Every company needs a great internal team – core staff that you know you can rely on, as a leader. However, internal teams can’t keep on giving the same level of performance if tasks keep piling up without capacity being freed as well.
As processes and business functions scale alongside the company, it becomes a real challenge to efficiently manage everything. Trying to juggle finances, HR, marketing, sales, business ops, customer service, business admin, planning, etc, can only go so far. Of course, the main issue is finding (or affording) personnel.
In many growth-phase businesses, the solution is asking for multi-purpose crunch time from existing staff. However, this always leads to burned-out, demotivated people.
And so, here we are: you need to develop a successful outsourcing strategy to keep growing profitably. Let’s delve right into that, after a very quick tip:
Wild guess – your business sells something. Whatever that something may be, CX is still the driving force behind custom retention. The better the CX, the higher the customer's lifetime value. If you’re interested in solving for scale via outsourcing, let’s talk. We’re experts at freeing businesses from time-consuming tasks and creating growth opportunities.
Table of contents
You can easily outsource multiple different tasks at once – core processes, non-core processes, or both. Technically, “outsourcing” is just for non-core processes, while business process outsourcing (BPO) is for the core ones.
In practice though, we use the two interchangeably, so don’t be confused about that.
You should build a strategy that revolves around:
- Outsourcing specific tasks, not general projects.
- Developing clear processes for the external team.
- Providing training materials and documentation.
- Finding a qualified BPO company to manage the process.
- Providing frequent feedback in the first weeks.
- Straightening out asynchronous communication.
- Maintaining a flexible budget.
- Accounting for seasonal customer increases.
- Aligning core company values with the BPO provider.
- Always assessing the benefits of the ongoing partnership.
- Establishing a dedicated point of contact.
- Asking for service proposals from multiple vendors.
- Plan for likely outsourcing challenges.
Whatever you want to outsource though, look for a custom plan. Template offers will just run your outsourced team through the motions. At SupportNinja, we’ve helped hundreds of businesses achieve the right-size capacity overnight (ok, not actually overnight) with bespoke plans.
Our dedicated support model creates the needed accessibility, visibility, and agility. This way, growth leaders can focus only on product/service development and long-term strategies; Ninjas safeguard what’s already built.
No need to grow alone – squad up and scale up while staying lean.
Outsourcing is simply subcontracting a third party to handle one of your business processes. The practice is highly flexible. You can outsource pretty much anything. From manufacturing, to logistics, recruitment, branding, PR, customer service, accounting, etc.
An amazing outsourcing partner has to be reliable, consistent, quality-driven, and aligned with your values. That’s when external teams truly become brand-safe extensions of your business. Otherwise, it all falls apart quickly.
Start with defining your company’s pain points, and figure out what would generate more value if outsourced. If you’re unsure what you need, simply contact an outsourcing expert.
For example, we make outsourcing simple for our clients by providing pretty much any type of support service that an organization needs. The delivery can also be done 2 separate ways, where leaders can stay hands-off, or hands-on, depending on preferences.
The best option
We always advise going for a custom outsourcing plan. BPO companies usually have standard rates for their services, so that’s not what we mean here. Instead, it’s about the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
You know best what your business needs to keep growing, but keep an open mind to the suggestions of your provider too. Outsourcing companies are generally experienced in different industries and have seen many common scaling challenges before (definitely true in our case).
The best ideas often come around when both parts of the outsourcing agreement work together to create the best possible SLA and KPIs. At the end of the day, if your business succeeds, then the outsourcing business succeeds too.
A few subjects to keep in mind:
- Do you need other languages than English?
- What time zones/work schedules do you need to be covered?
- Are you ok sharing your outsourced team with other client accounts, or do you want a dedicated service?
- How fast do you want your ticket backlog to be cleared?
- Do you want to onshore, or offshore? Why? Talk about it with your provider.
- Is company culture important to you? Should company cultures match?
- How big of a team size are you looking for? The best place to start is by looking at your current demand level(s) for the service(s) you want to outsource.
- How fast do you want your outsourced team to start?
- What are the main business areas you’d like outsourced (customer service, data entry, workforce management, etc)?
Outsourcing brings many benefits, but 5 of them stand out:
- Staying in-house means going through the time and work-intensive process of sourcing, hiring, training, and retaining employees. With outsourcing, you just pay a flat, (usually) monthly fee. This also removes overhead from the equation.
- You free up both time and other key resources to invest exclusively in business growth and product/service development.
- Outsourcing lets you shift financial liabilities in a way that benefits your debt covenant, creating even more cost-effectiveness.
