What influences buyer trust the most? The answer is customer service. Businesses that provide outstanding support retain more customers and extract additional value from every interaction. With the demands and expectations of today’s consumers, going the extra mile is non-negotiable.

Things to Know Before Outsourcing Customer Service

But what if your core competencies lie elsewhere? Some organisations simply lack the talent, finances and resources required for effective customer service. This is where outsourcing comes in. Transferring your support needs to an external team can solve several problems. Here’s what you need to know before you partner up.

1. The Importance of Customer Service

Customer service is nothing to skimp on. Given that reducing expenses is a major reason for outsourcing, it can help to remember why the function must be handled with care.

  • Good service encourages loyalty
  • Buyers pay more for better support
  • Satisfied customers refer new leads
  • Analysing interactions can reveal valuable insights

In one Gartner report, it was predicted that 89% of businesses will compete primarily on customer experience. A global study by Microsoft found that 96% of consumers see customer service as a key factor for brand loyalty.

Finally, consider an Accenture survey in which 87% of organisations agreed on the notion that traditional experiences no longer satisfy consumers. Perhaps an outsourced customer service provider can fix that. After all…

2. Vendors Have Specific Expertise

To remain competitive, firms that specialise in customer service need to frequently improve their strategy and stay on top of industry trends. Established vendors have learned from past mistakes and perfected their craft. This gives you assurance that you can rely on their expertise, leaving you free to focus on doing what you do best.

3. You Need a Provider That Knows Your Industry

You may come across an outsourcing company whose staff lack the inclination or technical knowledge required to effectively work on your given tasks. Of course, that isn’t something you want to deal with.

Look for a vendor that specialises in your specific verticals and is backed by extensive experience with companies in your industry. They’re more likely to employ knowledgeable reps who can quickly grasp your customer and product or service. Asking for client references is a good idea here.

4. Identify the Processes in Place for Quality Control

The standards upheld by one customer service agency can be a far cry from another. It often comes down to their management structure and use (or absence) of related processes.

A successful external team is led by someone who keeps your goals and values on top of mind. You want to find a provider that sees you as a partner. They should send regular updates regarding the status of your work and follow strict guidelines when it comes to quality control.

5. Outsourcing Saves Money

Building and growing an in-house customer service team is expensive. It involves a number of costs that can be absorbed by an outsourcing company instead. This includes:

  • Screening and recruiting employees
  • Training and onboarding new agents
  • Contending with high turnover rates
  • Service centre infrastructure

Aside from not having to pay for your own technologies, you can also gain access to the latest software and hardware when outsourcing to an external team. This includes innovations such as AI that help to enhance functionality and streamline processes.

6. There are Different Pricing Models

Certain factors including your growth, volume and customer demands will determine which pricing structure is right for your business. Listed below are the three most popular pricing models:

Fixed Rate Per Agent: Based on how many reps are being utilised

  • Incentive to maintain service quality
  • No limit to the number of resolutions
  • Same fee regardless of volume
  • Often requires signing a long-term contract

Pay-Per-Resolution: Can also be paid by the minute

  • Better scalability as you only pay for what is used
  • Fluctuations in demand can cause fees to skyrocket
  • Focus on volume instead of quality

Upfront: Pay in advance for a specific time period

  • Suitable for upcoming spikes in demand
  • Longer time periods are discounted
  • Potential overage fees
  • Unused time is still charged for

7. Your External Team Should be Fully Integrated

While important, pricing alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor when selecting an outsourcing provider. To obtain the most possible value, look for a partner that can act as an extension of your business. They should have processes in place to integrate with your own team and align with your mission and vision.

This is even more crucial if you’re keeping a portion of your in-house department, as you’ll need to maintain a consistent customer experience. Working with your partner for a trial period can help you determine if they’re a good fit.

8. Offshore Vendors Present Unique Challenges

With the often high cost of UK outsourcing providers, it can be enticing to set your sights abroad. Vendors in countries such as India and the Philippines are able to handle many requests at a fraction of the price. While compelling, overseas agencies have their own set of drawbacks that should be carefully considered. This includes:

  • Linguistic and cultural differences that cause communication barriers
  • Difficulty relating to your audience
  • Lack of availability due to time zone gaps
  • Unforeseen legal or regulatory hurdles
  • Agents relying on scripts that frustrate customers

9. Know Who Owns Your Customer Data

One of the key benefits of customer service is being able to collect the associated data. When over 66% of customers are willing to hand over personal information if it generates value, overlooking the opportunity would be a big mistake.

In addition to choosing a partner that knows how to obtain insights from customer data, make sure that they have strong security measures in place to safeguard sensitive information. This includes having industry standard certifications and the latest encryption tools. Don’t forget to clarify any terms around the ownership of your data.

10. Opportunities Abound

As you can probably guess, there’s a lot more to outsourcing than providing good service. The right vendor can offer full transparency in relation to customer interactions and feedback. This is where you can find immense value. It all comes down to being able to communicate effectively with your partner.

