Outsourcing Customer Service

Understanding the Difference Between an Inside Team Versus an Outsourced Team

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:

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

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:

Inside Hire:

Best Bet?


Best Bet?

Outsourced Customer Service:

Assuming you’re in the same location, you can provide just-in-time advice or collaborate on new issues.



While you’ll be able to provide feedback based on call monitoring, you will have little day-to-day interaction with the team.

Like you, a single hire can’t work 24-7, but you can get coverage when you need it most.  Also, by hiring part-time staff, you could cover awkward times or fill in the gaps when you’re unavailable.



Depending on what you’re willing to pay, coverage is one of the greatest strengths of outsourcing, with 24-7 options and response times guaranteed.

While insider hires generally cost more, the difference may be negligible compared to the control and competency.



Comparing apples-to-apples, an outsourced solution will nearly always be less expensive than an inside hiring strategy. An added benefit is the ability to ramp-up and reduce costs as your needs grow or contract.

You have greater leeway to question your own team member; to encourage them to expand on an opinion.



Because insights will be filtered through a liaison, it’s likely that you will receive less of it.

Inside Hires provide better qualitative information.



Because they have the funds for sophisticated tracking systems, you can receive myriad reports on response times, issue resolution, etc., with an Outsourced center.

Employees are only responsible for your business; they learn and also have context on product development, historic issues and what’s on the horizon.



While outsourced callers are very good at fielding calls, it takes them longer to understand your products, particularly if they are complex topics or include significant technical aspects. Call centers often have high turnover, which impedes deep product knowledge.

Time to full proficiency may be quicker with an Inside Hire, as that person has more direct access to you and is more invested in the company.




Because the staff is already in place, you save on hiring time.

17 Questions to Ask Potential Customer Service Vendors

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?

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