Managing a customer’s experience with your service or product is a full time job. With the many demands of the modern workplace, however, customer service can easily fall by the wayside. For some businesses, the solution is to outsource. Outsourcing customer service can be a double-edged sword - done right, and you’re every customer’s knight in shining armor; done wrong, and you’re the ugly troll under the bridge. The following are some tips and best practices on outsourcing customer service operations.
Know What You’re Looking For
Before beginning your search for the right third-party customer service vendor, revisit your brand promise to customer; then, make a list of your customers’ unique communication and service-related needs. Ask these questions:
- Do most customers come through my door or are they more likely to conduct business by phone or online?
- Does my business demand an around-the-clock call center?
- Are email and a digital newsletter enough to meet my customer service needs?
- How important is capturing consumer data during customer service interactions?
Answering these questions will help you decide what kind and level of outside customer service help you need to meet your customers’ needs and expectations.
Outside help to manage customer service operations comes in many forms.
- Customer service companies or firms can charge lofty sums for their multi-pronged, comprehensive approaches to customer service. While advantages include the ability to engage and respond to significant numbers of customers simultaneously, potential downfalls may include more scripted interactions between service reps and customers that may jeopardize brand authenticity. Reps in larger customer service firms may also be more challenged to fully and expertly answer customers’ questions, especially if average handle time, or how long a customer service representative spends on each call, is low. This also can happen when the product or service is highly technical.
- Customer service contractors or freelancers may better suit the needs of small- to medium-sized businesses. Several websites exist to match these professionals with companies seeking customer service outsourcing. Even so, contractors or freelancers might not offer the same comprehensive services as larger firms do, so a higher degree of oversight and monitoring may be required.
Add It Up
While the idea of outsourcing customer service may have you over the moon, your final decision likely will come down to the bottom line.
- Have a budget and be sure to weigh the costs of outsourcing a customer service firm, contractor or freelancer against using your own in-house department. Read all contracts when vetting candidates.
- Know the short- and long-term costs of acquiring outside help and how it will impact your current workforce design. Will staff or personnel be displaced and need re-training? Will unanticipated costs emerge? How will your outsource decision reflect on your company or business?
Lights, Camera, Action
If you outsource customer service, remember that whoever engages your customers - in person, over the phone or on the Web - is the face of your product or service. Bad customer service negatively impacts business and can lead to revenue loss. Work diligently with your third-party customer service firm, contractor or freelancer to convey clearly your objectives, company values and service philosophy. Set benchmarks to measure progress, communicate regularly and, like your own customers, don’t take no for an answer!