Every business knows the importance of customers and customer service. During difficult economic times the importance of serving those customers only grows, while budgets and staffing generally do not.
Handling more requests for customer service among fewer people leaves other important work undone, potentially causing more complaints.
So, what do you do when you can’t afford to hire, or even find capable customer service employees to take care of these most important people? Is it feasible to outsource this task to someone else, like a call center?
It sure is feasible! It can be a great decision to outsource your work to a customer service call center or it can be a big mistake. Here are some tips to point you in the right direction as you seek out a firm to lend a helping hand.
A Good Fit For Your Market
Find a company that has done work in your market space, if possible. Make sure your expectations of what they should do match their capabilities. For example, if you want 24/7 coverage, be sure they are willing and able to provide it.
Is it Shared or Dedicated Service?
It’s more cost-effective to receive your customer service in an environment where CSR’s may get calls from a few companies’ customers. In many cases that arrangement works very well and the pricing is very reasonable for the coverage. You can leverage yourself with more trained agents that they can route to giving you more bandwidth and lower hold times.
However, dedicated reps can be more fully trained and immersed in your company culture – somewhat like an employee would be. The cost for dedicated customer service reps is much higher, but still less than paying for costly technology, project management, hiring, staffing, training, redundancy, salary taxes, and benefits for another staff member.
What Service Channel do They Provide?
Phone Calls Only Or… Some companies retain the customer service channels of email, chat, and text in-house, and only outsource the inbound calls. Others turn over all customer support to an outsourced firm.
What Are The Working Hours?
As referenced above, you may want customer service coverage full time, only during business hours, only after business hours, or maybe just on weekends. Be sure to communicate what your needs are as you pick an outsourcing partner.
How Will They Handle Training.
The call center should be responsible for training the customer service representatives in proper telephone use, courtesy, listening skills, etc.
It is important for the company doing the outsourcing to be responsible for the training of those callers
-as it pertains to frequently asked questions, common concerns, the product or services provided, recalls, contests… all the things a company employee would know.
An outsourced agent can never be as up-to-date as someone in-house, but properly trained phone representatives should have good company knowledge.
Part of that training is for the customer service reps to make sure not to say more than they know, and to promise the customer that they’ll find an answer for them or pass the question on to someone else at the company.
Where is The Central Location or Locations of Their Center?
You have a pretty good sense of your customers, and they probably have some notions about your company and its culture. A company with a strong regional brand might cause its customers to be very surprised if their call is answered by someone with a strong accent.
While there are wonderful customer service representatives working all over the world, some customers find strong accents on the other end of their phone call distracting. For a tech-oriented company this may not be a problem. But in agricultural, building trades, or some other sectors a phone rep who sounds inconsistent with the company’s branding may be problematic.
How Will They Provide Reports and Recording?
If you have a customer service portal you can make that available to the firm to which you outsource. Otherwise, the customer service call center should be able to provide reports of the calls and/or email received along with average handle time, speed of answer and other key performance indicators. Transparency in reporting is key to a good partnership so that you can clearly see the metrics how the overall customer experience is trending with timely responses, low hold times and abandoned call percentages.
Can You Visit Them On-site?
It is a helpful if the company sends people from their marketing department to visit the outsourcing center to view the facility and interact with the project manager, supervisors and some of the agents that will be answering calls on your behalf so that you can get a feel for the culture alignment.
How do They Handle Quality Control Monitoring?
The company needs the ability to listen to some of the customer service calls per month. Quality control is the call center’s responsibility, but protecting the company’s brand identity is important. A couple of things the company needs to demand of the marketing reps:
a. Respect. A customer services representative’s first job is to be respectful of and courteous to the person seeking help. A customer who feels belittled or not valued may pursue other options from whom to buy their services or products.
b. Empathy. An angry customer is most likely wants to be heard and have those feelings acknowledged. Of course, the person’s problem needs to be resolved, but hearing what the person has to say and responding empathetically helps diffuse the situation.
How Do They Handle Security?
If the outsourced customer service center has access to any sensitive information, including credit cards for purchases, you should be using a PCI Certified center. PCI certification involves a rigorous series of requirements the center must achieve to demonstrate that credit card and other customer information remains safe.
If an outsourced customer service company is able to properly manage the flow of questions and complaints from customers, and save the cost of hiring new people, your outsourcing will be a huge success. However, if you are able to save money but have poor customer experiences from untrained or supervised customer service representatives they may cause more problems than they solve, thus it’s time to try another firm.
Your objective should be to find a company that treats your customers the way that you do.
Positive reports coming your way from customers who had a great experience with one of “your” people will help demonstrate that you’ve found the right company.
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