You don’t necessarily have to go all-in from the beginning. Consider outsourcing one or two smaller tasks before moving closer towards developing a winning customer service solution.

When to Start Outsourcing Customer Service

Transferring your support processes to an external team is seldom a walk in the park. You may end up questioning whether the move is worth making at all.

Should you go through with it? Will you regret it? Perhaps it’s too soon. Maybe you missed something.

Outsourcing can take on different forms and you don’t necessarily need to go all-in from the start. Remember that countless businesses have successfully partnered up with one or more providers. If any of the following points resonate with you, then your current circumstances likely warrant outsourcing customer service.

Times of Uncertainty

While indicative of progress, periods of rapid growth can make it challenging to determine the long-term direction of your company. The same is true for any kind of major change, such as opening your doors to a new region. When the path isn’t clear, an outsourced support vendor can help you maintain quality service.

This gives you the opportunity to focus on adjusting operations and identifying the next steps.

Around the Clock

What if you could offer 24/7 support? It would certainly contribute to a better customer experience. Whether you want to ‘extend’ your business hours or simply provide emergency coverage, the right outsourcing partner can enlist the help of additional agents to increase your availability. This is also an effective way to deal with high call volume.

Amid Financial Difficulties

The cost saving potential of outsourcing customer service is what drives most businesses to make the switch. And it’s easy to see why. Compared to hiring, training, remunerating and facilitating internal workers, outsourced support can be much kinder to your bottom line. This makes it suitable during times when money is tight.

However, it’s important to understand that reducing expenses on its own shouldn’t be sufficient reason to outsource your support functions. Customer satisfaction comes first. Cheap out and you’ll end up paying more in the long run.

During Seasonal Demand

Certain times of the year can bring a minor upswing in requests, but also a wave of inquiries. Even if you stick to seasonal in-house support staff, the onboarding process can cost a substantial amount of money and time. Outsourced teams are far more scalable, being able to tend to spikes in demand almost instantly.

In the Beginning

It can take years of training and experience for internal staff to match the expertise of a support team at a reputable outsourcing partner. If your company is still in its infancy, or you haven’t yet established a customer service department, handing over the function to a third party might be the better option.

Not only will it ensure that you can provide good support from day one, but it can also help you learn how an effective team works. Your vendor might let you in on some advice or guidance that you wouldn’t get elsewhere.

Aside from doing it solely to save money, you should also avoid outsourcing if it’s only to avoid dealing with customer service. This is one area where you can’t take a hands-off approach. An effective outsourcing partnership requires both parties to contribute. Stay in touch, keep training and ask for regular feedback on quality and performance.

The ‘Right’ Reasons to Outsource Your Customer Support

It’s easy to see why more and more businesses are choosing to outsource their customer service department. Making the move can save money, improve coverage, reduce liability and allow internal employees to focus on core tasks. But there are also some potential drawbacks, including quality control and communication barriers.

How can you decide whether or not you should hand over your support needs to an outsourcing partner? It would certainly help to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Your Direction isn’t Clear

This includes maintaining a stable and satisfactory support service during times of uncertainty. If you foresee an imminent period of growth, then outsourcing will enable you to onboard additional agents much faster. Instead of going through the lengthy recruitment and training process, you can quickly request an increase to your workforce. This will help you keep up with demand as the tickets start pouring in.

You’re Inexperienced or Just Starting Out

While hiring one new internal employee might only take a few months, it can be years before a full team has undergone enough training and experience to match the expertise already present among leading outsourcing companies.

If your business just recently entered the market or is yet to build its customer service department, letting a third-party vendor do the work may be the best approach. In doing so, you’ll be able to provide top-notch support from the get-go while gaining valuable insight from the provider’s team.

To Reduce Operational Costs

Customer service outsourcing enables you to hire agents on an as-needed basis rather than dealing with all of the costs associated with facilitating full-time employees. You can pay an hourly rate or exclusively for specific results such as leads generated or minutes spent on calls.

You can also save thousands in setup and infrastructure costs, leaving you with more capital to put towards other departments that drive growth.

To Increase Support Coverage Quickly

As we touched on earlier, outsourcing serves as a reliable way to rapidly increase your available support staff. This can come in handy during busier holiday seasons. It’s also suitable during mergers, acquisitions and other scenarios where your business experiences a sudden influx of new customers.

To Streamline Repetitive Tasks

Nobody enjoys doing the same menial tasks over and over – especially when they could be using their talents elsewhere to provide more value. Your internal support team’s time is likely better spent on other projects. So, if you find yourself constantly dealing with the same issues, look into outsourcing those processes instead.

To Increase Global Coverage

Perhaps you plan on expanding your geographical reach in the near future. This may require hiring support staff with multilingual capabilities. It can also incur additional expenses such as higher prices for international calls. And if you want to provide quality support, you’ll need agents who can relate to the locals in more ways than just language.

Outsourcing your customer service needs to a vendor that’s located in the new region can solve these problems. Additionally, you’ll be able to advertise the move and win over more customers.

