You Can’t Outsource Great Customer Service


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… or at least, that’s been my experience over the past few days. I had the misfortune to have my car stolen last weekend. It was fitted with a tracker, so the police found it – fortunately undamaged – within 24 hours. While the thieves were at it, they also stole a couple of items from the house.

And then the fun and games started with the insurance companies. I don’t mind naming and shaming them (Admiral for the car and Norwich Union for the contents) because, frankly, they could have done a lot better.

The problem lies in the fact that both of these companies have outsourced the investigation of the claims and the associated loss adjustment to third parties – and none of the third parties involved have the big picture, or see my problem from my terms, rather than the narrow definition of their sub-contracted responsibilities.

I’ll give you a couple of examples: the property insurance company told me that I’d get a call from the loss adjuster within 48 hours. After more than 3 days, I phoned them up to chase them, and to complain about their lack of responsiveness. What did I hear? According to the loss adjuster, because they had only received the information from the insurance company the previous day, they were within the time allowed.

You see the problem? Different standards. The loss adjuster was doing fine by their standards, but had completely failed to achieve the expectations that had been set to me by the very insurance company they were working for.

All my contact was now coming through these third parties. I raised a point of principle with their representative. Guess what? They could not comment – it was an issue for the insurer, but if I care to make another call, navigate yet another impenetrable IVR tree, maybe I’d get an answer. Maybe.

I’m sure that the commercial arguments for outsourcing these services look compelling. But if they are implemented in the sort of ham-fisted way I’ve just experienced, the net result will be very unhappy customers.

I’d make at least two recommendations to Admiral and Norwich Union if they value my business, and that of anyone else I happen to rant to about this over the next few weeks:

1. Ensure that your sub-contractors performance standards are couched in complete alignment with the expectations you set with your customers. Make sure they see the customer service “big picture”, and insist that performance standards are measured from the customer’s perspective
2. Ensure that your subcontractors are trained to answer your client’s likely questions (and mine were VERY easy to predict) without using the lame excuse that it isn’t part of the subcontractors responsibilities, or forcing them to make yet another call

It’s absolutely inexcusable for there to be any other basis for performance standards than the customer’s own perception of the service – and it’s a really bad idea to force your customers to have to make multiple calls to get answers to what they perceive to be related questions, just because you’ve chosen to outsource for your short-term commercial gain.

Bob Apollo
Bob Apollo is the CEO of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B sales performance improvement specialists. Following a varied corporate career, Bob now works with a rapidly expanding client base of B2B-focused growth-phase technology companies, helping them to implement systematic sales processes that drive predictable revenue growth.


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