Whether to outsource is a perennial question for virtually every business. From accountancy to web design you’d be hard pressed to find a business which didn’t outsource some aspect of their operation.
Outsourcing accountancy is an obvious choice for example, but customer service isn’t always something immediately considered for outsourcing. This is in large part because its considered a core part of most businesses.
You may well be asking at this point…
What exactly is customer service?
Customer service is the support you offer your customers, both before and after they buy and use your products or services. Customer service is anything which ensures they have a good and enjoyable experience whilst obtaining the goods and services they’re after. Most people are more than aware that offering high quality customer service ensures you retain customers and reach new customers through recommendations.
Of course customer service now goes far beyond the traditional telephone or face to face experience. It covers a plethora of channels, including email, web, text message, and social media. With the advent of the internet there’s been an enormous growth in self-service support, and automated and AI customer service.
So which parts of customer service can I outsource?
In short: All of it. Anything from telephone answering, web chat and order taking, to technical support, returns handling and payments.
So what reasons might you have for not outsourcing?
Your staff understand your internal systems and processes. They can often navigate their way around the more ‘clunky’ parts of your business, such as an older software system or outdated process. Such idiosyncrasies can cost time and money, but your staff’s ingenuity over time have made them workable. Outsourcing might well expose these issues. Although, arguably outsourcing may be just the nudge you need to change these growth limiting structures.
In-house staff can also understand and have more affinity with your brand and ethos. If those delivering your products or services are also providing some or all of the customer service support, they can provide a level of service and expertise far beyond anything a remote third party could manage.
And finally, in-house staff can be cheaper. In the short term there are costs associated with recruitment, training and human resources, but over time these costs can be offset, provided you can retain those staff.
So why would you outsource then?
For some of the very same reasons you might choose not too! And several more besides.
Your internal processes might not be up to the task. A well oiled customer service specialist organisation can often handle things more efficiently and more expertly. After all, its what they do, day in, day out. They will have developed a deep understanding of what works best across a range of different clients and over many years of perfecting their trade.
For some businesses, customer service levels can vary and keeping a full time team onboard is unnecessary and costly. Outsourcing can offer a great deal of flexibility and in many cases a business might have a mix of outsourced and inhouse staff.
Yes, so we did day that cost can be a reason not to outsource too, but like many things the true answer is: it depends. An efficient outsourced customer service operation can often be cheaper than keeping the function in-house with all the requirements of training, managerial support and human resources.
Finally, and most importantly, for smaller businesses especially, disruption to core business is a key consideration. Staff often have a day job and customer service is an added extra. Many small businesses rely on staff to answer the phone and incoming web chats. This can mean a poor experience for the customer, if the phones aren’t answered quickly, and a poor experience for the staff member who has to stop the work they’re doing each time.
A better quality of service
Web chat and phone answering in particular are examples where outsourcing can make real sense if done well. Its important to choose the right virtual receptionist , but if you do get it right, they will become an excellent extension to your team.