Preparing to outsource your customer services? Here’s 5 things to think about.
- When done right, outsourcing customer service is both cost-effective and able to deliver the same levels of customer care as an in-house team.
- The value of the global outsourcing market is set to surpass $110 billion by 2024.
Read time: 6 minutes
There are now more customer service channels on the market than ever before and keeping up with the pace of evolving customer expectations can be complex and time-consuming. Integrating new IT infrastructure and software, and employing and training a team of people to deliver the service, is often expensive, too. Whether you’re a start up or a global organization working across different time zones, cultures and languages, this becomes a major challenge.
To tackle these hurdles, a growing number of businesses now opt to outsource their customer service, and research from Global Market Insights has found that the value of the global market is set to surpass $110 billion by 2024.
Outsourcing customer service is not only cost-effective, but, when done correctly, can also deliver the same levels of customer care, brand identity and team spirit as an in-house customer service department.
Here we look at the top 5 considerations for successfully outsourcing your customer service.
- Define your customer service needs
Every business is different, so it’s vital to have a clear starting point and know what role customer service plays in your business. Is it a way to gain a competitive advantage or a functional necessity? Is it a source of potential revenue through cross-selling or up-selling? Does your business typically handle a large volume of straightforward queries or fewer, more complex ones?
Wherever customer service fits in, there’ll undoubtedly be challenges – but there’ll also be solutions to help.
- Document your customer service processes
One of the biggest challenges businesses face when thinking about outsourcing is that their customer service processes often aren’t well-laid out and documented. This is particularly true for start ups, who tend to be more agile and flexible, and less bound to set ways of working.
But committing some time and resource to keep track of how you manage your customer services can pay major dividends, helping you to clearly see any gaps in your process and how outsourcing can fit in.
Once you’ve got an outsourcing partner in place, having this work already done will help them to not only replicate the core structure of your customer service, but also to identify overlaps and increase efficiency.
- Understand your culture
Every business has its own identity, a unique culture that customers recognize and value. How a company delivers its customer service strategy will, more often than not, closely reflect that culture. So it’s understandable that many businesses fear losing their heart and soul when they choose to outsource.
The way to get around this is to clearly outline the culture of the company and look for an outsourcing partner that understands and shares it.
This will make sure the partner can offer the same level of customer care as the in-house team.
- Pick the right partner
So now that you have analyzed your processes and culture, it’s time to start looking at potential outsourcing companies. By drafting a detailed request for proposal (RFP), you can outline your business’s goals and objectives for outsourcing, as well as your procurement process, clearly stating what the different requirements are and how the scoring system works.
Having all of this information clearly communicated from the outset ensures all parties are on the same page and no time is wasted on bids that won’t be suitable.
Make sure to allow for enough time to prepare but set clear deadlines as well. Then create a shortlist – based on the track record of success and relevant case studies. It’s also key to audit the HR and training programs of prospective partners – after all, the people they hire could be the ones representing your company.
Meet shortlisted outsourcers face-to-face and get a feeling for what their company culture is like. Think of it as building a long-term partnership rather than a short-term solution.
Finally, design contracts with measurable incentives and rewards for success, as well as penalties if service level agreements (SLAs) are not met. Be as clear as possible. After all, it’s better to get questions sorted out before the partnership starts than to face disappointments further down the line.
- Manage the transition
Once the selection and appointment process is complete, that’s arguably when the real work begins. The transition period can be tricky for your customers and colleagues if you’re not prepared. So, set out in advance how long it will take and agree the key milestones, to check if the project is on track. This will go a long way to minimizing disruption and giving everyone some peace of mind.
A good tip is to choose a dedicated employee or a small team to manage communication between your business and the outsourcing partner. This will make the process transparent and help make sure nothing is lost in translation.
It is also vital to manage expectations. A new partner won’t be able to come on board and offer better customer service than your in-house team overnight. There will be a learning curve.
To make sure it’s as fast and painfree as possible, have the new partner come in regularly to learn as much as they can about your business’s culture and processes.
Outstanding customer service is increasingly a key differentiator for businesses operating in highly competitive markets, and outsourcing can play a crucial role in enabling fast-growing firms to scale their customer service functions while keeping high levels of quality. The best solutions offer the perfect blend of the right people with proven experience, enhanced with the appropriate technology – and understanding your needs by going through the above steps will help you make the best decision to future-proof your business.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.