Have you ever wondered how companies choose the right customer outsource provider?
The outsourcing of customer services has grown considerably in recent years, as more companies recognise the benefits of partnering with external specialists.
It’s easy to see why when you read stats like this from Whistl, which says, “According to a study by Google, 61% of consumers phone a company when they’re in the early stages of the buying cycle. Consumers prefer to call instead of utilising digital channels because they’re looking to get a quick answer (59%) or talk to a real person (57%). This study also found that consumers are more likely to call a business when making a high-value purchase in verticals such as automotive, finance, or travel.”
Why are more companies outsourcing?
In a highly competitive, globalised marketplace, many organisations seek opportunities to bring down costs and differentiate their service around quality.
Outsourcing can enable an organisation (particularly a fast-growing one) to focus valuable internal resources on product development and service innovation while leaving an experienced external partner to take care of high-volume, low-level customer interactions.
It also allows companies to scale their service in line with demand without worrying about moving offices, ongoing recruitment, or staff utilisation challenges.
What’s stopping the rest of them?
While the benefits are clear, outsourcing any part of your customer service is often viewed with apprehension – particularly by companies who’ve not outsourced before. Common objections include:
- “No one can understand our product/service like our people do.”
- “It doesn’t provide the cost savings we anticipated.”
- “Our processes are too complex for an outsourced arrangement.”
- “We can’t risk our brand reputation with an ‘outsider’.”
- “We’d feel too distant from our customers and day-to-day operations.”
- “We never outsource.”
On the other side are companies that have outsourced before but had a bad experience. Inevitably, one bad experience can put you off ever wanting to try something again. It takes a big leap of faith to entrust your company’s customer service when you outsource providers have let you down before.
How to avoid making the wrong decision
Suppose you or your company has experience of unsuccessfully outsourcing customer services functions in the past. In that case, you’ll undoubtedly be aware of the pitfalls to look out for next time around when searching for the right customer outsource provider.
And, if this is a new and slightly alarming leap into the unknown, you’re probably wondering where to start.
Regardless, the following checklist will highlight some obvious and not-so-obvious considerations that will help you decide whether outsourcing is the right option and what to look out for when speaking to potential customer service partners.
#1. Define your objectives
It’s surprising how many companies define their detailed short and long-term objectives after engaging with a customer service outsourcing provider.
While this is often part of the process of assessing the best option, you can save a huge amount of time by encouraging senior teams to get involved in the process to provide clarity around long-term strategic goals.
#2. Set priorities and expectations
Once an outsourced option has been identified as a potential direction, be clear why this is and try to keep this in focus throughout.
For example, if short-term scalability or 24/7 availability is the driving force, it’s likely to come with an appropriate price tag. If cost savings are the driving force, you may need to concede service features to meet your goals.
You are unlikely to find a premium service that meets all of your needs for a rock-bottom fee. Have you heard the saying “You get what you pay for”?
#3. See the company in action
Would you risk your customers’ brand experience by putting them in the hands of people you had never met?
If you do decide to look at outsourcing options, be sure to go and meet the teams and people who could be looking after your customers. That includes speaking to frontline agents and team leaders, not just management representatives.
Seeing the company in action will give you a good idea of how they will handle your customers, support and motivate their employees, partner with existing customers, and what their company culture is like.
We realise how difficult this may be in recent times thanks to Covid and the restrictions this placed on companies. If you can’t visit a site in person, please be sure to make the most of technology and arrange Zoom (other providers are available) calls instead. It’s never going to be as good as meeting in person, but now is the time for a new normal and we must all adapt our business processes to fit.
#4. Check agent quality, training and quality monitoring data
Your outsourced partner’s staff will be your frontline brand representatives – and perhaps many customers’ only ‘experience’ of your brand.
Therefore, you should seek qualitative and quantitative data on the quality of their staff and specific information on how this is monitored and maintained. Training structures and processes should also be reviewed as part of this to complete the picture.
#5. Assess their scalability
While your current needs have led you to the point of considering outsourcing, what is the likely shape of your organisation in one, two, or five years?
Scalability consideration should also be applied to your outsourced partner. Will they be able to scale their service in line with your growth? What are their long-term growth plans? Is there a large enough talent pool in their local area? What do their staff retention figures look like? If their staff are happy and stay working there a long time, it’s fair to say they are a good company to work for. A happy workforce means you’re far more likely to have your customers’ calls answered by people who truly want to be there.
#6. Ask for references
Look for testimonials from other clients. If existing clients are willing to rave about their customer service outsourcing provider, this will speak volumes. Finding the right fit for your company can take time; by listening to others’ experiences, they’ve done the hard work for you.
Getting references will allow you to understand how good they are at helping clients solve their customer service challenges. You should also understand the longevity of the provider’s clients – a key indicator of their ability to innovate or adapt to changing needs over time.
#7. Review business continuity and contingency processes
The strength of a company is truly tested during times of crisis. When the company in question is tasked with keeping your customers happy, you will want reassurance that they are equipped to cope with such circumstances.
Request information about a provider’s business continuity and system failure contingencies. But don’t accept a policy alone as proof of preparedness. Ask how often contingency plans are tested and how your customers would be treated in such exceptional circumstances.
#8. Conduct financial due diligence
Again, this is an obvious consideration for any organisation with a critical reliance on key suppliers. But it’s one that organisations cannot underestimate for outsourced customer service functions.
Should your outsourced provider suddenly go out of business, it may take weeks to deploy an alternative solution. Conducting the appropriate due diligence checks at the outset will highlight any major areas for concern quickly.
#9. Look into security, privacy and quality processes
Failure to protect sensitive customer data carries significant financial penalties from card issuers and regulators alike. Beyond the crippling fines that the UK GDPR and DPA 2018 could impose, serious breaches can cause untold damage to a company’s brand and hinder its ability to conduct its core business.
Treat outsourced suppliers’ security, privacy and quality controls with the same diligence as you would do your own business. Ultimately, a provider’s mistake could not only cripple their organisation, but yours too.
Great brand fit and trust are key to success
The value of outsourcing your customer services to the right customer outsource provider should not be understated. The potential benefits can provide tremendous advantages to your organisation from a financial perspective and to your customers who receive dedicated attention from industry specialists.
There will be bad experiences out there that could damage your trust in outsourcing key parts of your service. The same happens in every industry. Don’t let that put you off from going to another customer service outsource provider. We are not all the same and WeAnswer would love the opportunity to discuss your customer service needs further.
Now is the time to find the right customer outsource provider.
Especially when “Calls to businesses are expected to exceed 169 billion annually.”