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Should you Outsource your Customer Service?

Mon, April 30, 2012

Should you Outsource your Customer Service?

It is impossible to give an unequivocal “yes” or “no” to this question because it will be de-pendent on individual circumstances. However, for most businesses, the starting point should be whether outsourcing your service will provide a viable way of cutting costs and increasing efficiencies. A business needs to weigh up the cost of supporting and managing customer services in-house and compare it with a third-party operation that often has a wealth of skilled human resources and technological infrastructure at their disposal.

Take, for example, a growing online clothes retailer. Its core business is manufac¬turing, and this is what they do best. But as sales grow, so does its need for a larger customer services department. The ad¬vantage of outsourcing is that the business does not have to worry about recruiting and training its own staff, investing in technology to support a team, and finding the space in which to put them. There is considerable cost in setting up, running and managing this kind of operation in-house.

For many businesses, at this stage of their growth, outsourcing can be an attractive proposition, especially because a service can be switched on in a matter of weeks; this is ideal for a seasonal peak such as Christmas.

If you make the decision to outsource, care must be exercised; even if the numbers are in favor of outsourcing, it is essential that you pick the right partner. Make sure it has the right credentials and, ideally, that it already has experience in your particular industry. Most companies quite rightly put a significant value on their customer service, so you also need to be confident that you are putting this into the hands of an organization that shares your brand values and culture.

The best part of outsourcing is that it is easier to pilot a project than it is to invest in the additional staff in-house, so even if you’re still undecided, you can trial outsourcing and measure the results before making a longer-term commitment.

You might want to consider Outsourcing If…

1. You want to add telephone, email or webchat support to your online sales operation.

2. You want to avoid the risk and time that comes with recruiting and training your own customer service staff.

3. You don’t have the budget to invest in IT infrastructure and the support required to run customer service operations, especially if there are high volumes of outbound service calls.

4. You want an over-spill facility for your in-house customer service department during peak periods.

5. You need to benchmark an internal services department.

6. You find it difficult to source customer services staff locally.

7. You need to improve current customer service levels (e.g. answer phones quicker and reduce queuing).

8. You’re managing cyclical events that do not justify recruiting a full-time internal customer services team.

9. You need access to a pool of “ready-made,” highly skilled customer service representatives.

10. You need to maximize sales via upselling carried out by customer services staff.

Dino Forte set up his first outsourced contact centre business in 1997, before selling it ten years later to a £750mn global diversified conglomerate. Dino has since created another outsourced contact centre business, now employing over 100 people and working for a range of blue-ship clients.