- You “dodge” all the legalities and regulations. You’d just have a contract with the outsourcer, where you pay for a service; the external team is on their payroll.
- Sometimes, VC, PE, or other types of investors require you to have secure on-site premises for certain types of services (a common request if you’re in the healthcare, banking, or fintech industries). With outsourcing, security becomes the provider's problem.
For example, you could be outsourcing any of the following business lines:
- Customer success
- Technical support
- Content moderation
- Data processing
- Professional services (like finance & accounting, software development, QA, etc)
Having a dedicated outsourced support team can also improve key metrics like CSAT, as the team isn’t spread among other accounts or roles. They are focused only on being subject matter experts for your business, and it shows. Here’s a case study that proves our point.
Outsourcing takes away the strain of daily management and overhead while keeping control and executive decisions in your hand.
Moreover, a true support outsourcing partner will also aid you with developing your organizational maturity and improving the business based on customer feedback.
A successful outsourcing strategy relies on you making sure that you are delegating a task. Do not delegate projects.
What’s the difference? A task is an activity with a clearly defined process. For example, creating images for your blog posts, or responding to customer service calls using pre-developed procedures. On the other hand, a project is something that requires serious thought and development.
A project is something like creating your customer service protocols from the ground up or developing a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Tasks are perfect to outsource to an external team. They’re a clearly defined set of repeatable activities that can fit into a process. For a project, consider hiring a business consultant.
After you've determined which tasks could be outsourced, you should create a clear and easy-to-follow process. This process will be provided to your outsourced team so that they can work exactly in the manner that you’d be doing it in-house.
Is there an optimal time to post on your social media profiles? Is there a specific style that you use for your Pinterest images? Do you track leads using a specific software? Should customers always be greeted in a specific way on phone calls? Do you want your data arranged in a particular way?
Whatever the task is, make sure the process is very clear before trying to outsource it. Of course, your provider can also help you formulate these requirements.
After developing the process in step two, step three will be much easier. Break down the process in a step-by-step guide. The guide will be provided to your external team. Include screenshots, videos, and written content that explains and illustrates the process.
By completing this training package, you will save yourself substantial time in educating an outsourcing specialist on how to handle the process. You do not have to train the outsourced team yourself (unless you want to) – just provide the materials.
Depending on the size and complexity of the project, you may need an entire virtual team of tens of people, or maybe just around 5 people. Either way, your next step is to find a provider within your price range that is qualified to accomplish what you need.
BPO companies with an existing list of pre-vetted candidates should be on your shortlist. This expedites team curation considerably, as it’s no longer a matter of starting the process from the sourcing stage. Instead, it’s about filtering through a database, based on skills and personality requirements.
For example, we have close to 3,000 employees. It’s nothing new or challenging for us to find and train the best talent for new clients. Based on specific needs and preferences, we set up dedicated teams to help our clients accelerate their growth and extend capacity while staying lean.
Since we operate globally, we can provide you with both onshore and offshore outsourcing. All of our Ninjas though, across all geos, are incredible people – doing incredible work.
Once you have an external team in action, you shouldn’t go 100% hands-off immediately. Instead, for the first couple of weeks, and especially the first few days, check in frequently. Ensure that the outsourcing strategy makes sense and the outsourced professionals understand how to follow through based on your needs.
Communication is essential.
There may be a few hiccups at the beginning, but that’s okay. The long-term benefits will outweigh this initial time investment. Once the first few weeks are completed, the experts will have a solid grasp on how to manage their tasks according to your company processes – allowing you to focus elsewhere.
Outsourcing as a business strategy does need you to become a pro at one thing: time zone differences. Why? Because choosing an offshore outsourced team is generally the most cost-efficient option that also doesn’t sacrifice quality.
Offshoring also connects your business with a wider world of talent, making access to great talent that much easier. However, following up on the previous idea, this means you need to communicate efficiently.
Always account for the time zone differences. For example, if you have an important process update that your external team must follow ASAP, recognize they might’ve already started their “next” working day.
Similarly, you need to specify clear deadlines for reports and feedback, based on timezone considerations.
Of course, this only applies if you’re not opting for live support (which you shouldn’t be doing; customers want phone support, and channel preferences are generational too). With live support, your offshore team is going to be online at the same time as your normal working schedule (or whatever other time you want).
If this means that they’re going to be on night shifts, then you’ll pay a higher rate, true. However, that’s a very good thing. It means your outsourcing provider values their staff and rewards their effort. So, they’ll be invested in giving their best for your business.
An effective outsourcing strategy recognizes that you might want to spend more in the future, or you might have to do it. If your business is flourishing, then you’ll need to scale your outsourced services too, or risk losing quality levels.
