10 Things to Know Before Outsourcing Customer Service
Customer service is becoming increasingly important to B2C and B2B buyers across all industries. In fact, customer service is the #1 factor influencing a buyer’s trust in a vendor these days. Going the extra mile for your customers is a reliable path to retention and long-term gain, but how can you know for sure that an outsourced agency will be able to meet (or even surpass) your expectations?
Should you consider outsourcing your customer service to another agency, there’s a number of things you should know beforehand.
1. Why customer service is so important
Before we get into the specifics, you should know just how critical your choice of an outsourced customer service firm is to the overall success of your business. Take a look at the numbers:
- 54% of consumers worldwide claim they have higher expectations for customer service than they did just one year ago (Microsoft).
- 65% of buyers say that a positive customer service experience is more influential than great advertising (Temkin Group).
- Buyers in the US will pay 17% more to do business with a company who has a reputation for great customer service (American Express).
2. Outsourced agencies have specific expertise
Firms that specialize in customer service dedicate their effort, time and resources toward improving their service and keeping up with industry standards. They’ve had opportunity after opportunity to perfect their craft and strategy when it comes to supporting customers.
In most cases, you can rely on their service expertise to implement the best approach for your company and customer base, allowing you to focus on what your business does best.
3. Find a vendor with experience in your industry
You may find that with many outsourced services, reps do not have the technical knowledge required and/or may not be as passionate about your given field.
However, there are outsourced agencies who focus on clients in certain verticals and have extensive experience servicing customers in your industry. They hire knowledgeable reps who can quickly learn your product and meet your customers’ needs.
- Customer service outsourcing company Simplr specializes in support for e-commerce companies
- Business processes outsourcing company Ameridial provides customer service for businesses in the retail and automotive industries
- EBQ provides customer support and other services primarily to SaaS companies and startups in industries like e-commerce, healthcare, manufacturing, and finance
4. Know what processes are in place for quality control
The quality of support you receive from outsourced customer service agencies varies widely.
Considering that 68% of customers believe that a polite representative is the key ingredient to excellent customer service, this should be an important factor in your choice of agency.
Often, variations in quality come down to the management structure of your outsourced team and their processes in place.
Many firms hire leadership to act as little more than babysitters for their customer service reps, instead of hiring managers to lead the team and integrate with your strategy. But with firms that consider themselves more of a partner than just a vendor, you can get access to a full support department with tiered management layers to accomplish quality control.
5. Outsourcing customer service helps cut costs
When you choose to outsource your customer service versus building the team internally, the outsourced firm absorbs the costs of:
- HR processes like recruiting, screening, and hiring
- Onboarding and training new agents
- Dealing with high rates of employee turnover
- Building the call center infrastructure—office space, hardware, and software implementation
6. Different pricing structures work for different companies
There are a number of different ways that outsourced call centers price their services, and which pricing model is right for your company can depend on many different factors including volume, customer needs, and your company’s growth.
We’ll summarize a few of the most common pricing models here.
Pay-as-you-go: This model includes pay-per-resolution as well as pay-by-the-minute services
- Pros: You only pay for what you use, scalability
- Cons: Volume fluctuations can make prices soar, workers are incentivized by volume and not quality
Pay for time up front: Pay in advance to outsource for a set amount of time
- Pros: Good for expected spikes in volume, discounts for longer time periods
- Cons: Overage fees, wasting money if you don’t use all the time paid for
Flat fee per agent: Payment is based on how many reps are working for you
- Pros: Unlimited number of requests handled, incentivized by service quality in order to keep clients
- Cons: You pay the same no matter the volume, long-term contract sometimes required
7. Fully integrate your outsourced team with your company
Of course, you shouldn’t choose an outsourced firm on price alone. Finding a customer service firm who will act as an extension of your company instead of just a vendor is crucial for getting the most value out of the partnership, and it takes a bit of research to find the right partner.
Choose an agency that has efficient processes in place to integrate with your company’s team and can align with your objectives. This is especially important if you’re recruiting an outsourced team alongside your internal one, so customer experiences remain consistent.
In one case, healthcare tech company e-MDs used an outsourced customer service department from EBQ to transition customers to their upgraded platform. The companies fully integrated their processes with a 12-point questionnaire and consistent use of e-MDs emails and ticketing system, successfully contacting 1,300 customers over 4 short months.
8. Offshore call centers come with unique challenges
Many outsourced customer service agencies are offshore companies who provide call center workers based in countries outside of the United States.
While these large BPOs can handle high request volumes sometimes at low price points, these companies often present challenges when it comes to customer service quality.
Some of the main concerns with offshore call centers include:
- Communication barriers due to language and accent differences
- Lack of cultural context that makes it harder for agents to relate to customers
- Timezone variations that may affect agent availability
- Unexpected legal or regulatory obstacles in foreign countries
- Agents relying on call scripts, which can frustrate your customers
9. Know who owns your customer data
Collecting customer data is one of the primary benefits of effective customer service. Two-thirds of customers are willing to provide personal information if they think they’ll get value from doing so.
Ensure you’re getting value from this data as well by avoiding outsourced agencies that cause uncertainty around data security or ownership of your customer data.
Make sure you do your research and read the fine print before signing a contract, or else you might not be able to make use of your customers’ feedback or pick up where the agency left off should you ever switch to an in-house team.
10. Outsourcing presents opportunities beyond providing good service
A worthwhile customer service firm will provide transparency into customer conversations and feedback, bringing with it their specialized knowledge to help analyze the data.
When deciding on your outsourced partner, choose one that can provide in-depth insights from the information they collect and will help you expand your knowledge base, as well as improve your product and business strategy to better meet your customers’ needs.
Outsourced customer service comes in all shapes and sizes, different price points, and different levels of service quality. It’s much easier to find the agency best-suited for your company when you know what to look for.
Do your research and know that you don’t have to settle for mediocre service, or break the bank, when it comes to supporting and delighting your customers.