If you’ve ever doubted that customer support matters, just think back to the last time you sat, ready to scream, on hold with your internet service provider. Customer support is the backbone of a lasting relationship between your business and the people you serve.
Bad customer experiences are one of the top reasons people leave providers. On the other hand, customers who have positive customer service and support experiences are 14 times more likely to strengthen their relationship with a business.
If you’re looking for ways to improve the customer support function within your business, add outsourcing customer support to your list. By outsourcing to a trusted partner, you can ensure you’re giving customers the experience they want, and keep them loyal and connected with you.
As you consider outsourcing, these questions can help you to start weighing the benefits of different providers and determining what you’ll want in place to create a successful relationship.
#1 – Do Your Cultures Align?
Culture includes the environment your team works in every day, incorporating the ways people communicate, build relationships, and problem solve. Culture is the biggest intangible that can have an extremely tangible impact on your outsourcing success.
While culture is the sum total of the entire team’s attitudes and actions, it generally trickles down from the top. Talking with your outsourced team’s leadership will give you a good idea of what’s important to them and whether their culture will mesh well with your own and give your customers a seamless experience.
Some beneficial cultural questions can include:
– What’s your outlook on technology in the industry? (to determine whether they’re focused on, or receptive to, innovation)
– How do you communicate within groups? (to learn more about how information is disseminated)
– How do you make sure your team members feel supported and prepared to communicate with customers? (to learn whether they value training)
– How do you handle difficult issues from customers? (to learn whether they focus on high-volume or high-complexity transactions)
#2 – What Do They Consider Important When Sourcing Talent?
All customer support teams and customer support people are not the same. When you’re looking for a customer support team, you’ll want to talk with team leaders about their hiring practices.
It’s important to understand whether they are hiring customer support professionals that fit with your business model.
Are they bringing team members on board who are skilled in resolving customer concerns quickly and at a high volume and who are best suited for addressing basic concerns? Or, are they hiring team members with customer service expertise in more complex and technical fields, so they’re able to effectively communicate with those who are having specific issues with a piece of software?
By questioning potential outsourced sales partners about the type of team members they bring on (and determining which is the best fit for you), you can get a better understanding of whether they’ll successfully interface with your customer base.
#3 – Are They Committed to Training?
Training is a significant investment, especially if you do it right. However, investments in training generally pay for themselves because of the increased confidence and competence of team members.
When communicating with potential outsourced support partners, get an understanding of their training processes. Some questions you may want to ask include:
– Do they dedicate full-time trainers to work with their team members? This is a positive sign and indicates a commitment to a training-based culture.
– What are the trainer’s responsibilities? They should ideally create training materials as well as coach your outsourced team on your company’s specific nuances.
In addition, they should work closely with Quality Assurance professionals to determine areas where additional attention and follow-up communications may be required. And, finally, they should dedicate time to one-on-one coaching and communication to strengthen the skill sets of individual team members and improve their ability to connect with customers and resolve issues efficiently.
#4 – What Language(s) Are They Proficient In?
If you’re selling your product to clients across different countries and cultures, you may notice that your customer support agents are receiving calls in multiple languages.
In order to make these contacts less frustrating and easier to handle, it can be beneficial to consider working with an outsourced customer support team that includes multilingual employees.
As an added perk, your clients will see that you’re committed to helping them in the way that’s most comfortable for them; knowing that you’ve brought on additional resources specifically to serve their needs can be another way that you bolster their loyalty and increase their potential for retention.
#5 – What’s Their Track Record?
While you should trust the partners you’re building a relationship with, you shouldn’t have to just take their word for it when they tell you how successful they are.
When you’re considering an outsourced customer support team, don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they’ve worked with other clients who have had similar needs.
The best outsourced customer support teams should be able to point to case studies and other information that shows their outsourcing expertise. They should have clients who are proud to talk about the results they’ve achieved through their partnership.
#6 – Who Will Maintain Ownership of Different Steps in the Customer Support Process?
When determining how to set up an outsourced customer support program, you need to define who will be responsible for which tasks between your two teams, and where baton handoffs will occur.
If there are certain issues that will be escalated to your team, you want to have a thoroughly-defined process that covers who will take over and how resolution will be communicated. You should also define how you want customer support issues for clients communicated back to your customer team members.
If it seems like communication is being mentioned frequently, it’s because its importance is paramount to a successful outsourced customer support relationship. Investing time at the beginning of an outsourced relationship to define your parameters and goals is one of the biggest indicators for potential long-term success.
At the same time, you should also be certain about who on your team will own the relationship with the outsourced team, so you can ensure a key point of contact who will streamline communication and keep everyone on the same page.
#7 – What’s Your Budget?
Many people consider outsourcing as an option to decrease the expenses related to customer service and support. While there’s still a cost associated with outsourced customer support, you can offset it through the savings that come from items you’ll no longer have to pay for.
Outsourcing makes it possible to invest less in hard costs like buildings, computers, phone systems, and more – all the physical resources for a team of support personnel.
In addition, your outsourced team should manage ongoing training, continually improving your representatives’ knowledge, confidence, and expertise. And, one of the biggest benefits is the fact that you won’t be required to complete the arduous ongoing tasks related to hiring and retaining in-house customer support team members.
#8 – What Goals Do You Want to Achieve?
When you’re investing money in an outsourced service, your colleagues and senior leadership team are going to want to have an understanding of how those funds are being spent. And, for yourself as a business leader, you’ll also want to have set details that you track to look for opportunities to improve your overall service and support.
Spend some time thinking about what types of measurement are important to you, then talk with the leaders of the outsourced teams you’re considering. They should let you know some of the measurements they regularly track and report for clients.
And, they can also weigh in on the goals you’re considering to determine whether they fit with your industry and market. Some potential items you may want to set benchmarks for include:
– Percentage of contacts managed with first-call resolution
– Average call handle time
– Net Promoter Score
– Customer retention
It’s a Big Decision
Bringing on an outsourced customer support team can be a big decision, and you’ll want to do plenty of research to find a team that fits your business needs and will help you achieve your goals. However, making that big decision can be worth it from a business perspective, as you’ll be able to ensure happier customers with stronger relationships and more long-term loyalty to your products and services.