Customer service outsourcing is an appealing idea. Farming out your customer care to an outsourced agent can cut overheads significantly, saving you money, resources, and often, a great deal of stress.
But it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution, and there are no magic outsourcing beans you can use to make the process easier.
That’s why you need to weigh your options carefully, especially when an external company could be directly interacting with your customers.
In this article, we’ll explore customer service outsourcing in detail. We’ll go over its benefits, challenges and offer five actionable tips for flawless customer service outsourcing.
We’ll then cover how to find the right outsourcing partner and highlight three excellent customer support outsourcing companies. Finally, we’ll go over a five-step process for switching to an outsourced customer support team with ease.
This article contains:
(Click on a link for a direct jump to that section)
- What is Customer Service Outsourcing?
- 5 ‘Right’ Reasons To Outsource your Customer Support
- 3 ‘Wrong’ Reasons To Outsource Your Customer Service
- 5 Secrets To Flawless Customer Service Outsourcing
- Which Type of Customer Service Should You Choose?
- How To Find Kickass Customer Service Professionals?
- 3 Top Customer Support Outsourcing Companies
- How to Switch To An Outsourced Support Team?
Let’s jump in.
If you’re looking for an easy way to see which tasks your outsourced customer service agent is working on, check out Time Doctor free for 14 days. You can track what tasks they’re working on, how long each task takes to complete, and see which apps/websites they use in real-time.
What is customer service outsourcing?
Outsourcing customer service involves hiring a third-party company to handle your support services on your behalf.
Now, you may choose to offer a multichannel or omnichannel customer support service to your patrons:
- Multichannel support: providing customer support across two or more channels, such as online and offline messaging, social media, email, etc.
- Omnichannel support: involves collecting all customer information in one place so that it’s easily accessible to your customer support agents across multiple touchpoints.
The correct way to outsource your customer service depends on your business needs. Additionally, you should be open to evaluating vendors who use new and innovative technologies for enhanced Customer Satisfaction (CSAT.)
But how much does outsourcing customer service cost?
The cost can vary depending on the services you need. It may start at 70 cents/minute for a basic answering service and go up to $25/hour for dedicated contact center agents.
If you’re unfamiliar with outsourcing or have never tried it before, check out The Complete Guide To Outsourcing.
5 ‘Right’ reasons to outsource your customer support
Outsourcing your customer service department can be beneficial for several reasons. Let’s look at the five right ones:
1. To lower operational costs
Looking for the same quality of customer support and cost savings?
Outsourcing your customer service staff is a good alternative to hiring a full-time support team.
Outsourcing allows the business owner to hire contract workers rather than full-time employees. This means they don’t have to pay a fixed salary and offer benefits like healthcare, transportation costs, overtime, etc.
As an outsourcer, you can save around a total of $3000 in initial setup and infrastructure costs alone! That’s close to 25 years of Amazon Prime subscription at current rates.
Moreover, your workforce costs are further reduced if you outsource customer service to a country with a lower cost of living.
For example, the cost of living in India is lower than that of the US. This means you can offer lower and more competitive rates to your outsourced customer service team based in India.
2. To increase support coverage quickly
Some businesses like e-commerce might be busier during the holiday season.
So you might have to hire additional help to meet the higher customer support demands quickly.
If you choose to hire employees, the process of finding, interviewing, and training applicants can take a few weeks.
Instead, outsourcing partners like Companies like Accenture and Mindy Support can provide fully integrated customer service teams that quickly adjust to your company’s processes.
3. To streamline repetitive tasks
Different customers might have the same query or run into the same problems.
Instead of trying to resolve the same issues over and over again, your and your team’s time is better spent on other projects. That’s why hiring an outsourced customer support executive to handle repetitive tasks is a good option, especially when the queries are not too technical.
4. To scale up your business
When your company is undergoing rapid changes and growth, you might not be able to focus on customer support.
This is the right time to outsource customer service to maintain responsive, high-quality service while determining the long-term goals of your company.
5. To increase global coverage
Let’s say you want to increase the geographic reach of your business.
You will need to hire multilingual support employees that can communicate with your new customers effectively.
Instead, if you outsource this support requirement to the right service partner, you can easily advertise this feature to broaden your customer base.
3 ‘Wrong’ reasons to outsource your customer service
Outsourcing customer support has been around since the internet age. However, there is still a large knowledge gap that gives rise to all sorts of myths and misconceptions.
Don’t fall into these pitfalls when deciding to switch to an outsourced support team.
1. To exercise high budget cuts
While outsourcing the customer service department can cut costs in the short run, it might affect your quality of service. A low-cost customer service provider is generally equipped to handle only repetitive support requests.
So they might not be well-equipped to handle highly specific or technical support requests.
2. To avoid support responsibilities
Outsourcing customer support isn’t a way to just get rid of responsibilities.
It’s a partnership that requires communication and hard work on both sides.
If you leave your outsourced support team to fend for themselves, they might get disconnected from your brand. As a result, your customer support quality can drop at an alarming rate.
3. To make a quick fix
Sure, a customer service provider is an expert, but don’t expect them to solve all your problems overnight!
