Deciding whether to outsource some or all parts of your customer service can be a daunting decision for any business owner – and its one that is often put off for longer than it should
And rightly so. It can be a leap of faith to entrust others with this key element of your business, but very often the benefits are far greater than the actual risks. For smaller businesses a world where you can focus all of your energy on your core business and not have to worry about who will pick up the phone, or respond to each and every web chat or support issue, is often an undiscovered delight.
Business owners making those first steps towards outsourcing customer service will want to find out as much as possible about how it could work for them, so here we’re sharing a handful of the biggest questions and concerns which business owners raise.
Do I go for cost saving offshore options or onshore expertise?
Offshore call centres are still often associated with poor quality phone lines, time delays and advisers who may not really know much about your business products and services.
Offshore customer service centres have (mostly) come a long way from this stereotype and many customer service operations are effectively run at least partially out of countries in different time zones. Indeed there are some benefits such as effective round the clock services.
However for a customer facing service, such as call answering, a UK-based business offers that level of reassurance to customers, cultural knowledge and UK market experience which is hard to replicate elsewhere.
Will someone else really treat our customers in the way that our business would?
A good outsourced customer service department will respond to your customers in exactly the way you would yourself. Each and every company will have a very different customer service requirements and some will be more suited to outsourcing than others. First line support and telephone answering services are often amongst the easier aspects to outsource and still maintain or improve customer service levels. Indeed you can quickly establish your own tailored ways in which you’d like your customers to be addressed and treated.
Make sure to research the market to find the right fit for your brand values, so that your clients and customers will be as happy with an outsourced service as they would be with your own.
Will outsourcing stop my customers from feeling connected to us as a business?
With care it should be possible to find a company who has the in-house experience and the skill to engage and charm your customers. Your customer service will not suffer. In fact, if anything, it will improve significantly, since you will be dealing with experienced professionals. You should be able to find a provider who is willing to study your business, get to grips with your ethos and style and convey that in every single interaction.
Will I be able to trust a team that isn’t employed directly by my company?
Anxiety about handing over to a team that isn’t employed directly by your company is perfectly rational, especially if it is for a directly customer facing role such as taking calls and dealing with appointment bookings. However, loosening the reins a little is what will give your company the space to grow and scale. Trust will come over time. When you first outsource something, you can expect to feel a little apprehensive, but that will soon change with the right partner.
Having a dedicated account manager and facilities such as a secure online portal so will help enormously. In addition take small steps to begin with. It often makes sense to outsource initial customer contact (e.g. first line support) rather than higher functions such as complaints handling since these initial contacts can be handled highly effectively by experienced staff without needing in-depth knowledge of your products and services.
How flexible is outsourcing – will I be tied into a long-term contract?
Outsourcing your calls and web chat for example is far more flexible than recruiting in-house, as you can adapt the amount of work you need as often as you like. Not to mention the fact it cuts out the cost and resource-heavy recruitment process entirely.
Many services offer trial periods and introductory offers so that you can test out the service before you commit to a longer-term contract. Or perhaps you’re only looking to outsource during a certain period – during a holiday, or out of office hours.
Outsourcing at a deeper level will inevitably involve more commitment both in terms of staff training and contract length, and consequently is less flexible, nevertheless it can make sense for some businesses who wish to really stay focused on a growth strategy and need partners with experience in scaling a team quickly.