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6 crucial factors to outsourced customer service success

There are multiple reasons why brands might choose to work with outsourcers to help deliver their customer service. For example, they might be a new or small firm that has yet to establish an in-house contact centre. Or they aren’t in a position to invest in one. Alternatively, they might be entering a new market where they need on-the-ground support. They could lack specific skills, such as languages. Many need additional capacity at busy times of the year, on specific channels or to help to deliver 24×7 support. Or perhaps it’s just more efficient for some companies to outsource customer service, either for specific channels or overall.

Either way the outsourced customer service sector is a significant part of the overall market. For example, 15% of respondents to the Contact Babel 2020-21 Decision Maker’s Guide are outsourcers, and the sector is set to grow globally by $14.05 billion between 2021 and 2025.

Given the growth of the market, and its competitiveness, outsourcers have to focus on 6 key areas to drive success.

1. Safeguarding brand reputation

Outsourcers are the frontline of customer service for their clients, so whatever they do reflects on the brand itself. Essentially, as far as customers are concerned, they are dealing with the company itself and the service they receive has to be consistent with overall brand values.

It’s therefore essential that an outsourced customer service provider is able to meet customers’ needs.  Particularly when it comes to speed, consistency and a joined-up approach. As an outsourcer it is key that your teams are able to immerse themselves in the brand values of clients. Equally, agents must have access to the right information to deliver against those brand promises.  This makes a centralised knowledge base essential.

2. Balancing resources

The challenge for outsourcers is that to be effective, they need to be able to balance their resources across all of their clients to achieve the necessary economies of scale. That means ensuring that a team that works for one brand is not sitting idle while another is rushed off their feet with calls or emails.

Achieving this requires both training (so that agents can switch between brands seamlessly) and technology to support them. For example, skills-based routing can direct interactions to the best available agent to deliver for a customer, wherever they are located – and ensure optimal performance.

Outsourcers can better balance their resources by underpinning their services with a cloud-based SaaS platform. This gives greater flexibility. Rather than having to purchase enough system capacity to cope with peaks, an outsourcer can use SaaS offerings to scale capacity up and down as they need it. It also provides the ability to set up new customers quickly and bring on new teams or locations.

3. Empowering agents

As with the rest of the industry, outsourced contact centres have to be able to retain and empower agents in order to meet client needs effectively and efficiently. That makes it essential to incorporate technology that empowers and makes agents more efficient, such as through an intuitive interface that makes working across channels simple and seamless. Provide an easy-to-use, up-to-date knowledge base that furnishes agents with accurate, templated answers to customer questions and uses AI to analyse customers’ text-based communications for factors such as context and emotion. This enables agents to respond with personalised, empathetic replies, reinforcing brand values and increasing satisfaction.

4. Ensure consistent quality

It is essential for outsourced call centres to be able to deliver consistent quality to every client, across every interaction. Fortunately, there are technologies that can help with aspects of this. For example, real-time speech analytics provides the ability to automatically monitor customer calls for warning signs that an agent is struggling (such as raised voices or long silences), allowing a supervisor to step in and provide the support needed to satisfactorily resolve the customer issue. It can also prompt agents when running through terms and conditions to ensure everything is covered contractually.

Similarly, by paying attention to agent performance data across interactions it’s possible to spot potential issues that are impacting quality and agent wellbeing and put in place additional training and support.

5. Drive flexible, agile processes

An important requirement for any outsourced customer service provider is that they need to be able to work in ways that exactly meet each client’s specific needs. In other words, they have to be able to provide a custom solution – not a one size fits all approach. That means being agile and flexible, with technology that can fit every client’s requirement and integrates with their in-house systems. While at the same time still being easy to use and manage.

Alongside offering a flexible, tailored approach there is a need to be able to constantly monitor resources and activity levels. For example, outsourcers can use call accounting software which captures, records, and controls the costs of telephone usage events. Moreover, this enables you to track what calls have been made, to what numbers and how much they have cost.

6. Add value and become a true business partner

The outsourcing market has always been competitive, with technology innovations now making it easier for companies to change partners. For example, virtualisation and the rise of the cloud means companies are able to swap in different outsourced resources as their needs change, maximising their efficiency while improving the customer experience.

It’s therefore essential that outsourced contact centres are at the forefront of effective technology and add real value to support their clients. For instance by providing more business-level reporting. This includes moving away from basic metrics such as Net Promoter Scores to more granular qualitative metrics that tell you the why of customer behaviour. For example, did the NPS for a client go up because the firm slashed its prices? Or did it go down because its new product was too difficult to use? This kind of detailed ‘why?’ reporting is possible using AI-powered analysis of customer interactions for example. Offering this level of detailed reporting can help an outsourcer become a true partner to their clients.

Increasing competition and rising customer expectations mean that companies today need flexible, effective and efficient customer service. Given these trends, outsourcing is likely to continue to grow in size, while competition increases. In order to thrive, outsourcers need to combine flexibility with the right technology and tools. This will allow them to both support changing client needs and be able to empower agents and delight end-customers.