Delivering a great customer experience takes time, consistency, and planning. You may need to put in a lot of initial hours training your outsourced team.
5 secrets to flawless customer service outsourcing
Before you even begin to search for external help, you need to create an action plan on how to achieve your customer service goals.
Here are five secrets to efficient customer service outsourcing processes.
1. Establish brand voice and tone guidelines
Whether it’s via text, phone, or through your branding, your customers are used to the way you interact with them.
That’s why, when you use an outsourced support team, they should sound exactly like your in house team.
Here’s how to do that:
- Create a set of brand guidelines that specify what your team can or can not say.
- Run through hypothetical scenarios that they may have to face in the future and gauge their reaction to the situation.
- Make them watch Dilbert cartoons in a loop so that they know how to handle difficult people.
(Okay, the last one might be a stretch but definitely the other two.)
2. Research multiple options
Some call centers are great at handling high-volume or repetitive conversations, while others focus on in-depth situations.
To ensure you find the right service for your needs, you should spend a considerable amount of time searching for viable customer service solutions. You would have to consider the time differences, language needs, and the minimum support volume, among other things.
3. Consider legal and security risks
You need to review your internal security before you allow a third party to access your documents.
Determine which customer data is sensitive. You can then restrict access to certain information like credit card details, health records, etc.
And before you sign any binding contracts with the customer service provider, have your legal team review the documents carefully.
4. Invest in the right tools
Since you might need to communicate with your outsourced support team, you need to use Slack or Zoom tools.
And if you’re billing your outsourced call center employees per hour, Time Doctor is a great option. It automatically calculates pay based on actual hours worked.
5. Set aside time for training
No matter how busy your schedule, you would need to dedicate a large chunk of your time to train your team.
Why is training so important in customer service?
The quality of customer support can make or break your company.
After one negative experience, 51% of customers never do business with that company again!
Moreover, customers are 65% more likely to spread negative feedback because of a single poor service interaction.
All of this shows the importance of maintaining a high quality of customer service at all times.
Which type of customer service should you choose?
Once you’ve determined that outsourcing is right for you, it’s time to explore the different types of customer service.
Here are three types of customer service operations you can outsource:
Email support is generally a safe outsourcing bet because most customers won’t expect an instant turnaround, and 24 hours is the current industry standard for a response.
This gives the customer service agent plenty of time to research any issues and respond to the customers’ questions appropriately, enhancing customer satisfaction.
Email interaction also eliminates one of the most common consumer complaints about outsourced customer service — difficulty understanding the representative or being understood.
Pro tip: Using a software tool which has a shared inbox feature which allows your entire team to access and respond to all the emails in one inbox be it from customers or inbound sales leads is one of the simplest ways to ensure the entire team is staying up to date.
2. Call centers
Call centers are a good option, particularly if you have a high volume of customer interaction.
If you use this method, it’s important to choose the call center carefully.
Representatives might handle hundreds of outbound or inbound calls a day from various companies, and employee turnover rates can also be an issue.
For more information, check out our in-depth call center outsourcing guide.
3. Social media
In addition to traditional methods, many businesses handle customer service issues on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook.
A customer’s question can often be resolved with just a quick response, making Twitter’s 280-character messages a perfect way to communicate. It also allows customers to leave a message and get a response quickly without having to wait.
Some large and small businesses even take a proactive approach, searching for their company name on social media to find complaints or queries they can respond to.
How to find kickass customer service professionals?
Here are some strategies you can use when selecting an outsourced customer service team:
A. Hiring a call center team
As a business owner, if you’re considering a particular call center to outsource your support requirements, keep in mind the following:
1. Primary language
It’s frustrating for both the customer and the representative when language barriers prevent clear, effective communication.
If you choose to outsource customer service based in an area where this may be an issue, investigate this service aspect by doing a test call to ensure it won’t interfere with service quality.
Do an online search for blogs or forum posts where a client can post testimonials for that call center. You can find consumer reviews that can give you further insights into a typical customer service experience.
Another way to ensure excellent customer service when outsourcing is to find vendors that provide incentives to the customer service representative.
Gamification helps revitalize the customer service floor and encourages agents to achieve their targets and metrics.
Some call centers provide tiered bonuses that allow representatives to earn more money per hour or a bonus when they exceed goal expectations. Others provide point reward systems that let team members cash points for prizes.
4. Call monitoring software
Many growing companies use call center software to record some or all customer service calls and review them regularly.
Monitoring calls allow you to give call center agents feedback on their service. And if the system records all calls, they can also be accessed to help resolve escalated customer service issues or for legal reasons.
Just knowing that a call may be recorded goes a long way toward encouraging call center employees to provide excellent customer service.
5. Test calls
Before you pick your ideal call center service, find out who some of their clients are and do a test call as a customer.
It’ll give you a real-world look at how your customer calls will be handled. You’ll also get an idea of whether or not you want to engage the customer service provider to manage your customer service function.
B. Hiring a remote worker or freelancer
If your customer support team truly needs outsourcing but doesn’t need a lot of staffing, working with freelance customer service representatives may be a viable option for you.