These are all valid reasons to outsource your customer service needs. Keep them in mind when putting together your support strategy.

The ‘Wrong’ Reasons to Outsource Your Customer Service

If your business is yet to venture into outsourcing, you might be wondering whether customer service is a suitable candidate. Perhaps you’ve already moved certain functions to third-party providers in other departments and simply want to know if you can take the same approach with support.

Regardless, it helps to understand the reasons for outsourcing. Valid objectives include reducing operational costs, streamlining repetitive tasks and increasing your coverage. But with all the myths and misconceptions going around today, there are also certain pitfalls that you want to avoid.

Consider these the ‘wrong’ reasons to outsource your customer service. Being aware of them will enable you to make a more informed decision.

To Exercise High Budget Cuts

While cost cutting is what drives most companies to outsource in the first place, you need to be careful with just how much you intend to save. Aim too low and it will negatively affect your service quality. This will only prove to be more expensive in the long run as you’ll spend more time handling problems than providing solutions.

This is particularly true when working with overseas vendors. Customer service companies in countries such as India and Central America can be far more affordable than those in the Western world. They’re often the best option for handling menial support requests that are sapping your internal team’s resources.

However, they come with a few potential concerns. This includes:

  • Language barriers
  • Cultural differences
  • Outdated technology
  • Security issues

Keep these at the front of your mind when looking abroad to meet your outsourcing needs. Service quality is the priority, not your budget. Unsatisfied customers are less likely to return and you don’t want to risk compromising sensitive data.

To Avoid Support Responsibilities

Another important thing to consider is the intention behind your outsourcing move. It shouldn’t be done to avoid having to think about customer service. You might be handing over certain tasks, but that doesn’t mean letting go of the associated responsibilities.

Successful outsourcing partnerships are built on regular communication and effort from both parties. Leave your provider in the dark and they’ll have free rein to make mistakes that are only noticed when it’s too late.

The vendor may also become disconnected from your brand. This can result in dropping support quality as they forget to uphold your values and provide services in keeping with your objectives. Remember to provide the necessary guidelines and ask for regular feedback reports so that you can monitor your partner’s performance.

To Make a Quick Fix

While most outsourcing companies are experts in their field, they won’t necessarily be able to solve all your problems overnight. A winning support service is built on time, effort, planning and consistency. You’ll likely have to invest a few weeks or months into coaching your external team and getting them onboard with your mission.

Be sure to plan ahead and account for the initial stages of the partnership, which are mostly spent on training.

As long as you keep these factors in mind, you can expect to enter a fruitful partnership with your outsourcing provider. Spend some time researching and finding a reliable company before you take the next step.

What do I Need to Know Before Hiring Customer Service Providers?

If you’re familiar with outsourcing, you probably know how important it is to find the right provider. Partnering with the wrong company can cause too many headaches to justify the effort. Make a more informed decision and you can look forward to a fruitful relationship.

But before you start searching for an external team, you should take the time to develop a strategy for achieving your customer service outsourcing goals. This will help you gain as much value as possible from the move. You can also mitigate potential risks and facilitate a smoother transition. Here’s what you need to know.

The Why

Consider your reasons for outsourcing. Remember that making it work requires commitment. So, if you’re only aiming to reduce expenses or avoid having to worry about customer service, then it may not be the best decision.

On the other hand, focusing on core competencies, improving your coverage, and preparing for spikes in demand are all valid reasons to outsource customer service.

Keep these objectives in mind when communicating with your partner in the future. They must have systems in place for tracking and reporting their performance. This ensures that external support meets quality standards and works in accordance with your goals.

Communication Guidelines

Similarly, a good provider will be able to adopt the voice that customers are used to hearing from your business. Whether it’s typed or spoken, the vendor’s messages should sound like they’re coming from your internal staff.

In order to make this happen, you need to supply the necessary training and literature. This includes brand guidelines that specify your rules regarding language and etiquette. Later on, you can simulate hypothetical scenarios to assess the reactions and identify room for improvement.

Your Options

Not all outsourced support services are the same. One call centre can be excellent at in-depth conversations, while another might be better at handling repetitive interactions in high volumes. Needless to say that there are major differences in pricing as well, especially if you set your sights abroad.

Overseas vendors come with their own unique challenges, including the possibility of time zone crossovers, communication barriers and cultural differences that can make it difficult to work together.

Data Privacy

Another challenge that isn’t necessarily unique to offshore providers (but is more likely to pose a threat with them) is the security of your customer data. Start by reviewing your internal policies and security measures. Identify sensitive information, such as financial details and health records, before restricting access accordingly.

It’s a good idea to have a legal team review any binding contracts that you sign with providers. Make sure that the vendor also has the relevant certifications and processes in place to protect information on their side.

