Should you outsource your customer service? If an outside company can do the work more efficiently or if you don’t have the budget or the staff to do it in-house, then maybe the answer is yes.
Those are not the only reasons to outsource customer service, of course. Your business may have seasonal cycles when more support is needed (Christmas, for example) and an outsourced team may give you the ability to scale up or down quickly. Or perhaps you're just starting out and working with an experienced team of customer support pros makes sense. Or maybe you need to expand your coverage to weekends or even 24/7 and you need a customer service company to fill the gaps.
Whatever the reasons, you must do it right to get the best results. Here are 6 steps you should follow to outsource customer service.
#1 - Establish clear goals
You can approach goals from two fronts: what you want for yourself and what you want from the outsourcing firm.
Let’s start with you. Why are you outsourcing? If your goal is to cut costs, set a number for how much you want to save before you enter into a negotiation; if you are more interested in freeing up staff to work on other tasks, make sure their roles are covered by the outsourced team; if what you’re looking for is that customer support is done by trained professionals, then focus on that. These goals must be agreed upon at the top-levels of your company.
Then, define what you want from them. What are the support team’s main goals? Provide technical support to existing clients or increase customer retention? What services will be included in the agreement?
When establishing goals, consult with your legal department any potential legal and security issues related to outsourcing customer service. Sometimes you may be restricted by company policies on how much client info and data may be shared with a third party.
#2 - Think about your customer
No one knows your customers as well as you do - how they like to interact with you, what social media channels they use, and their contact preferences. All these matter when outsourcing customer service.
Would your customers prefer to interact with a call center, live chat on your website or through Facebook messenger or Twitter?
Knowing your buyer persona and your experience with your customers will guide you in your decision on what services to hire and who to partner with. The outsourced support team must "sound like you” in every communication with your clients, whether it’s written or through the phone. Know your voice and work with your partner to help them talk like you do.
Finally, go beyond customer support and think customer success.
#3 - Choose the right partner
When it comes to outsourcing companies, there are plenty of options out there, but they aren’t all created equal. Interview multiple managed service providers to find the best fit to your needs.
- If you have clients around the world, seek a multilingual 24/7 customer service team
- Choose the best customer service reps with the right skills
- Find out how your potential partner deals with difficult clients
- Determine the partner’s capacity to handle high-volume queries and/or in-depth conversations, - depending on your needs
- Pick a managed service provider with an omnichannel approach (phone calls, online chat, email, social selling)
- Examine your candidates’ track record and talk to some of their previous clients
Remember that cheap is not always best. You may want to save costs by outsourcing, but even if a particular partner won’t save you as much as you’d like, they may be worth the extra quality they provide. Afterall, you’ll retain more customers.
#4 - Train for quality
One of the best reasons to outsource customer service staff is to save on training costs for in-house staff. Managed service companies already have highly trained customer support reps with experience handling different situations.
However, you still need to do an on boarding process with your new partner. Work with your provider to ensure they understand your culture, your buyer persona and the quality standards you’ve set at your organization.
#5 - Measure success
Once you begin working with your chosen partner, you must measure your customer support team’s performance, using some key indicators, such as ticket volume, average response time, average resolution time, net promoter scores and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores.
Don’t forget about customer service just because you outsourced it. You can still control the results without micromanaging the process. Continually evaluate the team’s performance to assure they’re on the right track.
#6 - Open communication channels
Your partnership will only succeed if there’s an excellent two-way communication. That means ongoing discussions about the things that are working, the things that must be improved, areas where the team needs more training and important feedback from the customers.
Your outsourced team should act as an extension of your in-house staff, hence they should be kept in the loop about information relevant to their work.
Your customers will be the ultimate judges of your customer service, whether it’s managed in-house or by an outsourced team. So listen to them and work on a strategy that will ensure their success with your product or service. If that strategy requires you to outsource customer service, then follow the steps outlined above and tweak them to your own circumstances.
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