outsourcing customer service

When is it okay to start outsourcing customer service?

Daniel WeissLast updated on January 2, 2024
4 min

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The topic of outsourcing customer service can be a difficult conversation to have for a few reasons. Aside from being a universal-punching bag for politicians, it can seem like a huge undertaking, especially for young companies.

You may be asking yourself: Is it really necessary? Will I regret this move? Is it too much too soon? Will my customers notice and revolt? The answers to these questions vary, but oftentimes the solution is easier than you think.

outsourcing customer service

The truth is, “outsourcing” can take many forms, depending on your business needs. If your business could benefit from any of the following points, it could be time to consider what outsourced staffing options are available.

All Day. All Night.

Customer service is more important than ever. In order to exceed client expectations, brands need to be more than just courteous. In fact, customer service is a narrow concept — nowadays we’re talking about customer experience.

Part of this experience is the “always open” mentality. Most brands conduct business online, and (obviously) the Internet never closes. As such, your customers will want to contact you whenever it’s convenient for them. Furthermore, all digital businesses must have a brick-and-mortar address, but their checkout lines can be literally anywhere with an internet connection. These points create a dilemma for staffing support representatives.

Luckily, outsourcing customer service provides an all-around solution. That is to say, if you’re currently staffing an in-house support team but need 24/7 coverage for emergencies, hiring in another time zone offers an easy way to “extend” business hours. If call volume is high around the clock, outsourcing agencies can provide additional agents for local times as well.

When Business is Good, but Bandwidth is Short

In the beginning, at many small-to-mid-sized companies, it’s easy to think of customer support as a supplemental task. In a sense, everyone is a product expert, taking turns responding to customer concerns and questions. This is a fine solution until something goes terribly right, and the customer base begins expanding rapidly.

If your support team currently consists of marketers, developers, and sales representatives answering a shared phone line and email inbox, you might be susceptible to growing pains.

At some critical point, multitasking becomes no-tasking. To keep everyone sane and productive, outsourcing customer service operations lets your staff focus on their core functions. Furthermore, large and attentive support teams can be built without assigning three people per desk. Customer service and revenue can scale proportionally while keeping your same space.

Serious Seasonality

Seasonality can mean a small upswing in support tickets, but it can also be an aerial bombardment of inquiries. Just ask anyone who works for an online Christmas tree retailer…

And this can wreak havoc, especially if you’re relying on the aforementioned multi-taskers to handle the increased workload.

Hiring seasonal employees and onboarding each one will take substantial time and resources. Luckily, outsourcing customer service to a third-party service means you have the option to scale teams without the headaches of hiring (and dismissing) en masse.

This solution works well, provided you’re able to instruct the third-party on important matters, like what do do with complex tickets that need to be escalated. That is to say, high-level inquiries should be answered in-house.

Other aspects, such as brand voice and troubleshooting guidelines also only need to be communicated once. From there, scaling according to business seasonality has a one-phone-call remedy.

The Money Issue

By far the most talked-about (and criticized) benefit of outsourcing customer service is its cost-saving effectiveness. And it’s true, between salaries, hiring, and onboarding, offshore support operations can be much kinder on the company credit card.

In all reality, the average starting salary of a vetted call center employee overseas (e.g. the Philippines) is just south of $400/month. As these are legitimate professional operations, this presents itself as a viable option when companies are operating at massive scale.

Brands experiencing hyper-growth may choose this route to handle large volumes of customer inquiries. Plus, in today’s global economy, the benefits of offsetting time zones could create a more complete support operation (see earlier point).

But if the thought of shifting operations overseas makes you uneasy, there are still cost-saving benefits to outsourcing your customer service channels to a third-party domestically (e.g. onboarding and capital expenditures).

As one BIG caveat to this point: if your only reason for outsourcing customer service is as a cost-saving measure, it might not be the right choice for your business at this time. That is to say, the customer experience must come first. For example, if your support reps need direct communication with other teams to resolve issues quickly (say, engineering), having a team of 60 in Manila won’t improve CX more than a team of 10 on-site.

Is Outsourcing Customer Service Right for My Business?

The situations mentioned are starting points for an outsourcing discussion. In the end, it all comes down to one question: Will this decision improve our overall customer experience?

If your brand is experiencing hyper-growth and support simply cannot keep up with the number of inbound calls and emails, then outsourcing to a well-resourced third-party could improve wait times and resolution rates.

Similarly, if your company has somehow built a large customer base without any customer support operation whatsoever, outsourcing is surely better than nothing. Important to note: this is not a magic pill. If you go from 0 customer service reps to 100 overseas in a weekend, don’t expect your NPS to rebound like Shaquille O’Neal.

That being said, take a look at what’s out there. A lot of reputable, trusted brands are outsourcing customer service with great success. Third-party providers are a fast way to make your brand more accessible, and this is the first step toward a positive customer experience.

Published on June 28, 2018.

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