Training Time

Regardless of your schedule, you’ll need to dedicate a sufficient amount of resources to training external support staff. This is essential to providing quality customer service. Aim to carry out the following tasks:

  • Implement a system to track basic measures of productivity
  • Establish communication protocols for separate time zones
  • Create a flexible onboarding process
  • Set up a meeting schedule for obtaining feedback reports
  • Ensure that internal and external teams can collaborate effectively
  • Provide written guides to educate new agents faster

Collaboration Tools

Since you’ll need to get in touch with external teams on a regular basis, the appropriate tools can improve your efficiency.

This includes communication software. Slack, Skype, Basecamp and HipChat are some of the more popular options. If you’re paying an hourly rate, Time Doctor, Freshbooks and Quickbooks are great apps for keeping track of compensation. Project management software such as Asana, Scoro and Notion can keep teams organised.

Once you have these areas covered, you can confidently take the next step and start looking for a suitable customer service provider. Remember to perform due diligence when choosing between vendors. A careful and considerate approach will serve you best.

How to Select the Best Customer Service Outsourcing Companies

Building and maintaining an in-house customer service team is no small undertaking. Internal employees need to be hired, trained, compensated, and managed effectively. This only happens after investing in the necessary infrastructure and technologies. Don’t forget about office space.

Rather than bearing the burden of these expenses, you can transfer key support functions to a third-party provider. Customer service outsourcing companies offer flexible access to skilled workers and the latest tools. You’re probably familiar with the benefits of making the move.

Equally important is knowing what separates the pros from the posers when selecting an outsourcing partner. Some vendors may leave you with more problems than solutions. Use the following guidelines to make an informed decision.

Cover the Basics

Hone in on suitable candidates by evaluating these key factors.

Quality Control:

Can the vendor uphold the standards expected by your customers? What are their procedures for quality assurance? Good outsourcing companies send regular feedback reports to help you track their performance and identify areas for improvement.

Transition Methodology:

Ask the vendor to describe their typical onboarding process. They should follow an effective transition methodology to ensure a quick and seamless experience. You don’t want to deal with any hurdles, especially when it comes to functions that need to be operational as soon as possible.

Relevant Expertise:

Has the provider worked with businesses in your industry before? Are they familiar with the unique challenges and demands of your market? External teams that know your audience deliver better support and faster resolutions.

Strategic Alliances:

Does the outsourcing company have any strategic alliances? These can be highly valuable to your partnership. Look out for vendors that work with the likes of methodology consultants, testing companies, disaster recovery specialists and marketing agencies.

Location:

While often more affordable, customer service providers that operate from third-world countries may present unique challenges. This includes cultural and linguistic barriers that don’t lend well to productive relationships. Location also affects availability, so remember to consider time zones.

Obtain and Contact References

Reliable outsourcing partners have proven track records. They should let you get in touch with current and previous clients, who you can contact to ask about their experience. The vendor might be working with one of your competitors. If they’re doing a good job, then you can safely expect them to handle your support needs.

Assess Their Staff and Infrastructure

Each industry has certain requirements when it comes to customer service. This can include technology and security certifications, language proficiency, and quality standards. Your external team should have the skills and experience that would be present among in-house staff. They must be able to accurately represent your brand and uphold your values.

It’s a good idea to observe the people managing the team. Coaches and day-to-day supervisors are responsible for how their support workers will interact with your customers.

Identify Integration Opportunities

Check if the provider can integrate your customer service data with other elements such as your CRM. This will enable you to gain a more comprehensive overview of your support services as well as the pain points and demands of your customers. Social media integration is another possibility that can help you get an edge with your support.

Understand Their Pricing Model

Know how you will be charged and when. Outsourced call centers shouldn’t charge for hold times and some round up to the next minute while others round up to the next second, for instance. Many vendors structure their pricing around time or the number of interactions but can also charge for each agent.

Try to find providers that use incentives. This can include tiered bonuses that encourage employees to deliver better service. Always keep in mind that the lowest prices are usually indicative of subpar results.

Discuss Policies and Procedures

Aside from feedback and reporting, there should also be policies in place to maintain the security of your customer data. The outsourcing company will likely have access to sensitive information, so you need assurance that it’s going to be used and stored safely. Check whether there are measures in place to protect from cybercrime, fraud, and disasters.

Before going further, make sure that you know exactly what you want to gain from your outsourcing move. Having set requirements and objectives will help you identify a winning provider.

How to Handle a Successful Outsourcing Customer Service

Before you start searching for any kind of external help, you should take the time to draw up an outsourcing strategy. A positive experience is vital to your customer service offerings. So, if you’re considering putting any of that support in the hands of another company, it’s crucial that you do it right.

Consider the following steps for handling a successful outsourcing customer service.

Establish Brand Voice and Tone Guidelines

Your customers are used to hearing a certain voice when they come to you for help. The language, tone and overall style should be consistent with your brand image. This is true for all support channels, including email and chat services.

When you transfer those channels to an off-site provider, you want to make sure that external agents sound the same. Create a set of guidelines that detail what can be said and how common scenarios should be approached.

