10 Tips to Successfully Outsource Customer Service


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I’m not saying that companies should outsource their customer service operations. But, we have to admit that some do and will continue to do so. Furthermore, in some cases it may actually be a good idea when done right.

I worked for a number of years managing customer service teams for a large multinational outsourcer. Based on my experience, here are some of the things that you need to keep in mind.

Customer Service Outsourcing Tips

Clearly identify your objectives. If all you want is to save as much money as possible and you don’t care about your employees or the level of customer service, you can skip the rest of this list and go elsewhere. However, if you want a successful outsourcing that benefits your customers, read on.

call center

Do your homework. Based on your objectives, research the outsourcers and their customers. Get referrals and look them up using search engines. You should look for customer service failures and try to find out how they were handled (or not). There will always be failures and complaints, the important thing is how they’re dealt with. Also keep in mind that the level of service may vary depending on the agreement.

Consider hiring a recommended consultant with experience in customer service outsourcing. If you decide to use a consultant, choose them with as much care as you will the outsourcer.

Read the contract, in detail and understand it. If you’re using a consultant, get them to comment on it. You should obviously have it reviewed by your lawyer too. But most importantly, ask questions and get the answers in writing (preferably as part of the contract). Trust me, it’s much easier to do this before you sign the agreement; afterwards, negotiating the interpretation of a clause can be difficult and impact the service delivered to your customers.

Don’t be fooled by service level agreements (SLA), decide which SLAs are important to you. Just because everyone else uses certain SLAs, it doesn’t mean that this is what you want to measure. You should ensure that the SLAs include quality components and that they’re clearly defined; simply indicating that they’ll survey your customers doesn’t tell you how often or what they do with the results.

Remember, the outsourcer is in it to make money too. You can’t have a lop-sided contract (in either direction); this needs to be a partnership. You want this to be a win-win; otherwise, your customers lose.

If you try to negotiate every penny expect the outsourcer to watch every penny during the contract. Need I say more?

Care for your people. What will happen to them during the outsourcing? Remember that how you treat them reflects on your company. Your current customer service employees know your business and, especially, your customers intimately. They are also a source of referrals and some of them may tweet, blog and talk about you on Facebook.

Keep at least one customer service specialist on your team to manage the relationship. Like any other business relationship, you want someone who knows the business and has your interests at heart. Choose someone who has a proven track record and get them on-board early in the process.

Cultural fit and language skills. Many people make a big deal about off-shore outsourcing of customer service call centres. This may or may not be an issue for you. However, you need to make sure that if the service will be delivered from outside of your geographic region then culture and language skills need to be taken into to consideration. Otherwise, you may run the risk of alienating a portion of your customers.



Creative Commons License photo credit: vlima.com

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Eric Jacques
Customer Excellence Blog
Customer Service Excellence Advocate -- working as a Client Satisfaction Manager


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