Outsourcing customer support is a topic of debate across just about every industry.
For a long time, it had a bad reputation thanks to low company standards and poor-quality call centers based overseas. While those sentiments seem to linger, the data shows that the true corporate outlook on outsourcing is overwhelmingly positive — 82 percent of large companies view it favorably.
Today, outsourcing customer support can be a total upgrade that includes expanded services, increased expertise, better technology, improved performance metrics reporting and more — when it’s done well.
It’s no small decision to hand off the management of your customer relationships, and it should never be implemented as a quick-fix or convenient cost-savings solution.
Outsourcing customer support the right way means aligning it with your overall business strategy and being a committed, active partner in its continued success.
- Companies should thoroughly think through their reasons for outsourcing.
- A good transition plan provides a valuable framework for both partners to follow at the beginning of an outsourcing partnership.
- Companies should clearly communicate brand messages and other priority information to outsourcing partners.
- Effective communication throughout the entire duration of the partnership is essential.
- Performance metrics are key to understanding the success of an outsourcing partnership.
How to Outsource Customer Support the Right Way
Know Your Reasons
Companies outsource customer service for a variety of reasons.
While all of these reasons are valid, they don’t apply exactly the same way in any two situations. Most of the time, it’s a mix of these reasons that pushes companies to make the decision to outsource customer support.
The important thing is that companies understand the motivating factors behind their decision and can see how they align with their overall business strategy.
Outsourcing customer support transforms the way companies operate and interact with their customers. It should be a strategic decision, not one made simply to avoid challenges or quickly slash operating costs.
Have a Strong Transition Plan
Never start your actual customer support transition without a strong transition plan. The responsibility for creating this plan should be on your outsourcing partner with a high level of participation from your team.
Good customer support service providers will know best practices for transitioning business functions and systems.
Choose an outsourcing partner that does the following:
- Takes time to get to know your company before starting the transition plan
- Has a clear plan for transferring business functions and integrating systems
- Looks for opportunities to streamline operations and automate for efficiency
- Proactively identifies key performance indicators and ways to measure them
- Has proven processes in place for effective personnel training
- Documents the transition plan, educates your team, and asks for feedback
Participate in the Training Plan
This doesn’t mean you actually perform the training procedures. Instead, it means knowing your partner’s plan for training and making sure it satisfies your expectations for your customer support team.
Remember that your customer support team is a true extension of your brand. To your customer, there’s no difference between your internal team and your outsourced team.
Aligning your support team with your most important company principles and practices from the start — at training — can set everyone up for success.
Training is also a good opportunity for your customer support team to get to know members of your internal team when possible, even if that just means through one-time introductions (in person or remotely). Putting real people behind the company name can make your customer support team feel more connected to you.
Know Your Brand Message
Even if you’re working with the best customer support service provider in the world, they still won’t be the expert on your company that you are, especially in the beginning.
It’s your responsibility to clearly share your value proposition and brand message with your outsourcing partner so that their team can represent your company well and communicate with your customers effectively.
Provide resources that can help your customer service team know and understand your brand exactly as you want it to be communicated. These resources can include information about:
- Your mission and core values
- Basic company information (history, location(s), leadership team, operations)
- Details on your products and services
- Policies that affect your customers (return policies, cancellation policies, etc.)
- Troubleshooting guides and FAQs
- Any preferred scripts, language, or approaches you want your support team to use with your customers
You can share company resources via documents and guides, presentations, videos, your website, and more. Whichever method you choose, be sure to provide it proactively and with clear emphasis on what’s important to you.
The transition period is just the beginning for successful outsourcing partnerships. Communicate effectively during this time but also set up a plan for ongoing communication throughout the duration of your partnership.
That might mean more frequent meetings in the beginning with periodic check-ins later, monthly performance reports, quarterly presentations – whatever it is, your outsourcing partner should be willing to keep the lines of communication open and create a plan that meets your company’s needs and expectations.
There’s no way to understand the success of your outsourcing partnership if you’re not measuring metrics.
Your outsourcing partner should already have processes in place for tracking common customer support metrics such as total tickets, first response time, customer satisfaction score, and more.
When you measure metrics regularly, you’re better able to identify trends, spot problem areas and quickly make improvements, recognize opportunities, and evaluate what’s working and what’s not. You can also maximize resources by knowing your highest- and lowest-volume call times, then staffing accordingly.
The Outsourcing Impact
When outsourcing customer support is done the right way, it has the potential to make a transformative impact on your company.
Never minimize the importance of outsourcing or consider it a quick-fix solution. It should always be a decision rooted in strategy. It should have buy-in from your leadership team and a commitment from your company to actively participate in the partnership’s success.
When it comes to customer support in particular, there’s little room for error — it can make or break your customer relationships.
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