It will help to run through simulations of interactions that may happen in the future. This will give you an idea of how your outsourced team reacts. They’ll inevitably deal with the odd difficult request, so you need to know that they can handle those situations in the correct manner.

Set Clear Goals

There are two ways to approach this. You can set goals based on what you want from your partner or what you want for your company. The latter begins with defining the why behind your outsourcing move.

If it’s to cut costs, for example, then specify a figure for how much you want to save before discussing prices with anyone. Some businesses outsource to allow their internal staff to focus on core competencies. In that case, you need to ensure that the external team will be capable in covering their roles.

Remember to define what you want from the provider as well. Do you prefer them to focus on existing clients or set their sights on new ones? What services do you expect? Be clear with your objectives when negotiating.

Include your legal department in the discussion to address any potential security concerns. There may be restrictions when it comes to what data you can share with a third party.

Think About Your Customer

No matter how great they are, your outsourcing partner (or anyone else for that matter) doesn’t know your customers as well as you do. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your external support team is well-informed. Define your buyer persona and use your experiences to develop a strategy for vendors to follow when carrying out their support.

Set Aside Time for Training

It would be a mistake to expect your customers to start receiving outsourced support from day one. You’ll need to put many hours into educating your external team if you want them to perform up to your quality standards. Here are some tips to establish a productive relationship:

  • Organise a system for efficient communication between time zones
  • Use software for quick audio and visual discussions
  • Develop a standard onboarding process
  • Consider meeting in person and interviewing the team
  • Get internal staff to help with coaching

Measure Success

It’s imperative that you keep tabs on what your outsourced customer service provider is up to. Leaving them in the dark is a recipe for disaster. Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) such as ticket volume, resolution time and customer satisfaction ratings. Then ensure that your partner can accurately track and deliver these statistics on a regular basis.

You don’t have to micromanage your external team to control the results. As long as you’re frequently informed on their performance, you can evaluate the numbers and make adjustments accordingly.

Talk to Multiple Providers

The last thing you should do is settle for the cheapest or first outsourcing provider that seems to fit the bill. You need to spend a considerable amount of time sifting through the options that meet your requirements. Some potential partners will be more suitable for your needs than others.

For instance, one call centre can be great at answering large volumes of repetitive requests. Another might be better at handling detailed and complex situations that require a special touch. Remember to consider other factors such as time zone differences, language options and available channels.

Be Responsible for Quality and Training

As we touched on earlier, your company knows and cares about its customers more than anyone else. It’s also likely that your outsourcing provider works with several different businesses at once. This can make it challenging for them to maintain a strong focus on your specific needs and expectations.

For this reason, it’s important to commit to working with them to ensure that external agents are kept up-to-date and up-to-standard at all times. Holding regular meetings can assist in making this happen.

Don’t Expect Huge Cost Savings from the Start

While it stands to reason that you’ll be saving a massive portion of your customer service budget when outsourcing, it shouldn’t be expected right away. It also shouldn’t be your priority. Stay focused on quality and ensuring the best possible customer experience. The costs will come down in due course, but not unless you put in the work.

Consider Legal and Security Issues

Start by reviewing your internal security measures and procedures before looking at those followed by your vendor. Identify sensitive customer data (credit card details, health records, etc.) and restrict access where necessary.

It’s a good idea to have a legal team available when signing any contracts. They’ll have the expertise to review the documents and identify any areas of concern. Don’t hesitate to ask the outsourcing provider about their approach to security. Do they have any encryption tools? What about data recovery in the event of a breach?

Invest in Your Internal Tools and Systems

Using the right systems and tools extends to your own company. While you interview your vendor, you should also consider your own capabilities. This can include having the right software for project management, communication, time tracking, billing, security and more. Assess the resources your internal team uses before allowing external access.

Build a Partnership of Two-Way Communication

The main reason to have effective communication tools is to maintain a productive and regular meeting schedule. Successful partnerships are built on open, clear and consistent communication. Your outsourcing partner should have no problem being transparent about what’s working and what isn’t.

They could even provide insight on what their own support agents are learning that could be useful to your internal staff. Exchanging insights is a great way to build a fruitful relationship.

Understand Your Incoming Support Queries

This is where analytics come in handy. Provided that your vendor sends regular feedback, you can analyse the data and identify room for improvement. Are there certain types of interactions that are better off being handled by internal staff? Can you categorise conversations so that they can automatically move in the right direction?

At the end of the day, your customers will determine the effectiveness of your support services. If they’re getting responsive and friendly help, then who they’re getting it from won’t matter. Outsourcing has incredible value, but it’s up to you to realise that potential by putting in the necessary time and effort.

Pros and Cons of Outsourced Customer Service

Growing demand and increased interest in your business is one of the better problems to have. But as your inboxes fill up and calls go unanswered, you can begin to miss opportunities to leverage new customers and continue providing quality service.

Outsourcing aims to address this by allowing you to effectively handle higher volumes of requests. However, it isn’t about cutting corners. You need to ensure that every interaction between agent and customer is a positive experience. Part of this comes with knowing the pros and cons of outsourced support.

