Looking back a decade or so ago, I was a customer service manager at a small SaaS (software as a service) company feeling my way through the contact center. For various reasons we signed on with an outsourcer to help grow our team and that’s where some significant growth for both me individually and the company I worked for began to take place. Our customer support operation began to mature and that was due in large part to partnering with a company that had vast amounts of experience in the contact center industry. Fast forward a few years, and I now work for the outsourcer.
For many consumers, and professionals, there’s a stigma around outsourcing — and there are certainly cases where this sentiment is warranted. I’m sure many folks have had the pleasure of calling customer service only to be connected with someone who didn’t speak fluent, understandable English, didn’t understand the cultural application for the product they were supporting and sounded like they were reading directly from a script or a basic product manual. No company that actually cares about their customers would want to put them through such an experience.
The reality here is that the world of outsourcing is huge and global — and by global, you might hear terms like onshore, nearshore and offshore. While there are certainly opportunities to doom your customer experience, there are also plenty of ways the right outsourcing partner can help take your customer experience to the next level.
Here are four ways an outsourcer can help.
While outsourcers have multiple departments, the vast majority of the company is customer operations and they typically service many clients. I like to tell folks that our product is customer service. Outsourcers have an immense pool of customer service and customer experience talent and experience. New to the industry, I had no clue about service levels, or Erlang C, instructional design, technology, or a variety of other standard industry topics. But when I signed on with our partner, they let me set up camp in their contact center and took me to school.
Are you curious about best practices for quality assurance or surveys like customer satisfaction or NPS? A good partner will help you optimize what you’re doing there and set and achieve the right goals for your business.
I used to work in Southern California and was asked more than once by customers, “What happens to our account when the ‘Big One’ finally happens and California falls into the ocean.” I’m still not sure that will ever happen, but hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, heat waves and resulting power outages all happen every year and pose a severe threat to the level of service you provide to customers. Distributing your team in more than one location adds redundancy so your customers can always call, email, chat, tweet, etc. and reach a human being.
Perhaps your company has a major presence both in the United States and in Europe. Some companies might choose to source everything in the U.S., but imagine hiring people who speak the various European languages and then asking them to work overnight. Sourcing people who love to work overnight is difficult enough—let alone finding people who speak those languages who want to work less than desirable shifts. It would make more sense to hire people in Europe who speak those languages and have them work during those business hours.
Is your business located in cities like Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco where the cost of living is through the roof and getting worse? You can start adding the likes of Austin, Nashville, Seattle and Portland to that list while you’re at it. Scaling a customer support operation in these cities is expensive. Contact centers are thriving in rural communities where there’s an able workforce and a significantly lower cost of living. There are significant financial savings to be had while still remaining onshore.
As I mentioned earlier, the cloud has completely changed the game. Let’s pretend you use a cloud-based phone system like Talkdesk. Your internal customer support team can continue to use Talkdesk and within a few minutes, you can add seats for an outsourced team to also handle calls using your phone system. This doesn’t even have to involve your IT folks — unless you just really think they should be the ones to do this sort of thing. The cloud has effectively removed many of the hurdles from a technology standpoint when it comes to outsourcing.
On that note, outsourcing doesn’t necessarily have to spell the end for your internal customer service team. It also shouldn’t spell the end of your stellar customer experience. While that certainly still happens, what I propose is that you hang on to the great people you’ve already hired and improve your customer experience by signing on with a partner who can help you fill in the gaps in your operation and scale wisely.
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