Outsourcing a business process to save costs and gain access to specialized expertise is nothing new.
Customer support is one business process outsourcing (BPO) service that has seen consistent demand over the last decade.
Outsourcing customer support to a high-quality customer service BPO can have significant benefits like increased brand reputation, easy scalability, and better work efficiency. However, it can also cause serious concerns about security and loss of productivity.
So if you’re looking to outsource customer support, it’s crucial to gain a deeper insight into its benefits and challenges.
In this article, we’ll explore the five key benefits and four major concerns of outsourcing to a customer support BPO. We’ll also break down the qualities you should look for in a service provider so you can ensure excellent customer service.
Table of Contents
- 5 key benefits of working with a customer service BPO
- 4 important concerns of working with a customer service BPO
- What to look for in a customer service service provider
- 5 types of call centers
5 key benefits of working with a customer service BPO
BPO or Business Process Outsourcing is the process of outsourcing or handing over a business process to a third-party service provider.
So customer service BPO means passing over the same to a support team of outsourced customer service agents.
While outsourcing your customer support has many benefits, we’ll explore the five most important ones.
1. Reduce costs
This is the key reason why companies choose customer service outsourcing. Firstly, it helps save the cost of setting up an office and helpdesks and providing agents with the necessary new technology. Secondly, it also saves you the capital needed to fund training agents to widen their knowledge base.
Outsourcing to a reputed customer service BPO gives you ready access to third-party service providers with expert personnel, necessary infrastructure, and streamlined workflows to provide excellent customer service.
2. Access specialized expertise
A key advantage of outsourcing to a customer service BPO is accessing specialized expertise that may not be available within your in-house team. For instance, if you’re looking to generate quality sales leads, you can choose to outsource to a reputed outbound customer service BPO.
A customer service BPO is also well-versed in managing quality assurance teams and helping you measure their output through KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and other metrics. This can help you decide if the outsourced expertise is beneficial to your company’s growth.
3. Get the best customer service agents
When hiring a service provider, you gain access to their customer service representatives who can solve all customer problems and provide high-quality customer support, no matter the issue.
The outsourced agents are trained to:
- Handle inbound customer services, such as 24/7 customer helplines, technical assistance, etc.
- Provide outbound support, including upselling, cross-selling, market research, cold calling, etc.
- Deal with high call volumes when your business decides to scale up.
- Ensure quality assurance by correlating customer sentiment with key metrics like call duration, First Contact Resolution (FCR), hold time, Net Promoter Score (NPS), etc.
4. Gain the flexibility to scale
Since your company’s customer service is handed off to another specialized service provider, you can focus on your core competencies and scale exponentially.
Let’s say you’re an American software company planning to scale a mobile app in Poland. An outsourced customer service BPO in Poland can handle your customer support while you focus on quickly scaling the marketing of your app.
5. Eliminate lengthy HR procedures
Human Resources (HR) are an integral part of any company. However, maintaining a separate HR team for your call center can quickly eat into your bottom line. Additionally, hiring and maintaining experienced agents is a costly endeavor that you can hand over to your service provider.
Customer service BPOs can help because they have access to specialized talent in their countries. They’re also able to optimize their recruitment process using:
- Volume hiring software.
- Employee referrals.
- Strong reputation and employer branding.
As a result, BPO vendors have a large workforce waiting for new opportunities and clients.
While all these benefits are a good reason to outsource your customer services, you should also be aware of some drawbacks of the process.
4 important concerns of working with a customer service BPO
Here are four limitations you need to consider before deciding to outsource your customer service:
1. Additional training
Since the outsourced agents aren’t familiar with your business culture and values, you may need to provide additional company-specific training about your products/services, customer needs, technical support, etc. However, call center agents are trained to pick up these details quickly to provide seamless service.
2. Security concerns
Providing access to confidential customer information to a third-party company may lead to a security and privacy breach.
This is primarily because digital data is accessible to people through a shared network. BPO security threats include phishing, hacking, malware, etc.