This can help you determine how to make the most out of the benefits and mitigate any drawbacks. Let’s get started.

Pros of Outsourcing Customer Service

  1. Cost Savings

The most obvious advantage is that handing over your support needs to a third-party vendor is far more affordable than building and maintaining an internal team. Your provider will take on a number of costs including hiring, training and compensating staff. You also won’t have to pay for infrastructure, equipment, technology and office space.

  1. Coverage

With outsourced customer support, you can ‘out-service’ your competitors by handling requests after business hours as well as on weekends and holidays. You can even partner with an offshore company to provide support around the clock. This also presents the opportunity to deliver your services to new regions.

  1. Language Options

In a similar vein, you can broaden your customer base by offering a wider range of language options. Many outsourcing providers have multilingual teams. You can then advertise the feature to win over more customers.

  1. Workload

Emails and phone calls can distract you and your team from more important priorities. By outsourcing your support needs, your business can focus on core competencies that drive growth. Everyone will have more time and resources to put towards doing what they do best, which leads to happier and more productive employees.

  1. Response Times

With more expert hands on deck, you may benefit from being able to satisfy your customers with faster replies to their requests. This leads to more positive experiences and a better perception of your brand.

  1. Technological Resources

The best vendors have access to the latest hardware and software, which includes resources that your business may not currently be able to invest in. This further improves the quality of service provided to your customers.

Cons of Outsourcing Customer Service

  1. Disconnection

Traditionally, outsourcing companies work with several businesses at any given time. This makes it inherently difficult for them to focus and prioritise your individual needs. Your partner might struggle to work in keeping with your values and objectives. This is why it’s important to find the right vendor and maintain regular communication throughout.

  1. Contract Terms

Entering any kind of relationship with an outsourcing partner requires signing a contract. You’ll likely need a legal team on hand to ensure that there aren’t any caveats or clauses that you wouldn’t be happy with. And while most providers today are flexible, you may be forced into rigid terms such as long periods and minimum requirements.

  1. Security Issues

Since this process involves sensitive customer data, outsourcing comes at the risk of having your company information compromised. Of course, this depends on who you work with and what measures are in place to mitigate the risk. Make sure that your provider is well-equipped to keep your data private and safe.

Offshore Concerns

Let’s end off with a few potential concerns that are unique to overseas customer service outsourcing providers. While they often charge much lower rates, there are some things you need to be aware of.

  1. Language Barrier

Naturally, you may end up contending with misunderstandings and miscommunication. This applies to both your own interactions with the provider and that of your customers. Needless to say that it can reflect negatively on your brand. Make this a non-issue by testing out the provider’s service first.

  1. Cultural Barriers

The same applies to cultural differences between your country and the one an offshore provider operates from. They can get in the way of customer engagement in several ways. Agents may believe they’re being polite while your customers perceive them as rude, for example. Once again, it comes down to being diligent in your selection.

As long as you keep these factors in mind, you can reduce the likelihood of having to deal with any problems when outsourcing your customer service needs. This allows you to reap the benefits to their fullest potential and propel your business forward.

Switching to an Outsourced Support Team

If you have any outsourcing experience, you probably know a thing or two about choosing the right team. Contacting past clients, assessing policies, running tests and comparing prices can all assist in selecting a reliable vendor. But there’s more to it than that. Many businesses find making the move to be more complicated than expected.

Considerations abound, and you’ll likely need to spend a few weeks or months thoughtfully delegating responsibilities. Use the following guidelines to switch successfully and take full advantage of your outsourced support team.

Lawyer Up

Whenever you enter an outsourcing partnership, you need to carefully analyse the contracts and their terms. If you don’t completely understand the documents yourself, hiring a specialist lawyer is a good idea. They have the expertise to identify any areas of concern and predict what you may need moving forward.

As you discuss the contract with your provider, don’t hesitate to suggest any changes or additions. Pay attention to the conditions surrounding what happens when you want to end the relationship. Some vendors have strict terms that lock you into the contract for a specific period of time.

Another element to keep in mind are the service level agreements. Consider how they might apply to your business and ensure that the contract sufficiently meets your quality standards.

Appoint a Manager

Your internal and external support teams need to stay in touch. The best way to do this is to hire an on-site staff member whose role is to facilitate effective communication with your outsourcing partner. Managers can keep both parties on the same page about current events and ensure that important messages are delivered.

This will prevent misunderstandings when it comes to guidelines and expectations. They can also be valuable during training as well as being responsible for keeping tabs on performance.

Plan Your Projects

Working with an outsourced customer service team requires the presence of three key team members:

  • Project leader
  • Process migration manager
  • Technology manager (if your needs are complex)

The project leader is responsible for training external recruits and providing communication solutions. They should also assist in creating monthly reports. Your migration manager maps and documents processes in addition to providing guidelines for staff to follow. Technology managers handle your hardware and software.