While hiring a freelancer to outsource a support job, consider the following:
1. Employee characteristics
There are a few key traits that determine whether a potential employee would be a great fit in your support team, such as:
- The people you employ need to enjoy and be passionate about service.
- They need to have long-term career goals – to ensure that your remote customer service rep would be motivated even when you are not around.
And let’s face it. The customer service function isn’t all that easy.
You would need to keep your cool while talking to frustrated customers all day.
That is why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a customer service requirement. You or your support managers should actively look for an outsourced agent with high emotional intelligence.
2. Specialized job boards
In some cases, your customer support agent would have to answer tough technical questions.
Instead of searching for freelancers on sites like Upwork and Freelancer, you should try some niche job sites.
Looking for a support agent for your startup? Try AngelList.co.
Looking for seasoned support executives? Try Support Drive Jobs.
Looking for experienced workers from a different geography? Try Remote OK.
Referrals are an underrated source of hiring new remote employees.
Usually, it gives you top-notch candidates at cost-effective rates.
According to an ERIN study, employee referrals save a company $7500+ per hire.
You can ask other talented customer support managers in your circle for recommendations on hiring remote workers or freelancers.
3 top customer support outsourcing companies
Multiple companies offer customer support outsourcing. Let’s look at the three leading ones:
Triniter is a US-based customer service company that has offices in India and the Philippines.
They have high customer retention and repetition rates, which speaks for their quality. Their advanced information protocols comply with various international security standards.
They provide support through email, social media, SMS, online chat support, video call, etc.
Accenture is a leading outsourcing company that offers customer experience and other services like healthcare, banking, lead generation, etc. Spread over 200 cities, they cater to around 19 industries by embracing change.
Using digital transformation, they help the client create experiences that bridge the gap between brand promises and customer expectations and increase customer loyalty.
3. Mindy Support
Mindy Support is one of the top-ranking Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies that offer customer support service along with lead generation, market research, etc.
They offer a dedicated project management team and quality assurance for all projects. The customer service outsourcing company also provides 24/7 inbound and outbound customer support through multilingual live chat, telephone, WhatsApp, etc.
How to switch to an outsourced support team?
Switching to an outsourced support team is not easy, but here is a five-step process that can guide you through this transition phase:
1. Lawyer up
When you strike a deal with an outsourcing partner, you should pay close attention to the contract.
Hire an attorney to review any paperwork you don’t completely understand. They have the experience to predict what you may need in the future.
In addition to detailing how the partnership will work and what is expected, the contract should include conditions that allow you to discontinue the relationship. This may consist of a particular set of quality standards or may just be a time period after which the contract is up for renewal.
Be sure to read service level agreements and consider whether they apply specifically to your business needs.
For example, many call centers focus on handle time — the average amount of time the customer service representative spends with each caller. They strive to minimize handle time to a few minutes per customer, providing the most efficient service possible.
While this is profitable because it allows representatives to field more callers during their shifts, it can also negatively impact the level of service each caller receives.
A representative who feels rushed to meet a handle time metric may not go out of their way to explain something extensively or offer other services.
It may be more beneficial for you to emphasize other metrics relevant to your company’s goals in your service level agreements.
2. Appoint a manager
You need to maintain a connection between your existing and your outsourced team.
How do you do this effectively?
Hire an internal staff member whose role is to facilitate communication. This staff member can keep both parties informed about what’s happening or assist with passing messages along.
Your ‘link’ employee can help prevent misunderstandings about expectations, training, performance, and procedures as well.
3. Plan your projects
If you outsource to a call center team, you need to create a project team with three key players — project lead, process migration manager, and your ‘link’ employee.
If your customer service requirements are complex, you might need to hire a technology manager as well.
Delegate responsibilities to the project lead from the beginning until the final phase of transition.
Your project leader should be able to:
- Facilitate the training process for new recruits
- Solve communication issues within the team.
- Create monthly reports.
On the other hand, your migration manager should be able to:
- Map and document customer service processes.
- Create adequate documents and guides for the training processes.
- Share knowledge within the team.
4. Share knowledge
You would need to set up a shared knowledge base for your remote customer service team. That means you have to create documents like:
- Product manual
- Training Videos
- Customer Interaction Guidelines
- Answers to FAQs
Additionally, some tools like Slack, Time Doctor, and ClickUp require an onboarding process. So you would need to team up with your migration manager to guide your outsourced team through the entire process.
5. Set up a review system
While the point of hiring an outside firm is to let you focus on other priorities, it’s still critical that you ensure they’re doing a good job.
You should keep tabs on the level of service your customers are receiving. Make periodic test calls to experience customer service firsthand.
Additionally, review any available data or metrics to look for problem areas such as dropped calls, multiple customer service calls to resolve the same issue or other hitches in service.
Check out these 26 tips to manage your virtual outsourced support team.
Among other things, providing excellent customer care is the hallmark of a good customer service outsourcing company.
Outsourcing your support needs can help you maintain a high standard of customer service without undertaking the investments involved in building an in-house team from scratch.
What has been your experience with an outsourced customer service team?
Let us know in the comments below.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.