Customer Service Outsourcing: An Ultimate Guide

The ultimate aim of customer service is to achieve customer satisfaction. This boils down to having an experienced customer support service team that understands the core values and mission of the organization as well as the callers’ needs.

Although the founders of any organization may have the most profound understanding of their company, customer satisfaction is notably being optimized today through customer service outsourcing.

What is Customer Service Outsourcing?

Outsourced customer service is an arrangement where a third-party support team holds customer-company communication. When a customer calls the company in question, the call center agents that respond are not internally hired but work independently and remotely.

Outsourcing customer service is one way to provide utmost customer satisfaction through business process outsourcing.

Business process outsourcing is a large industry grossing over $131 billion in the United States. Many business processes are outsourced, including technical support and customer service, and the goal is always to improve the organization’s overall efficiency. This may include reducing costs and maximizing competitive advantage in customer experience.

But there’s a big question: is customer service outsourcing the right choice for you?

As every business has unique needs, it’s crucial to weigh the options to determine if outsourcing customer service best solves those problems rather than just jumping on the bandwagon.

This article discusses all you need to know about customer support outsourcing, from the pros and cons to the cost and everything in between.

When Should You Outsource Customer Service?

The following are times when outsourcing customer service makes sense:

When you’re inexperienced in this field

Customer service is a field on its own requiring specialization. Notably, certain qualities make a good call center agent, and if you’ve just started your company, chances are you don’t even know what those attributes are.

If you know, what are the odds you possess them or can easily find experienced candidates?

If you’re starting and don’t know what tools to use or how to set up processes, it’s best to outsource customer service to experienced third-party support agents. However, you can learn the ropes in the long run by observing their processes.

When scaling with an uncertain direction

If your business is undergoing rapid growth or change, outsourcing your customer support can help you maintain responsive, top-quality service while figuring out your business’s direction.

Typically, you have to weigh your support team’s current output and how it meets the growing customer demands. If there’s a gap that an external party can fill, you ideally should consider customer support outsourcing.

When you need to improve support coverage

Perhaps you’re already achieving great results with your internal support team but feel you could do better. Or maybe there are specific periods where your response time is low. You could outsource to fill out such windows. In this case, the third-party call center agents work as an extension of your internal team to improve the overall customer service.

When support needs fluctuate occasionally

Some businesses typically have periods where they’re faced with heavy call inflow, such as eCommerce business during peak seasons. Other times, things can get quiet.

For such businesses, it makes sense to outsource support coverage when the volume is high instead of going through the lengthy hiring process, only to drop off the new agents when things get quiet again.

Of course, you can hire temporary workers, but the process of sourcing, interviewing, and onboarding can take time. In addition, rapidly fluctuating volumes may not allow you enough time to adjust through the internal hiring process.

Pros of Outsourced Customer Service

  • Reduced workload

Small business owners are often faced with many tasks. For example, while managing their staff and third-party suppliers, they also answer customer service calls from clients. Even with internal administrative staff, such activities may detract from the company’s more profitable activities like sales.

Outsourcing may help free up time so you and your employees can focus on what matters most.

  • Cost savings

Paying in-house call-center employees isn’t cheap. So you may have to include employee benefits in addition to their monthly salaries.

Even when call volume dwindles, reducing your need for their service, you still have to pay them in full. That may not be very cost-effective if you’re on a budget.

In contrast, you wouldn’t have to pay contract workers employee benefits. Additionally, you wouldn’t provide the tech they need or pay when you do not require their service.

Since they use their equipment for several businesses, it wouldn’t factor much into their charges.

  • Off-hours coverage

Your internal customer support team will likely only operate during regular work hours. For international customers, this can be a challenge.

Customer service outsourcing to a third-party call center can help you obtain 24/hour service to boost response time and keep clients happy. In addition, this fosters high customer retention.

  • Access to multilingual service

Finding suitable candidates who speak different languages is not always easy or affordable. However, if your company is expected to deal with other nationalities, outsourced customer support is advantageous as they typically have reps speaking those languages. In addition, foreign customers would become more comfortable doing business with you.

