Customer Support Outsourcing How to Get Started

Customer Support Outsourcing – How to Get Started

Whether you outsource your customer support or not, remember to keep the focus on quality and value for customers. The choice to outsource should only be made if you feel that it will definitely result in better experiences for customers, who are relying on your business to deliver great service. 

catherine heath

May 11, 2023

11 mins read

For the best businesses, customer service is a top concern. How you treat your customers after the sale, and how you respond to their problems and queries, is a big factor in determining the quality of customer experience. Customers usually expect high-quality service, and if they don’t get it they will soon be considering your competitors who can offer better customer satisfaction. 

But what if you are a small business and you are struggling to deliver customer service in-house? You know it’s important, and yet there are so many other demands on your time that you are starting to seriously consider outsourcing customer service. Who you entrust this precious function of your business to is a matter that deserves a lot of attention. 

It’s not so much whether you can outsource customer support for your business, as it is choosing one of the many options available. You are not even limited to domestic partners as many international agencies also offer a viable choice. As long as you’re choosing a third-party service provider that accurately and competently reflects your brand, your way is clear. 

Some businesses may think of outsourced customer service providers and come up with some very negative perceptions, but the truth is outsourced customer service has changed a lot in recent times. It has now become a way to positively enhance your customer service offering, rather than simply being a way to cut costs. 

What is customer service outsourcing?

Customer service outsourcing is when a business delegates the task of performing their customer support operations to a third-party vendor. The customer service provider learns the intricacies of your customer service, products, services, brand and more in order to be able to handle your customer inquiries instead of you. 

Ideally, third-party providers present themselves to your customers as being a coherent part of your business. Customers shouldn’t not feel as though they are dealing with an external entity, but instead are receiving support from your own brand. It’s like having your own remote customer service team. 

Read More: 12 Customer Service Experts to Follow in 2023

Finally, customer service outsourcing partners can offer an expertise in this area that would take years to build within your own company. That’s one big reason why outsourcing customer support is so appealing to growing businesses. 

Why is customer support outsourced?

There are many reasons why companies choose to outsource customer support, and we’ll go through some of them here. 

Devote more resources to other areas

Instead of spending your time finding, hiring and training customer service representatives and building a customer support team, businesses who outsource this function can devote more resources to other areas. When you know a third-party provider is taking care of customer support, you can focus more on what you do best rather than struggling to develop a customer service team in-house. 

Benefit from customer service expertise

Ideally, you would be able to partner with a customer service provider or Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company who would be able to lend you their expertise in customer service. Since it is their primary business model, BPOs can put together much more effective teams in a fraction of the time it would take you to accomplish the same thing. They usually have many years of experience in the sector which they can use to benefit your business. 

Provide 24/7/365 service for global customers

It might not be feasible for you to provide round-the-clock support for your customer base and this is where a third-party customer service provider can really shine. They have the ability to outsource customer support agents in regions that may be hard for you to access and allocate resources for you to help customers out of hours during evenings and weekends. Being able to offer this level of support enables you to stand out from your competitors. 

Enables the business to grow sustainably

As your customer base grows, you might find the need to expand your customer support team but lack the capabilities to manage this in-house. You can take a step-by-step approach and outsource only the number of customer support hours that you need in order to grow sustainably. The right customer support provider will help your business to expand in a way that feels manageable. 

Lower costs in providing customer support

It’s hard to ignore the temptation to lower costs in customer support, and outsourcing customer support to an offshore company in a cheaper locale does often represent significant cost-savings. While this shouldn’t be the only consideration when outsourcing customer support, taking this approach may help you to use your budget wisely by reducing the cost of a customer interaction whilst keeping the quality of customer support high. 

Greater flexibility in staffing

Your company doesn’t have control over the volume of customer support tickets that will be submitted to the business, and you may find that you hire a larger support team only to find that demand falls. You end up with more agents than you need who you are paying to do nothing. If you outsource your customer support, you can take advantage of flexible resources with providers who only require that you pay for what you use. This enables your customer service team to scale up or down according to need. 

What are the risks of outsourcing customer service?

Outsourcing customer support is not without its risks, and here are some points you’ll want to consider before taking the plunge. 

Lack of product and service knowledge

It may be the case that any third-party customer support provider is not going to be as knowledgeable about your products and services as your business. The in-depth expertise may be lacking and agents might struggle to help customers with complex cases. If agents aren’t empowered to help every customer, your business suffers as agents fail to solve customer problems. 

Experiences provided are off-brand

It may be hard to truly communicate your brand values and mission to a customer service partner. Agents may fail to use your company’s tone of voice and this results in inconsistent experiences for your customers. Businesses fear that using a third-party customer service provider will result in customer service experiences that don’t match how they want to portray themselves to customers. 