Share Knowledge

Training an external customer service team can take a considerable amount of time. To speed up the process, you can establish a knowledge base for your provider. It can include material such as:

  • Product manuals
  • Training content
  • Interaction guidelines
  • Answers to FAQs

Your outsourcing partner can then access this knowledge base on a regular basis to receive updates or be informed about any changes to daily procedures. If you want your external team to utilise certain tools, then it will help to provide some information pertaining to using the software effectively.

Develop a Review System

While some of the main customer service outsourcing reasons include being able to focus elsewhere, it’s still crucial that you make sure your partner is doing a good job. This starts by asking about their feedback procedures. They should have a way to accurately track and report on their performance.

You can improve on this by making periodic calls or sending occasional support requests to test their responses. Use tools for obtaining metrics like dropped calls and volume fluctuations to identify areas for improvement.

Get these factors right and you’ll be on your way to a successful outsourcing partnership. Remember to take some time to ensure that everything is done correctly. Rest-assured that your efforts will pay off in due course.

How Much Does Customer Service Outsourcing Cost?

What can you expect to spend when outsourcing your customer service functions? Will it be more affordable than running an internal support team? After all, cost savings are one of the main reasons why businesses outsource in the first place. Let’s start by looking at how moving can reduce your expenses.

Why Outsourcing is Cheaper

Establishing and maintaining an on-site customer service department has several costs. Many of them can be cut out of the picture by choosing to outsource. This includes:

  • Staff recruitment and compensation
  • Benefits
  • Office space
  • Hardware and software
  • Infrastructure and utilities

Remember that with in-house employees, you’re still paying them when they’re taking a coffee break or waiting for a call. This isn’t necessarily the case with external teams, as you can opt for pricing models that charge for each minute or ticket solved. Some providers even offer the ability to pay per lead generated.

That’s not even mentioning the people who manage internal staff. This can include a team supervisor, quality assurance specialist and human resources manager. They too require salaries, bonuses, sick leave, and so forth.

Elements of the Outsourcing Cost

So, what do you pay for when you partner with a customer service outsourcing company? The final price can incorporate the following components:

  • Onboarding and training
  • Office rent and hardware
  • Software licenses
  • Analytics
  • Admin processes

It can also depend on how prepared the vendor is to meet your needs. Sometimes, external agents can take one or two weeks to receive the necessary guidance on a new client’s values, tone and approach to customer service. If the outsourcing company still has to recruit the right workers, then the process can take additional time and money.

Pricing Models

As for how you pay for everything, it comes down to the way your outsourcing partner charges for their work. Outbound and inbound call centres, for example, utilise a number of different pricing structures. This includes:

  • Shared call centres that charge per minute
  • Dedicated call centres that charge for each agent
  • Hourly rates based on average wages for the region
  • Performance-based payment model

Some providers use the latter two pricing structures to create a hybrid model. This can be ideal as it involves a predictable and stable hourly fee combined with the benefits of a performance-based incentive.

Average Pricing Around the World

According to 2020 data from Syrow, the figures listed below represent the average hourly rates charged by outsourced call centres in their respective regions:

  • United States and Canada: £15 to £22
  • Western Europe: £30+
  • Eastern Europe: £9 to £18
  • Australia: £26 to £41
  • Africa and the Middle East: £11 to £15
  • Latin America: £6 to £13
  • Asia and the Philippines: £6 to £10
  • India: £4 to £7

The same source indicates the differences between pricing structures used by outsourced call centres as follows:

Inbound Call Centres

  • Shared offshore rates: £0.20 to £0.35 per minute
  • Shared US rates: £0.56 to £0.94 per minute
  • Dedicated offshore rates: £6 to £11 per hour
  • Dedicated US rates: £15 to £22 per hour

Outbound Call Centres

  • Hourly fees in India: £4.50 to £7.50
  • Hourly fees in Western countries: £15 to £22 per hour
  • Commission: 10% to 20% on top of standard hourly rates

According to WOW24-7 data, outsourced call centres can cost a total of anywhere from £1,100 to £8,000 per month depending on channels and multilingual support. Call volume also plays a role here.

Another point worth noting is that a reliable customer service outsourcing company can shelter you from costly liabilities. This includes restructuring after a natural disaster, data loss due to a cyberattack and implementing the security measures that protect against them.

Needless to say, that outsourcing can easily work out to be more affordable than an internal customer service team.

Outsourced Customer Service Channels

These days, businesses have more options than ever when it comes to the channels they use to help their customers. As for which are the most effective, the question can only be answered with that annoyingly unsatisfying phrase – it depends. Delivering the best support comes with doing it on the channels where your customers are.

That’s usually more than one platform, so most companies take an omnichannel approach. The problem is that it can be costly in terms of money, time and human resources. One reliable solution is to outsource your customer service needs. In doing so, you can take the workload off your internal team and allow them to focus on core competencies.

Here are the most popular outsourced customer service channels.