However, this can easily be prevented through company-wide security solutions like firewalls and blacklisted IP addresses.
You can also ensure that the outsourcing provider meets your business’ security and data privacy standards through careful screening.
3. Communication and language barriers
Outsourcing customer service to a third-party company may lead to communication and language issues, especially in a different country.
- A difference in accents between agents and customers.
- Use of slang or culturally specific idioms.
- Cultural differences and a lack of cultural context.
However, with recent technological advances, global communication has become a breeze. Additionally, most customer service outsourcing companies hire multilingual agents that can cater to multiple markets.
4. Agent productivity concerns
Not having your customer service teamwork from the same location as you can cause apprehensions about their productivity and performance.
Let’s say you’re paying your outsourced customer service team by the hour, and they can’t meet their targets without a reasonable explanation. There’s no way for you to check if the agents have been productive during the hours you’re paying them for.
Unless you’re using a time tracking software such as Time Doctor!
Time Doctor can help you analyze how your agents are working, where they’re spending their time, and how you can improve workflows.
Its key features include:
- Manual and automatic time tracking ensures your outsourced team is accurately tracking their work hours.
- Idle time tracking eliminates unproductive time from total work hours and helps with accurate billable hours for agents.
- An optional screencasts feature monitors your outsourced team’s desktop activity while they’re working.
- Productivity ratings classify different apps and websites as productive or unproductive.
- Multiple comprehensive productivity reports you can view in real-time.
Check out Time Doctor’s features page for an in-depth explanation of its offerings!
So how do you pick the right customer support service provider?
We’ll explore that in the next section!
What to look for in a customer service service provider
Choosing a BPO service provider for your customer care needs is no easy feat.
With so many call center service providers in the market, you must select the right one for your business needs.
You remember the following points in mind while shopping for a good customer service team.
1. Inbound and/or outbound call center services
Not every business needs both inbound and outbound call center services. It’s on you to first figure out your requirements, so you know how to approach the service provider.
You preferably want to look for one that offers both. The service provider can grow with you if you decide to expand your company’s offerings.
But if you know that you solely require an inbound call center with no outbound services, you can search for one that can support that requirement.
2. Dedicated and/or shared support agents
Ideally, your service provider would offer both dedicated and shared agents.
What’s the difference?
Dedicated agents are assigned solely to your account and don’t deal with multiple clients simultaneously. They give your business their complete attention and are best if you need to provide technical support.
In contrast, shared agents divide their time between different clients and are best suited if your company has more general customer service needs.
Your company could choose either to go for a blended model, which you may find more cost-effective without compromising on the specialized attention of dedicated agents.
3. Availability of necessary technology
Gaining access to new technologies is one of the key reasons companies choose outsourcing.
These technologies can help streamline customer communication, optimize the customer journey, and increase customer retention.
Some common offerings include:
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR).
- Cloud-based omnichannel solutions.
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and other AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions.
- Workforce Management (WFM) and Optimization (WFO) tools.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
- Call center automation, including outbound dialers.
- Advanced data security.
While this is by no means, an exhaustive list and your business may not require every software listed above.
At the same time, if your service provider is equipped and experienced in these, it will help you grow your business and keep up with changing technological customer demands.
If your business deals with sensitive information such as customer healthcare, you need to ensure the service provider is HIPAA-certified, so your customer’s data is always protected.
4. Reporting capabilities
Since call center agents deal directly with your customers, your company’s reputation can be greatly influenced by how well the agents can manage customer expectations.
For this, you may want to use specific KPIs and metrics such as Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Average Handle Time (AHT), and First Call Resolution (FCR), among others, to ensure you’re providing a certain level of support to your customers.
5. Call center agent availability
An important thing to ask your call center service provider is how often an agent will be available.
For instance, if an Indian service provider generally has agents available only during the day for them, that might not fit your American business as you need at least one customer service representative to answer customer calls when it’s daytime for you.
