Customer service, at its core, is ensuring that your customers are happy with your products and company so they will continue doing business with you. Seems simple, right? Yet it’s becoming increasingly complex as the responsibilities of customer service change, the number of customer service channels expand and customer expectations increase. When you consider that 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service, you begin to understand the scope of the issue. Poor customer service ultimately means lost customers and lost revenue. Even worse, given the information sharing tools available today, unhappy customers can impact the choices of prospective customers more than ever before.
The good news? Customer service still comes down to prompt, honest, empathetic communication with your customers, and even small companies can do it well. The question is – how? We are tackling this question on our Focus On: Customer Service series, where we’ll explore planning for, implementing and scaling customer service for your subscription business. The full series includes:
- Customer Service: The Basics
- Establishing a Customer Service Department
- Outsourcing Customer Service
- Handling Common Customer Service Questions
- Your First Customer Service Hire
- Scaling Your Customer Service Team
Outsourcing Customer Service
When you’re ready to implement customer service activities, you’ll have to decide whether to hire direct employees or to leverage an outsourced call center. Companies just starting out often leverage a virtual receptionist to make sure the phones get answered, and as they grow they may outsource all aspects of customer service while others choose to keep all activities in-house. There are benefits to each.
In this article we will cover:
- Understanding the Difference Between an Inside Team Versus an Outsourced Team
- 17 Questions to Ask Potential Customer Service Vendors
The following “Inside versus Outsourced” chart compares and contrasts the key strengths and weaknesses of both options. Ultimately it depends on your priorities, as either of the following options may be right for your organization:
If outsourcing is your course of action, ask these 17 questions as you evaluate vendors. We recommend that you create a chart and compare the tools available from various providers. You may not need all of the available functionality early on, but understanding the features and services you may leverage as you grow is smart business. As always, prioritize your needs based on what’s important to you.
1. What communications channels can they support? Phone/Email/Social Media/ Chat? What about other options?
2. What are the available pricing and packages? Do they offer “pay-as-you-go” plans or do they require a commitment? If so, what and how much?
3. Can some compensation be tied to goals?
4. Will you have a dedicated account manager?
5. Will there be dedicated customer service reps?
6. How will they train their staff on your products?
7. Can you listen in on calls and jump on and off in real time?
8. Can recorded calls be batched and sent to you periodically? Even if you can listen in, it’s helpful to have recordings to share at meetings and training sessions.
9. Do they have references from others with your needs or from a similar industry?
10. What is their average staff tenure? Centers that hold on to staff longer are generally more committed to the quality, versus quantity, of output.
11. What language capabilities do your team members have – writing, speaking or both Are they native speakers or is it a second-language capability? A benefit of native speakers is they also understand cultural norms that help in bonding with customers, and handling very angry or emotional calls.
12. What is the standard or recommended SLA (Service Level Agreement) for inbound response times?
13. What types of reports are available? Most good call centers will offer reports, cross-tabbed in multiple ways. Ask for samples!
14. How do they distribute or manage inbound inquiries across phone/email/chat/social media? How do they manage expected and unexpected spikes in inbound volume? It’s important to understand and gather data from phone calls, emails, live chat and social media sites to understand response times.
15. Is there a real-time report dashboard available so you can monitor key performance indicators?
16. Can they export data in a flat file, or port it directly into my CRM or other in-house systems? What systems and file types to they support? How often can they update data for you?
17. Do they have real-time surveying capabilities? Will the call center have the capability to gather experience evaluations through phone, email or online chat on how you engage with your customers?