Agents aren’t as invested in the success of the company

Depending on the customer service vendor that you use, because their agents aren’t as close to the heart of your company they may fail to be invested in your business’s overall mission. Their loyalty is to the customer service provider rather than the client and they may not be as devoted to the success of your customers as you would be yourself. Agents who aren’t as committed won’t try as hard to make your customers happy and offer exceptional experiences. 

Absence of communication between outsourcing partner and client

One of the main reasons to keep customer service in-house would be to ensure that it remains tightly integrated with the other functions of your company. You want to keep the lines of communication open between customer service and product development for example, so you can pass on the message when customers complain about certain features. When outsourcing customer service, you may lack this ease of communication which results in customer service being cut off from other parts of the business. 

Poor customer service experiences

What businesses dread most about outsourcing customer support is ending up with poor customer service experiences. Subpar interactions have customers turning away in droves and can significantly impact the profitability of your business. That’s why businesses must take great care in choosing their customer service partner so they can take customer service to the next level. 

How much does customer service outsourcing cost?

The cost of customer service outsourcing really depends on where in the world you are outsourcing to. Naturally, developing countries with a lower cost of living will charge less for you to hire highly competent customer support agents when compared with countries where everything is more expensive. 

Cost shouldn’t be the only consideration in mind when deciding where to outsource customer support. You’ll need to choose a country whose culture is compatible with the values of your customer base, or from a firm at the very least which will provide extensive training for support agents. 

Many customer service outsourcing companies offer outsourced customer support for less than $25 an hour, and some even charge by the number of cases resolved so you only pay for what you use. 

Do companies outsource their customer service?

Many companies do in fact outsource customer support, and find that this venture is very successful. They are able to offer the same if not better standard of service than they would be able to provide without outsourcing, by relying on the services of an experienced and reliable provider. 

To outsource customer service used to be synonymous with downgrading in quality and shifting responsibility, but this landscape is changing. And it’s not just large enterprises seeking to outsource customer support, but many small businesses are following in their footsteps too. 

Increasingly, small businesses recognize that outsourcing partners can be experts in customer service and provide quality that would be much more difficult to achieve in-house. Instead of struggling to develop customer service teams themselves, they take advantage of the capabilities of third-party providers. 

Key features of outsourced customer service companies

  • Specialist customer service technology – companies that you outsource to will use specialist customer service software such as CRMs and help desk, and they may even be willing to adopt the same tools as your existing support team. This means that your customer service team will have no need to migrate to new systems and accessing the platforms will be familiar to you when you want to check up on progress. 
  • Flexible service that can be scaled up or down – the whole point of an outsourced customer service provider is providing the manpower that you need at any given time without committing you to hiring people for permanent positions. The customer service vendor has the ability to scale up or down without spending unnecessary budget on idle agents. 
  • Transparency and accountability in the service provided – customer service providers will be able to report on their performance so you will be able to track key performance indicators such as first response time or number of tickets solved in a given time period. They give you control over the outcomes of their service so you can maintain quality control. 
  • Round-the-clock support for customers in need – one of the biggest reasons companies outsource customer support is to supply better coverage for their support hours. The ideal customer service partner will be able to offer agents based in different time zones so they will be able to support your customers 24/7. 
  • Highly trained and adaptable customer service agents – let’s face it, you wouldn’t be outsourcing if you could offer the same quality of customer service yourself. Your customer service partner should have as standard highly trained agents who can easily adapt to your products or services. 
  • Support across multiple channels – it’s unlikely that customers are going to be contacting you over a single channel such as the phone. Forcing your customers to make a call would strike many as archaic and great customer support vendors will offer support across multiple channels, including social media and live chat. 
  • Competitive rates and good value for money – when outsourcing customer support, it’s important to only pay for what you need. Don’t pay more for technical specialists when your product is relatively simple, and look for businesses that provide quality assurance. 

How do I outsource customer service for small businesses?

You’ll want to follow these concrete steps when thinking about how to outsource customer service for your small business. Your ultimate aim is to keep customer service standards high and it’s important to partner with a provider who can deliver quality service that befits your brand. 

Consider your business goals carefully

Your customer service partner won’t be able to help you effectively if you don’t know what your goals are for your customer service operations. Consider carefully what your business goals for customer service are, whether that’s to ensure customers are successful with your products or improve customer retention. 

Customer service is different for every business, and depends on the types of customers you are serving. Once you know what your customer service goals are, you’ll be able to choose a partner that aligns with your vision and can enable you to meet them. 

Design an ideal budget

Different providers will have different costs and it will determine the level of service you can get. Some businesses choose to opt for offshore providers based in regions where wages and living costs are lower, and they can potentially get more for their budget. It’s important to choose a solution that can offer quality rather than simply being the cheapest option. 