Cons of Customer Service Outsourcing

  • Insufficient knowledge about your company

In-house customer support agents will more likely understand the depths of your company values than a third-party call center. That’s because the outsourced call center employees are not with you all the time, so they may not be as knowledgeable about your product or service.

But this downside can be eliminated through clear and consistent communication. Be very detailed about your company to the call center agents and update them on new developments such as price changes and policies. If your service is pretty advanced, you may contract dedicated agents to focus on your company alone.

  • You are one of their many clients.

There is always the concern that the call center agents may not make you their top priority due to the number of clients. And since they typically serve companies from various industries, a call center rep may have to handle an inquiry about shoes one minute and insurance the next.

This juggling may get you worried about the quality of service you’ll get. However, you could quell this challenge by hiring a more expensive and possibly dedicated customer support.

  • Security issues

Most businesses, especially eCommerce, often deal with the exchange of sensitive information, including home addresses and credit card details. If someone else would be receiving such information from customers on your behalf, you have to be extremely cautious.

Such data must be secure, so you might want to vet whichever company you’re outsourcing your customer service to ensure they’re entirely trustworthy and reliable. To do so, ask for their technical security measures. Also, check their reviews.

However, most reputable call centers have several levels of security in place to prevent mishaps. This helps them offer the peace of mind their clients require. 

Tips to Successful Customer Service Outsourcing

It would be wise not to use outsourced customer service as a trial to see if it will work. That’s because the experience your customers have when they contact your business is a critical part of your brand’s existence.

So you want to ensure you outsource customer support cautiously and correctly so that clients get the best experience. A bad one can discourage potential customers from doing business with you while dissuading others.

You must get your customer service outsourcing right the first time if you don’t want your traffic to be severely hit due to poor customer experience. So, here are some tips according to call center experts.

  • Make your pick from several options.

It makes sense to speak with several call centers to understand which one best meets your needs. For example, while one provider may be great at handling high volume customer service calls, another may specialize in advanced situations.

Also, speaking with several call centers will help you understand their values so you know which one can partner most seamlessly with your organization. 

  • Ensure their core values align with yours

One of the most crucial factors to successful customer service outsourcing is whether the call center’s values align with your services. That will ensure you’re a suitable match, making the partnership and onboarding more frictionless.

It’s also best to work with outsourced customer support that’s open to new developments and innovations because change frequently happens in the industry.

  • Train and keep the agents up to date

Always remember: no customer support service can ever know all about your business unless you tell them. So it’s in your best interest to train the call center agents on all they need to know about your products and services.

Additionally, keep them updated and ensure they’re meeting the level of quality you desire.

  • Don’t make cost savings your foremost priority.

Although outsourcing customer service helps drive costs down, this partnership is more about improving your process while obtaining flexibility.

If you make cost-saving your priority, you may be ready to go for the lowest price and therefore suffer poor service delivery. That is equivalent to poor customer satisfaction.

  • Check track records

From transparency to personalization and optimal customer services, it’s crucial to partner with an outsourced customer service team that leverages proven processes. For example, how happy have they made past clients? Run background checks to find out such information.

  • Do some work on security and legal policies.

Although your outsourced customer support acts as an extension of your business, they’re not part of your business. Therefore, before allowing such third parties to access sensitive information, check on your internal security and theirs to ensure all legal obligations are well-covered.

It’s worth applying vendor security protocols so that high-level access to the corporate network is reserved for your internal customer support only.

Furthermore, ensure your legal team reviews the contract before adding your signature. Finally, audit the tools your in-house employees use before allowing third-party access by your customer service provider. This will help reduce the risk of compromised data when tools are wrongly used.

  • Keep your brand voice consistent.

If you’re considering customer service outsourcing, chances are you have been answering your clients in-house all this while. Therefore, your clients may have gotten used to your brand voice and style. If this changes suddenly, it may not be the best for you or your customers.

So when you choose a customer service outsourcing company, ensure you’re clear with your brand voice so that they can sound exactly like your in-house team. This will come as a part of your onboarding process but engage the customer support agents periodically to ensure they’re maintaining that brand identity.