Ideally, you should go for a provider that offers 24/7 coverage so you can grow your business without worrying about whether you’re providing adequate customer support.
6. Minimum monthly call volume
Many call centers have minimum call volume requirements, which may not be feasible for a small business.
On the other hand, if your business primarily relies on customer phone calls, such a call center would be a cost-effective solution.
So it’s best to have an idea about your call volume and whether signing an outsourcing agreement with a provider that features a monthly minimum call volume is beneficial for you in terms of the pricing structure.
7. Business continuity plan
A lack of business continuity can cause you to lose your existing customers and negatively affect customer loyalty in the long run.
While a certain amount of downtime is inevitable in any business, your outsourcing provider must have a plan to deal with power outages, natural disasters, cyber-attacks, etc.
Let’s say your company is outsourcing to locations where power outages are common, such as South Africa. Your BPO partner must be able to provide technical support through a reliable, cloud-based backup solution to deal with such issues.
8. Multilingual customer support
If your business has an international customer base or is looking for potential customers in a new area, you may have to provide customer support in multiple languages.
For this, you can choose a service provider that covers all the areas and languages you want to offer support.
Most companies will have this highlighted on their website, but you can always ask if they support the language you’re looking for. Another tip: ask whether this multilingual answering service will cost extra.
Let’s now look at the different types of call centers and where their expertise lies.
5 types of call centers
Some customer service BPOs focus on being an inbound call center, handling customer issues as they come along. Others act as outbound call centers in charge of market research, lead generation, telemarketing, and sales.
Nowadays, call centers are not limited to simply handling an inbound or outbound call but can cover multiple communication channels to support the entire customer journey.
There are five types of call centers, namely:
1. Virtual call centers
Virtual call centers distribute calls to remote and in-house agents to create a more diversified team. For instance, you can keep in-house agents to attend to a general customer inquiry while remote agents handle more time-intensive calls.
Even before the pandemic, virtual call centers were growing in popularity as they allowed companies to access talent from all over the globe while agents could work from anywhere.
Since agents work from anywhere, companies can also provide customer service in different time zones, languages, and shifts.
2. Inbound call centers
When customers call a call center seeking to talk to a customer service representative, that’s an inbound call. These call center agents handle customer needs such as queries, miscommunication, and other service needs.
Here, agents must be prepared for almost any type of call – time-consuming, short, angry, pleasant, complicated, and straightforward.
Inbound call centers can use technology such as an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to streamline incoming calls.
Read our detailed article on Inbound Call Centers for more.
3. Outbound call centers
Outbound call centers help build strong customer relationships through a follow-up call after the customer has made a purchase. This is because agents are providing proactive assistance and getting ahead of the problem.
For instance, if a customer has a doubt regarding a feature, they might check your FAQ section but may not call your customer support team for clarification.
If an agent calls them asking you for feedback, however, the same customer might be more forthcoming about any issues or doubts they have.
Check out our article on The Clear Guide to Outbound Call Centers for more.
4. Automated call centers
Automated call centers use automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to streamline all customer communication with your company.
These call centers use automated voice recordings to interact with customers with basic queries.
These call centers are sparsely populated and generally deal with more basic customer queries. They also offer customers the option to talk to a customer service representative during the call.
5. Omnichannel contact centers
Omnichannel call centers are quickly gaining popularity for the sheer amount of customer care services they provide.
Here, customers can reach out to a call center agent using various communication channels such as calls, email, text messages, social media, or live chat through your website.
Since these call centers allow the customer to seek help through the medium they’re most comfortable with and not just through a phone call, you’ll often find it referred to as a contact center.
Read more about the difference between a contact center vs. a call center.
BPO services and call center outsourcing can be a cost-effective way of providing customer support in multiple languages and across time zones.
Outsourcing customer service is also a fantastic way to grow your business in new markets while taking advantage of the service provider’s established presence there.
However, to ensure you get the best bang for your buck, thoroughly research different service providers to pick the one that best suits your business needs.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.