Even if a provider costs a little more, consider the amount you will save on hiring, training and management expenses. You’ll also need to factor in time zones and languages spoken when choosing your provider, and make sure that your budget is realistic for the level of service you’ll be able to get. 

Research potential vendors

Once you have your requirements clear in your mind, research the potential vendors that are likely to match what you are looking for. In a later section, we’ll provide you with a starting point of popular customer service outsourcing partners that may be able to provide what you need. Different vendors offer different levels of service, such as part-time support staff or dedicated customer service agents. 

Compare and contrast what you’ll get for your budget and make sure your vendor is good value for money. Many providers require you to request a quote from them directly so ensure that you allocate enough time for research. Websites like Clutch provide you with lists of providers and reviews, which can be helpful resources at this stage.  

Onboard your new partner effectively

You’ll need to spend time onboarding your chosen partner and training them in your company processes and policies. Customer service is unique to every business and your provider should understand the types of customers you usually deal with and typical responses to common inquiries. 

After a while, your customer service outsourcing partner will be able to operate on their own but you need to train them so they can get to this point. Find ways to share your company culture and provide your partner with your vision for customer service so they can effectively deliver. 

Regularly review the service provided

Outsourcing your customer service to a partner doesn’t mean you can simply forget about it. Regularly monitor and review the service being provided including surprise quality checks so you can be assured that customers are being treated well. The best customer service outsourcing providers will provide you with recurring performance updates and work with you to meet concrete goals measured by KPIs. 

Ultimately, your customer service outsourcing provider exists to help your business grow and allocate resources where they are most productive and profitable. Since your partner has customer service expertise you should be willing to learn from them and develop in a mutually beneficial direction. 

What is customer support in a company?

In a company, customer support is the process of helping customers with concerns and inquiries and empowering them to solve problems with your product or service. Customer support is usually provided by teams of agents who are dedicated to assisting your customers and maintaining the reputation of your brand. Every company needs to prioritize customer support in order to increase customer retention and build loyalty. 

The importance of customer service to the success of a business makes the choice of whether to outsource a difficult one. The hope is that the service you will be able to provide through outsourcing will be equal if not better than an in-house support team. 

What are examples of outsourced services?

Supportninja

Supportninja is a customer success outsourcing partner that is dedicated to providing businesses with the support they need to help customers. They have the capabilities to cover all timezones and office hours, so your business can offer 24/7 support. This is a good option to go for if you want customer service agents who are full-time and wholly dedicated to your business. 

Helplama

Helplama is a US-based customer support outsourcing provider that can help you provide customer service around-the-clock. They specialize in providing customer support for small businesses and can adapt to your needs as you scale. If budget is a concern, Helplama offers a pay per call pricing model which means you only pay for the support you use. 

Peak Support

Peak Support is a US-based BPO with operations in the Philippines. Not only do they provide customer support outsourcing but they are also specialists in technical support, so Peak Support is a good option if your company sells complex products such as software and hardware. Consider Peak Support if you want a dedicated account manager and regular updates on how the team is performing. 

How Keeping can help with customer service

Outsourcing customer service is not the only option if you want to cut costs and make your team more efficient. Software like Keeping has been developed with busy customer support teams in mind and you can use it to streamline processes, as well as help more customers with fewer resources. 

Keeping sits on top of Gmail so you can effectively turn your email service provider into a help desk. Groups of agents can access Keeping and collaborate on customer tickets using features that help even the busiest of teams stay organized. Never miss another customer inquiry again as Keeping helps you track the status of a ticket and assign the task to particular team members. 

Since Keeping helps you gain so much efficiency, allowing you to do more with less, there is a reduced need to consider outsourced customer support. You can keep customer service in-house and maintain quality control by using software that was designed to help small businesses thrive.

You can even plan your customer support resources more effectively by using Keeping to identify your busiest periods for customer tickets. If certain times of day or days of the week experience higher volume, allocate more staff to work during these periods.  

Wrapping up

The temptation to outsource customer support is certainly growing, particularly for small businesses who recognize that they can benefit from external expertise. While there are some fantastic customer support outsourcing partners out there, remember that investing in the right technology can bring just as many benefits to your customer service team. 

With Keeping, even a smaller team of agents can handle a high volume of customers, making in-house customer service much more feasible for small businesses. 

Whether you outsource your customer support or not, remember to keep the focus on quality and value for customers. The choice to outsource should only be made if you feel that it will definitely result in better experiences for customers, who are relying on your business to deliver great service. 

Outsourcing partners and small businesses can work together in order to build a thriving customer service culture that is the result of a healthy partnership. 

catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at https://awaywithwords.co.

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