Customer Service Outsourcing: What does the future look like for brands?
Between the pandemic, it’s fair to say the outsourced service operating model, particularly in customer service outsourcing, has experienced forced change. While cost has always been the key driver in services outsourcing, Covid-19 has caused a huge shift from cost being the critical point, to risk management and quality as the metrics and measures that now matter most. Contact centers have had a particularly tough time of things; the actions that many of them have taken have been admirable, but it’s becoming clearer that long-term change has accelerated to the short term.
What will customer service outsourcing look like in the new normal?
As businesses begin to ramp up again, companies will be reviewing what has worked and what has not. Now is the time for BPOs to show that they are capable of shifting to new capabilities to help facilitate the ‘new normal’ and to look at providing a very different customer support operating model – one that maintains performance levels at its very heart.
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Re-defined business continuity
During Covid-19, a remarkable number of customer service teams were able to cope, but it’s fair to say that it wasn’t always an easy or comfortable effort. Many models relied on superhero efforts from customer service staff, with people working overtime and losing sleep to make sure service was not disrupted. As companies start to plan for a return, they are reviewing what they need from their delivery models, and now is the time for BPOs to sit up and take notice if they are to stay in the game.
Business continuity planning has been challenged to the core, and businesses will also be looking to eliminate processes that aren’t working. Customer service agents themselves have new expectations: the pandemic has forced flexibility in the form of remote working onto many businesses, and the world of outsourcing has to evolve to embrace this necessity. Gone are the days when people will be willing to be jammed into call centers to facilitate a company’s customer service. At the same time, those running any form of the remote working model need to be fully prepared. Isolation, loneliness, and lack of motivation can all be part of a cultural cost that businesses will face without putting in place the proper infrastructure to support their remote teams.
The need for automation with a human touch
However, what many BPOs are realizing is that the issue of flexibility isn’t just about location: it’s about having an omnichannel customer service environment mapped to specific query types and customer segments. Automation has, for many years, played a significant role here. It has been clear that organizations that were proactive in their response to coronavirus tended to have higher levels of automation running throughout the company or had fast-tracked their technological innovation to cope with it. Virtual assistants and chatbots were, in many cases, the saving grace for companies that raced against time to get their customer service agents up and running during the lockdown.
However, while automation may help to ease accelerated volumes and route out simple queries that need not be directed to human customer service agents, it’s not enough to help with some of the other issues raised by the pandemic. Outsourcers were quick to realize the difficulties introduced by illness among customer service agents, the challenges of childcare amongst employees, and the accelerated demands that have been placed on customer service teams due to increased demand for services during the pandemic.
Automation is also not a replacement for empathy, which has become paramount in a world that has experienced lockdown and a distinct lack of human contact. During the lockdown, in our discussions with customer service agents, we heard time and time again that what many customers wanted was not just a solution to their problem, but also assurance from another human being that business would continue as usual. Automation rolled out carelessly can just become a landing place for customers, not a solution to their problems.
It’s clear that what is needed is a truly flexible workforce that can work where and when required, but one that is completely capable of empathy.
This is where outsourcing can work.
It’s no longer about bringing the people to the work: it’s about bringing the work to the people.
The market is likely to see the introduction of more new methods of customer service outsourcing into new service operating models, alongside traditional call centers, virtual assistants, and chatbots.
Innovation is the future
There is no denying that many organizations’ outsourcing models could do with a variety of amendments and improvements. We know now that de-risking the outsourced customer service model is a top priority. To do this, organizations ultimately need to be looking at how they can make the nature of their outsourcing more flexible, taking into account automation, but also innovation in the form of new channels such as virtual call center platforms.
To further eliminate risk, businesses should be looking to future-proof every channel, be that full-time call center staff, chatbots, and virtual assistants. Chatbots and virtual assistants are also getting smarter, which leaves humans to take care of the empathy that is so needed right now.