  • Communication should be ongoing.

This tip has already been hinted at but deserves a session of its own. To get the best of your outsourced support service team, it’s wise to keep the communication lines open. Speak with the customer support agents as frequently as possible, find out what’s working, what issues they’re having, and what further training they may need.

The more you treat your outsourced customer support as a part of your company, the more willing they are to offer greater value.

And through this two-way communication, you’re amassing expert knowledge from the customer service outsourcing company that you could use to train your in-house team. So it’s a win-win for everyone.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Customer Service Provider

Before finally outsourcing your customer service, there are critical questions to help you gain insight into their expertise, quality control, security, and what to expect in general.

  • What is their expertise?

Has the customer service provider served in your industry before? Do they know the lingo and everyday caller demands? This question will go a long way in helping you determine which representative would be best suited for your organization.

It’s best to hire a customer support team with the required experience to prevent the issues a lack thereof may present.

  • How is quality assurance maintained?

Ask each call center you consider hiring about what tactics they employ to calm angry customers. Does it make sense?

Additionally, it’s wise to ask if you can obtain recordings of their conversations with your callers before outsourcing customer support. You might want to find ways to determine if these are actual recorded calls.

  • How secure are they?

Find out what security measures their support team has to manage customers’ sensitive data that go through their call center. To keep your customers’ information safe, ensure their inbound and outbound networks are highly secure.

Additionally, ask about who has access and manages their corporate network. 

  • What’s their hiring process like?

Like every company, the overall efficiency and quality depend on the individual inputs. So each employee matters. When you speak with the call center representative, you should be concerned about their in-house employees who may someday respond to your client’s call. So it’s worth asking about whom they hire and the kind of training they get. This gives you insight into whether your callers will be dealing with specialists or rookies.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Are you going for a remote or physical call center?

The same benefits and challenges associated with remote work are what you get when working with a remote customer service team.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Easier talent sourcing
  • Round-the-clock service due to members being located in different time zones.

While a physical call center may make you miss out on these benefits, it instead offers better communication and friendship among the team as they work side-by-side daily. In addition, this physical teamwork environment often influences social relations, performance, and satisfaction among employees.

  • International or domestic team?

When we talk about customer support outsourcing, what first comes to mind is transferring work to someone else in another country. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, outsourcing to a local outsourced provider makes more sense.

For example, a local team may be better versed in your company or product, especially when it’s geographically limited.

On the other hand, international outsourcing makes sense when you can obtain a top-tier support team for a lower price, especially when that country has a lower cost of living.

Another reason for going international is to cover a different time zone when your internal team closes for the day.

  • Dedicated or shared agents?

As has been highlighted, juggling between industries per minute may be a hassle for some representatives, especially when a particular client’s service is more advanced than usual. For example, when you’re into tech or some other complex product, you want someone intimately familiar with it such that they can answer queries with seamless ease and in a nuanced way. Dedicated call center agents are your best bet for solving this issue. However, they are typically costlier than shared agents.

In contrast, shared agents are best when your customer care volume is low or your product/service isn’t so complicated.

How Much Does Outsourcing Customer Service Cost?

If you look around the Internet, you’ll find outsourced call centers priced differently. For example, while some agents may cost around $25 per hour in the US, some reach up to $60.

The total cost typically depends on the nature and scope of the customer service. For example, simple phone answering may be priced at $25 per hour, while a dedicated outsourced call center agent may charge over $60.

The cost includes IT infrastructure expenses, training, analytics, administrative maintenance, etc.

If all you need is inbound call answering and message taking, consider going for shared agents, which is the more cost-effective.

Dedicated professionals are better suited for advanced tasks like complaint management and outbound customer support, such as calling campaigns.

Albeit, outsourced support agents are generally more cost-effective than in-house teams.

Conclusion

Outsourced support service is an excellent way to improve response time and customer experience while saving costs.

However, you want to ensure it’s well suited for your company’s current situation and that you take the necessary steps to make the partnership a successful one.

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