Email Support

This platform is a prime candidate for outsourcing, as many businesses take hours or even days to respond to tickets. Email is also highly favourable. According to Salesforce, around 91% of consumers use the channel on a daily basis.

If your inbox is constantly flooded, then handing over the process to a third-party vendor is a good idea. They can provide assurance that your customer’s messages will be responded to within a few minutes. Outsourcing the function has other benefits as well, including being able to leverage the provider’s analytics tools to obtain useful insights.

Phone Support

Despite the emergence of alternative channels, phone support remains the preferred way for consumers to get in touch with agents and is still the most widely used platform. However, call centres take a sizable internal team to run successfully, not to mention all the equipment and office space.

For these reasons, it’s certainly worth looking into outsourcing your phone support needs to a reliable provider. Make sure to find a vendor that meets your quality standards and is capable of adopting your brand’s voice.

Social Media Support

Even if you’re selling walking sticks, chances are that the vast majority of your customers are on social media. When they need to voice a complaint or simply make an enquiry, they may be compelled to do it through their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account. An outsourced provider can help you stay on top of their requests.

Mobile App Support

Forward-thinking businesses are increasingly making use of mobile apps to increase engagement with their audience. If you happen to offer your own app, then incorporating a support service is a great idea. Users will find it highly convenient as it involves less steps than other channels.

Once again, outsourcing the management of your mobile app support will allow you to focus on other areas of business that are more conducive to growth.

Live Chat Support

Out of all the new customer service channels, live chat is arguably the most successful. Consumers enjoy the speed and convenience of being able to ‘text’ a support representative through their web browser without the need for additional software or an extra phone bill.

Since live chat mostly deals with simple and repetitive requests, the channel is a suitable candidate for outsourcing.

Remember that you don’t necessarily have to outsource every facet of your customer service. In fact, taking a hybrid approach and delegating processes strategically can serve as an even better approach.

Software Commonly Used for Customer Service

Not even the world’s best agents can provide a winning experience unless they’re equipped with the necessary tools. Outdated solutions like spreadsheets and shared inboxes are no longer capable of meeting consumer demands. They also make the work of support staff less efficient.

To stay competitive and keep everyone satisfied, your business needs to invest in the latest customer service software. Make the right choices and you can reap several benefits:

  • Valuable insights
  • Superior scalability
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Improved customer loyalty
  • Streamlined workflows and collaboration

Read on to learn about your best options.

Types of Customer Service Software

There are five core types of software that are commonly used for customer service today. This includes:

  1. Service desk software
  2. Messaging and chat systems
  3. Phone support tools
  4. Knowledge base software
  5. Customer relationship management (CRM) software

Each category has a variety of options from different vendors. Some developers provide budget-friendly tools that are suitable for small businesses. Others offer more expensive platforms with superior features and capabilities. As for what exactly they do, the following section has some quick details.

Features of Customer Service Software

We can split the features of customer service software into six primary focus areas:

  1. Collecting: Includes contact forms and other types of tools that funnel information.
  2. Organising: Creates useful structures to simplify the process of managing high volumes of requests.
  3. Collaborating: Allows support staff to work together efficiently and effectively.
  4. Responding: Text editors and messaging tools that make it easy to reply to customers.
  5. Integrating: Connects different software together for improved workflows.
  6. Analysing and Reporting: Helps teams gain a better understanding of their interactions.

Now that we have a better idea of what customer service software is for, we can take a look at a few of the most popular options available to businesses today.

Best Customer Service Software

When it comes to ticketing, tools like Zoho Desk are perfect for companies that require a powerful and affordable solution. Their ‘free forever’ plan can be used by up to three agents with features including a help centre, email ticketing, private knowledge base, multilingual help desk and even a mobile app.

As for CRM software, one of the most well-recognised on the market is HubSpot. They offer a wide range of solutions in the customer service space with competitive pricing. Their starter plan is packed with several useful tools including meeting scheduling, calling and staff productivity reports.

There’s also LiveAgent, which is currently the name in live chat support. Not only does their software include tools for chats and ticketing; they also provide voice and video calling features as well as email and social media integration.

Here are a couple of other customer service tools to consider:

  • Zendesk for full support suite functionality
  • Groove for small teams and startups
  • Help Scout for non-profits
  • Freshdesk for switching platforms
  • Salesforce Service Cloud for field service agents

Let’s end off with some guidelines to help you choose the right customer service software for your needs.

How to Choose Customer Service Software

Start by understanding what you want to accomplish. Do you require a high-touch approach or a mass-volume solution? What can you afford to pay? Be sure to assess your resources. There’s no use looking for more powerful systems if you’re on a shoestring budget. Different tools suit different scenarios.

Once you have a better idea of what you require, you can start narrowing down your options. Draw up a list of the features you’re looking for and choose accordingly. Reading reviews and recommendations can help you make a more informed decision. Ideally, your software of choice will offer a trial so you can test before you buy.

There are tons of different customer service tools available on the internet today. Take some time to find those that suit your needs and the benefits of using the right software will quickly become apparent.