We also need to aim high in the future. There is absolutely room for outsourcing in the new customer service operating model. Still, it depends entirely on the ability of outsourcers to adapt to the new environment, and for businesses to choose the best partner that will help them to reduce risk and prioritize quality simultaneously.
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Challenges and the road to recovery
Outsourcing service providers around the world are dealing with travel restrictions for their staff. Empty offices are a result of this. Many SMEs in developing countries provide outsourcing services to companies in Europe and the USA. But, they do not have the equipment, infrastructure, or management tools to let their staff work from home. They have almost no staff and are having great difficulties trying to deliver work.
With work not getting done, many outsourcing partners have to take the work back in-house. This may result in them stopping outsourcing their work altogether, even when the crisis is over. Even companies that can deliver have to deal with projects that are now on hold and the lack of new incoming projects
That will be the biggest challenge of this crisis; staying in business until the crisis is over. In order to do so, outsourcing partners are going smart and building their own remote work platforms. Where agents can work and resolve the issue of the customers working from home with a laptop and an internet connection. The pandemic will be over but remote work is here to stay.
Customer service outsourcing: What brands need
Today, shifting work to a BPO is an increasingly common move for growing companies. It’s an affordable and flexible way of getting expert help in key areas like customer support, enabling you to quickly scale and stay focused on other areas that need your attention. Choosing the best possible BPO for your company’s needs can maximize the benefits and reduce the limitations. Let’s look at a few common trends that businesses are adopting to outsource customer service keeping the pandemic in mind.
The remote call center is a must-have
Remote work is a growing phenomenon for plenty of great reasons. A BPO that uses remote support agents brings several benefits. Just like with general remote work, BPOs hiring remote agents have access to the best talent they can find. Their recruiting and hiring pipelines aren’t limited by physical location. If your outsourced customer service agents are physically dispersed, you can rest easy knowing something like a power outage or poor weather won’t compromise your ability to support customers. Remote work correlates with things like higher levels of employee wellness, fewer unscheduled absences, and greater employee loyalty.
Expertise and experience
With the massive size of this market, you can find all kinds of teams offering various services. Some companies may specialize in repetitive requests, while others can be proficient in solving in-depth situations. Take into account the employees’ language skills because they need to meet your customer’s expectations. Try to choose the best team that will satisfy all your needs.
Quality control for customer support
The quality of support you receive from outsourced customer service agencies varies widely. Considering that 68% of customers believe that a polite representative is a key ingredient to excellent customer service, this should be an important factor in your choice of agency. There are a lot of factors that will show the effectiveness of a customer service team. Acquire statistics from the company you are interested in and analyze their average handle time, first contact resolution, as well as other metrics that can shed light on their productivity.
Learn how this company monitors its quality assurance, how many calls they take into account, and how transparent its rating system is. The absence of adequate quality control may indicate low responsibility and bad service.
Another thing to consider is the geographical location of your outscored team, which will determine the price level. European and American call centers will be more expensive. Outsourcing customer service to India will be much cheaper and with high–quality service. Especially the way India has shaped up amidst the pandemic, thanks to the skilled professionals and graduates who have been rated among the world’s top companies. Compared to Europe and the US, Indian teams are less expensive and with better results.
You should be aware of risks related to sensitive customer data you provide to third parties. Before hiring external employees, review your internal security, figure out the weak sides, and restrict access to certain information. You should ensure that no third party can reach your customer’s hyper-personal information such as credit card details, health records, etc.
Also, consult your legal team about any binding contracts you are planning to sign so you will clearly understand all the terms of your cooperation with the provider.
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Customer service outsourcing can help to scale up your business, lower expenses, and improve support coverage. Looking for an outsourcing partner, you should consider their experience, skills, geographical location, and the availability of some added services and risk management that can help to improve workflow. Just remember that external customer support requires mindful training and constant supervision to effectively represent your brand and achieve high customer satisfaction.
Customer service outsourcing comes in all shapes and sizes, with different price points, and different levels of service quality. It’s much easier to find the outsourcing partner best suited to your company when you know what to look for.