Customers can make or break a business. And to woo them, you need not only a great offering but also excellent customer support. In fact, 40-50% of businesses stop doing business every year due to poor customer service. This is an insanely huge number, which is why outsourcing customer service has become a norm for several companies.
Outsourcing customer service can help businesses save on time, money, and resources while ensuring that customers are always happy.
But how do you outsource customer support to a third party? Shouldn’t they know everything about your business? How will they be able to deliver the same quality of service as your in-house team?
Don’t worry. It’s not as complicated as it seems. Here’s a complete guide on outsourcing customer service for your small business or startup.
What Does Customer Service Outsourcing Mean?
Outsourced customer service is when a company or business contracts another company, freelancer, or virtual assistant to handle its customer service or support needs.
This can include anything from answering customer queries and questions, to managing complaints and returns.
These third-party service providers understand your business and can provide the same quality (if not better) customer service as your in-house team.
Many outsourcing companies specialise in different areas of customer service. Some may focus on social media customer service, while others might provide more traditional phone and email support.
Moreover, these service providers operate from different locations around the world. This allows you to outsource customer service to a provider in a country with lower labour costs, such as the Philippines or India.
There are also freelance marketplaces, such as Fiverr or Upwork, which allow you to find customer service outsourcing providers on a per-project basis.
And don’t worry, even big companies like Google, Target, Hootsuite, and Airbnb outsource customer service.
What Customer Services Can Be Outsourced?
Almost any type of customer service can be outsourced. Here are some of the most common outsourcing services:
- Social media customer service
- Phone support
- Email support
- Live chat support
- Technical support
- Back-office support
While some companies specialise in one or two of such services, many offer omnichannel or multichannel support services taking over the entire customer service outsourcing for businesses.
How To Outsource Customer Service Operations?
Outsourcing customer service is not as difficult as it may seem. Here’s a quick guide on how you can go about outsourcing your customer service requirements:
Define Your Customer Service Goals
The first step is understanding what you want to achieve with outsourcing customer service. For instance, do you want to reduce operational costs?
Or are you looking to improve customer satisfaction, net promoter score (NPS), or first contact resolution (FCR) rates?
You need to clearly understand your goals before looking for customer service outsourcing partner.
Evaluate Your Customer Service Requirements
Once you know what you want to achieve, the next step is evaluating your customer service requirements. This will help you zero in on the right outsourcing partner.
Here are a few things you need to take into account:
- The type of customer service you need (e.g., email, phone, chat, social media)
- The channels your customers use to reach out (e.g., phone, email, live chat, or social media)
- The volume of customer service inquiries
- The geographical location of your target market
- Your company’s size and business model
- Your budget
Also, segregate the recurring support queries from technical or one-time issues that may require intervention from in-house teams. Doing so will help you better understand the kind of customer service outsourcing partner you need.
For example, if you run a small ecommerce business, chances are that most of your customer queries will be related to product information, order tracking, and shipping. In such a case, you can outsource customer service to a team that specialises in handling these kinds of requests in the language and time zone of your choice.
Find The Right Customer Service Outsourcing Partner
The outsourcing vendor you choose will play a significant role in how successful your outsourcing efforts are. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a customer service outsourcing provider:
- Industry expertise: Does the outsourcing company have experience serving businesses in your industry? Do they understand your products or services and your target market?
- Language capabilities: Can the outsourcing provider communicate effectively in your customers’ language(s)? Do they have native speakers on staff?
- Time zone support: Will the outsourcing company be available during the hours when your customers are most likely to need assistance?
- Technology requirements: Does the outsourcing company have the necessary technology to support your customer service needs? For example, do they have a robust CRM system? Or can they work with the CRM system you already have in place?
- Price: Obviously, you’ll need to consider the cost of outsourcing customer service. But be sure to compare apples to apples. In other words, don’t just look at the hourly rate. Consider the total cost of outsourcing, including hidden costs like training and onboarding.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll better understand whether outsourcing customer service is right for your business. You can find the best ones on –
- Fiverr: Fiverr is one of the most popular outsourcing marketplaces and for a good reason. You can find customer support freelancers for as less as $5 per job.
- Upwork: If you’re looking for a more established outsourcing website, Upwork is a great option. On Upwork, you can find freelancers with years of experience in customer service.
- Zirtual: Zirtual is perfect if you’re looking for a virtual assistant to help with customer service tasks. With Zirtual, you can be matched with a highly-skilled virtual assistant who can care for all your customer service needs.
Besides this, if you have a good budget, you can hire a customer service handling agency that will provide you with a team of customer service executives. Some of the best ones include:
- Simply Contact
How Does Outsourcing Customer Service Benefit Businesses?
There are several reasons why outsourcing customer service can be beneficial for businesses:
- Cost savings: One of the main benefits of outsourcing customer service is that it can save you money. By outsourcing to a company in a country with lower labour costs, you can reduce your overall operating costs.
- Increased flexibility: Outsourcing customer service can also give you increased flexibility. You can scale up or down your customer service operations as needed without having to hire or fire employees.
- Access to expertise: When you outsource customer service, you have access to a team of experts. This can be helpful if you don’t have the internal resources to train your own team.
- More Time to Focus on Other Things: Outsourcing customer service can also free up your time to focus on other aspects of your business including sales, marketing, and product development.
Drawbacks Of Outsourcing Customer Service
Outsourcing customer service requires you to have clarity of goals, objectives, and deliverables. If these things are not well-defined, it can lead to problems down the road.
Here are some other potential drawbacks of outsourcing customer service:
- You may not have as much control over the quality of service being delivered
- There can be language barriers if you outsource to a team that is based in a different country
- Rarely, it can lead to miscommunication and a lack of transparency
That being said, outsourcing customer service can greatly improve your company’s bottom line. It can lead to happier customers and improved satisfaction rates when done correctly.
Customer Service Outsourcing FAQs
Outsourcing is a big decision for any company. Here are a few commonly asked questions about outsourcing customer service:
If you’re not sure, consider the following.
How much does it cost to train and manage a customer service team internally?
Do you have the internal resources to do this effectively?
Would outsourcing customer service give you more time to focus on other aspects of your business?
The answers to these questions will help you determine if outsourcing customer service is the right decision for your business.
Monetarily, it often is cheaper to outsource customer service
When you outsource customer service, you’re working with a team that’s already trained and has the infrastructure in place to provide quality service
This means you don’t have to invest in training or set up your own customer service infrastructure
You also won’t have to pay for employee benefits, since most customer service outsourcing firms are based in countries where labour is relatively inexpensive
The end result is that you can save a considerable amount of money by outsourcing customer service
It all depends on the outsourcing firm you choose and the services you need.
It can cost as low as $5-6 per hour if a company operating in India handles your trivial customer service tasks, or as high as $100 per hour if you need high-level executive support in the US.
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A startup consultant, digital marketer, traveller, and philomath. Aashish has worked with over 20 startups and successfully helped them ideate, raise money, and succeed. When not working, he can be found hiking, camping, and stargazing.