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The view on outsourcing customer support has evolved over the past few decades as support models have changed. The idea that outsourcing customer support is a sign of weakness or inefficiency is in the past. In fact, 82 percent of large organizations around the world view outsourcing favorably.
Customer support service providers offer more scalable solutions and advanced technology tools than many companies can implement in-house. Given that 96 percent of consumers say customer support plays an important role in their brand loyalty, this is no small benefit.
But success is not a given when outsourcing customer support. Choosing the right partner is key to a smooth transition, avoiding gaps in service, and measuring performance.
Let’s take a look at why companies choose to outsource customer support and what to consider when choosing an outsourcing partner.
First thing’s first: let’s consider what outsourcing customer support really means. It is not the same as providing standard customer service, which aims to ensure customers have positive interactions with your company during the purchasing process.
Customer support provides one-on-one, personalized interactions for customers that require a higher level of support. Usually, this occurs when customers have complex questions or encounter issues when using your product or service.
Customer support plays a critical role in the retention of current customers, which can have a significant impact on your sales and revenue. Retaining current customers costs 6-7x less than gaining new ones and has an exponentially higher conversion rate.
Outsourcing your company’s customer support operations has obvious resource-saving benefits. First, it eliminates in-house support team expenses like salaries, benefits, and training.
It also increases productivity for your company in two ways. Your outsourcing partner should have more process expertise, meaning more customers can be helped more efficiently. At the same time, your company will have room to refocus in-house on other areas of need.
Customer support service providers are experts in the business of support. It’s true that some have areas of industry specialization, but for the most part your potential outsourcing partners will be first and foremost experts on the customer support process itself.
One common concern companies have about outsourcing customer support is losing the product or company knowledge your in-house team possesses. It’s understandable; after all, your customers contact customer support to talk to someone with expertise.
The key is to put an effective strategy in place for transitioning support operations and knowledge from your company to the service provider to avoid any gaps that would hinder service. A good outsourcing partner should have structured procedures in place to do this.
Once your plan is in place, it’s likely your outsourced support services will actually be more personalized and efficient than the ones you could have provided otherwise.
Customer support service providers have extensive infrastructure in place to provide top-quality support services for a variety of organizations. As a result, their capabilities are more comprehensive and advanced than what most companies can offer themselves.
Enhanced outsourced support service capabilities include:
Sometimes it’s necessary for companies to focus on strategy rather than customer support, particularly when your company is growing faster than it can scale or undergoing organizational changes.
When it happens, outsourcing customer support is an effective way to free up time and resources in order to address other company functions that require more attention. When the outsourcing partner is chosen correctly, companies are able to outsource without worrying about sacrificing quality of service or losing connection to their support strategy.
Huge corporations may be seeking ready-made solutions that focus primarily on labor reallocation and cost savings. But for most companies, outsourcing customer support is a transformative organizational change that requires high-level, personalized customer service from an outsourcing partner.
Consider how your potential partner’s interaction with your company mirrors the qualities you expect for your customer support services. When outsourcing partners communicate with you effectively and tailor solutions to your needs, it’s likely they’ll do the same for your customers.
There’s no better assurance that your outsourcing partnership will be successful than a proven track record and specific examples showing how your partner achieved results with other clients. Good companies will not just have reviews and testimonials, they’ll readily share them with you.
When you’re in the research stage of choosing an outsourcing partner, look to company websites for testimonials, case studies, and a list of current clients that serve as good reputation indicators.
Once you’re in communication with potential partners, don’t shy away from asking for detailed examples of the ways a company has previously achieved the results you’re seeking.
Your outsourcing partner should have expertise in the process of transitioning business processes from your company to theirs, then maintaining the right level of connectivity in order to continue providing optimal solutions to your customers.
Look for an outsourcing partner that takes a detailed approach that isn’t rushed. They should take time to:
To your customers, your outsourcing partner and your company are one in the same. You want your partner, then, to be a true extension of your in-house team, with aligned priorities and core values that ensure both the best quality service for your customers and a seamless ongoing relationship between your companies.
Outsourcing customer support services doesn’t end with the initial transition. It requires ongoing communication around measuring performance and continually making adjustments to improve.
When choosing an outsourcing partner, be sure they:
Organizational culture can be a determining factor in whether business partnerships succeed or fail. It’s critical to assess cultural fit ahead of time to avoid problems later on in a partnership.
Tip: use our outsourcing checklist as you work with your partner to develop a transition plan and determine cultural alignment.
Specialization isn’t necessary in every outsourcing partnership, but it is something to consider in certain situations.
If your industry is highly technical or highly regulated, it may be a good idea to work with a company who specializes in your field and will have the context and expertise expected by your customer and required by your industry.
Specialization might also be a good idea if your customer data is highly sensitive and requires specific security measures.
Establishing performance metrics and evaluation procedures ahead of time gives you a good sense of how your partner measures success, an important consideration when choosing an outsourcing partner.
While you want your partner to have proven methods and procedures for measuring KPIs, they should also take time to understand what metrics are most important for your company and focus on those areas.
Performance evaluation in a good business partnership is collaborative, and a good outsourcing partner will know it’s about more than assessing their services. Rather, it is an ongoing way to understand customer needs, gain insight, and make adjustments and improvements to provide the best possible customer support.
Customers aren’t just pleasantly surprised by an integrated omnichannel approach to customer service — they expect it. Companies with effective omnichannel support processes retain 89 percent of their customers, compared to just 33 percent of companies with weak omnichannel systems.
Enhanced infrastructure is one of the primary reasons companies decide to outsource customer support services, and it’s something you should seek in a potential outsourcing partner. Keep in mind that it’s not only about the number of support channels offered, but how well they are integrated to provide customers with a seamless, consistent experience.
Quality customer support is critical to business success. Choosing the right outsourcing partner can be the difference between high customer satisfaction or an adverse effect on your company reputation.
In the end, your outsourcing partner should take the time to thoroughly understand your company’s goals, clearly outline how their solutions will meet your needs, and provide exceptional communication throughout the transition process and for the duration of your partnership.
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