difficult with customers whose native language is something other than English. An outsourced customer service can provide you with multilingual support to prevent misunderstandings and frustrations. This may even be necessary if you have an online business or are looking to expand globally. Make sure customers know that multilingual support is an option — this is another way your company will be more appealing than your competitors.
7. Receive the Experience You Lack
Small businesses are often unable to afford a dedicated customer service representative. If no one on your team has any customer support experience, you may end up offering a subpar service to clients. Outsourcing, however, will instantly provide you with a team of experts who have access to top technology and tools.
Reasons Why You Should NOT Outsource Customer Service
Before you become convinced that you should definitely outsource customer service, it’s important to note that there are also several disadvantages.
1. It’s Best for Simple Requests
If a large percentage of your customers are contacting you for support with unique issues, your needs may be too complex for an outsourced service. It’s possible that you could find a service to handle technical questions, but this may be more expensive than managing customer service in house.
2. Onboarding Is Time Consuming
Later, having outsourced customer support will save you many hours of work. All the same, it is a time-consuming process at the start. You’ll need to give the customer service team in-depth information about your company, products, and services to ensure the company is able to provide your customers with the right support. This may take valuable time away from your other business activities.
3. Loss of Brand Image
Outsourcing your customer service means you’ll have fewer direct interactions with your customers. This could impact your brand image, particularly if the customer service provider has a different definition of what constitutes a great service.
4. Long-Term Contracts
Some providers may require you to sign a contract to secure their services for a certain amount of time (often a year) and for a certain number of hours each month. If you’re unsure where your company will be in several months from now, this could mean you become locked into a contract you’d rather break.
How to Outsource Customer Service
Outsourcing customer service may sound simple, but you’ll be much more successful if you put in the proper planning from the start. In fact, you can even eliminate many disadvantages of outsourcing when you have the right strategy in place.
Step 1: Research Multiple Providers
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to customer service providers. However, the majority are likely unsuitable for your needs. You need to research your options and make a shortlist of just those who specialize in what you require.
For instance, some providers are great at dealing with a large volume of similar queries, whereas others are capable of dealing with more complex issues. Furthermore, if you receive a high capacity of requests, it’s important to find out if the provider can handle this quantity.
You’ll find most of the information you need about providers on their websites, but you may need to chat with or message companies about your specific requirements. For example, you should ask what languages their representatives speak, whether they have experience in your niche, and what is the minimum number of hours required for a contract.
As well as thinking about what you want, consider your customers. What is their preferred channel of communication: phone, email, social media, or live chat on your website? The provider you choose should have experience using this channel.
Step 2: Create Brand Guidelines
The last thing you want is a generic feel from your customer support. Just because you’re outsourcing doesn’t mean the service should be void of personality. Create guidelines to help representatives address customers using the same tone of voice and style as you do.
Step 3: Monitor Quality
Once the customer service provider is working for you, make regular quality checks. Recording calls makes this easy and is especially useful for seeing how representatives cope with difficult clients. Another way to ensure the provider is meeting your quality standards is to measure KPIs like average resolution, ticket volume, and customer satisfaction score.
Step 4: Keep the Provider Up to Date with Changes
Customer service representatives need to know when you have made changes at the company (such as to the policies) and when you’ve added a new product or service. Let the provider know before you put changes in place to ensure representatives are prepared to work using up-to-date information.
How Much Does It Cost?
Now, we come to a question of major importance: how much does it cost to outsource customer service? The answer is that it varies.
The average cost of services is between $20 and $35 an hour. At the low end, you have basic requests; at the high end, you have more technical requirements. Providers using cloud-based services are cheaper than those using landlines or in-house servers. For a simple cloud-based service, you can expect to pay just $150 to $200 a month.
Famous Companies That Outsource Customer Service
Outsourcing is not just for startups and small businesses. In fact, many famous companies outsource customer service.
1. The Wall Street Journal
As well as being one of the most widely-distributed newspapers in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal has an international presence. The company outsources its inbound customer service to a third party.
Dedicated to social media marketing and management, Hootsuite understands the importance of great interactions with users. To ensure it is able to support its 18 million clients around the globe, the company outsources some of its customer service.
Even the tech giant Google outsources several business activities. This includes phone and email support for Google Ads.
Another large corporation that outsources customer service is Amazon. In fact, there are two customer service centers in the Philippines just serving Amazon.
Coming to a Decision
Just because many famous companies outsource their customer service doesn’t mean this is the right choice for you. Whereas there are plenty of reasons to outsource customer service, there are also a number of disadvantages.
If you lack the budget, time, or staff to manage customer service in house, outsourcing may well be the way to go. However, if you’re looking to outsource just so you can forget about customer service entirely, you should rethink the way you do business. Outsourcing customer service should take the pressure off your internal team, not replace in-house support entirely.