Customer Support Outsourcing: The Pros and Cons

Outsourcing is having certain jobs done outside of a business instead of having an in-house department or employee handle them. This strategy is a good one for your business if you’re able to save money, free up resources, and lower stress. Some tasks that are outsourced include graphic design, accounting, payroll processing, and more. One very important task that’s being outsourced more and more is customer service.

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Outsourced support doesn’t have to mean working with a cheap call center that follows an inflexible script. There are outsourcing companies that act as an extension of your in-house team and can benefit your business.

What is outsourcing customer service?

Outsourcing customer service is not necessarily about cutting corners - it's about doing your best to fulfill the customer service needs of your customers, leaving them with a positive experience. Outsourcing allows you to hire contract workers off site rather than full-time employees. This means you don't have to pay a fixed salary and offer benefits like healthcare and overtime.

Evaluate your customer support needs

Are phone calls, social media messages, and emails being left unanswered regularly? If you don’t have the funds, space, or equipment to bring on a customer support team, the decision to outsource customer service can be a good one. We’ve put together both the pros and cons of outsourcing customer service.

Pros

Outsourcing can be an excellent choice for your small business. Here are good reasons to outsource.

1. Less expensive

Companies use outsourcing to cut labor costs, including full time salaries, overhead, equipment, and technology. You’ll also save money on the amount of liability insurance you have to pay and you’ll avoid the risk of being sued by an employee.

2. More extensive coverage

With the increase in global business, you might need agents available at alternative times. Depending on the call center firm you go with, agents could work for your business around the clock or have hours outside of the regular Monday to Friday 9 – 5. Shoppers are active in the evenings and on weekends too and you don’t want to leave them hanging.

3. Additional languages

Do you cater to customers who do business in a language other than English? Bringing on a call center that offers multilingual support can give your company a positive reputation and increase your customer base.

4. Shorter response times

According to research of 1,000 companies by SuperOffice, the average response time to a customer service request is 12 hours and 10 minutes. That’s simply too long for customers in need of support. Even worse, 62% of companies do not respond to customer emails at all. Customer frustration can quickly cost you a sale or earn your business bad online reviews. Shorter response times are seen as a big positive when dealing with a business.

5. Better resources and technology

When you team up with a company focused on customer service, you’ll have access to the latest response technology and customer service resources you might not have been able to afford.

6. Enables you to focus on the core aspects of the business.

When customer service is outsourced, you'll have time to focus on important aspects of your business. Recruitment, training, and customer service staff management will be off your plate. You can concentrate on business building strategies like beefing up marketing, inventory expansion, or forming business partnerships. Less work and stress is good for you and your bottom line.

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Cons

Outsourcing does have some disadvantages for a small business owner. Here are things to look out for.

1. Contracts

You might be required to sign a Time and Materials contract, a Fixed Price contract, or a Target Cost contract. If you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of a contract, you can find yourself in trouble. Hiring a legal expert to review can be costly.

2. Quality of customer care

What an outsourcing company considers good service may not align with your company’s mission and commitment to customer care. That’s why it’s important to know the type of training agents receive when your company is onboarded.

3. Disconnecting from your brand

Outsiders might not have the passion your in-house team shares for your products or services. The customer service representatives should know the problem you solve with your products and services and how it benefits the customer. You’re improving the customer experience and anyone interacting with them needs to be aligned with that goal.

4. Security threats

Customer service agents may not be subject the same background checks that your employees are. Confidential or sensitive information may be less secure.

How to choose a customer outsourcing service provider

Once you’ve determined that outsourcing your customer service operations is a good strategy, it’s time to research companies. Keep in mind:

  • Ask exactly what you need from the outsourcing firm. Is it call center support, online chat support, or responding to social media messages and posts?
  • Know your customer service goals before you start a search. Choose a company experienced in the service you want them to provide.
  • Think about your customer. Who will the call center be interacting with? What is the demographic of your customers? Agents should be familiar with the details of your target audience so they can offer tailored solutions.
  • Train for quality. Don’t rely on outside agents to know your business. Put training in place so their messages are in line with your goals. It goes without saying that they should be extremely familiar with your products or services. Here are training steps to consider: Top Customer Service Training Ideas.

How to measure success

Companies that outsource customer service should have benchmarks in place. Don’t just “set it and forget it”. You should be able to track the success of your customer service outsources by tracking these metrics:

  • Average call abandonment rate
  • Percentage of calls blocked
  • Average time in queue
  • Service level
  • Average answer speed
  • Average handle time
  • Average after call work time
  • First call resolution

For in-depth information on success measurement, visit the Playvox blog: The 10 Best Metrics To Measure Call Center Agent Productivity.

Resources

The SmartBiz Small Business Blog contains many articles to help you understand in-house customer service and convey it to an outsourcing company:

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