For example, if your product has just gone viral and customers are in lengthy support queues, you could consider doubling down on your outsourced agent headcount. It’s not an additional expense; it’s an investment. CX is invaluable – satisfied customers create more revenue for you than saving on the cost of 3 extra support staff ever will.
Plus, the reverse is true as well. The more time customers spend on hold, the less enthusiastic they become about your business, which can lead to them moving to other vendors, or even negative reviews.
At the end of the day, support is a numbers game too. It depends on the size of your customer pool.
Depending on your business, you might experience timeframes with way more demand from customers. For example, if you’re a tourism agency specializing in beach resorts, you get a lot more calls during and around the summer.
So, if you’ve contracted a BPO company to provide travel assistance, it’s a great idea to up your budget during those months.
A great customer experience will resell amazing products/services again and again. Increasing the availability of support (and the offered channels) is a surefire way to create a great CX.
Any successful outsourcing strategy is going to revolve around trust. In each other, in professionalism, and in quality standards.
More than anything though, trust also has to imply that you share the same values. If you’re dedicated as a business to being transparent with your customers, then your outsourcing provider must be too.
For example, let’s say you’re a SaaS business that offers a demo version of its product to leads. It has limited features, and it’s only usable for 14 days before choosing a payment plan is required. However, your outsourced support team is telling leads that they can use your product “for free”.
Now, whether you’re fine with this language or not is up to you. The important bit is aligning with your outsourcer and telling them if it’s ok to say “for free”, or if the correct language is that there’s a “free trial”. That’s what it really means to share the same organizational culture.
Another example: let’s say all late customer deliveries must be accompanied by a $5 gift card. Your outsourced logistics team should actively enforce that policy and verify it is respected.
Keep a close eye on the performance of your BPO company. Are their services worth the cost? Do you see an increase in your profit margin? Did the pain points you had disappear? Have you truly been freed from day-to-day operational management to pursue growth opportunities?
The acceptable answer here is “yes”. Otherwise, it’s time to look elsewhere, or maybe even look to solidify those processes in-house. One thing to remember is that outsourcing isn’t made equal. Some services take longer to provide value, while others should be bringing results pretty fast.
For 100% relevant advice for your case, you should talk with a BPO specialist.
You must have a single point of contact between your organization and the BPO company.
If that’s a project manager, or the COO, or the CEO, or whoever else, is up to you. However, unless only 1 person is in charge of the back and forth with the third party, information will get lost. Or perhaps even worse, you’ll get information silos, where bits and pieces are known by multiple people that don’t interact with one another.
And that’s how complete misinformation and lack of knowledge spreads; very quickly! An effective outsourcing strategy is built around focused communication.
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document in which you’ll include the scope of work you’re looking to outsource. The RFP is then sent to your selected BPO providers, and they’ll (usually) get back to you with an offer.
RFPs are very useful because they allow you to gauge different service offers, at different price and quality levels. Do try to match the price and the quality together. It’s often tempting to look just at the price, but that’s a pitfall.
There’s a big difference between a BPO company that actually cares about you as a client and a provider who’s just going through the motions.
While outsourcing is highly useful, it also comes with its own set of risks. It’s important you’re aware of them so that they become avoidable. For example:
- Infrastructure – the outsourcer might use different software programs than you, or be used to other tools or workflows; making reporting and centralization more complicated.
- Delayed cost savings – some outsourcing will only decrease your costs in the long run. This can be a challenge if you need to cut costs ASAP.
- Revenue trackability – your outsourced work should help you generate more revenue one way or another. You’ll need to set up specific tracking and reporting to make sure that you have the relevant data for multi-touch attribution.
- Staff expertise – finding talent through BPO isn’t the challenge. It’s finding the right talent. Not all organizations take the needed precautions to ensure their teams have both soft skills and technical skills. In some cases, you can request to interview and pick the candidates yourself though (this is something we offer).
We’re a people-first outsourcing company. That means we focus not only on our employees, but also you as our client, and of course, your customers.
All of our packages are bespoke and come with an offer of 10+ languages and 24/7 coverage.
Our incredible teams generate value anytime, anywhere. If you’re aiming for a long-term outsourcing strategy that enables scaling with ease, we’re the right business to work with.
Your account will have its own dedicated Ninjas, just for you – no other projects! We also offer 2 distinct service delivery models. One is more hands-off for you, while the other is more hands-on; pick whichever you like best.
All in all, SupportNinja helps successful businesses to keep scaling while staying lean. We free up internal resources, connect you with a wider world of outsourced talent, and accelerate growth.
And when things change, we’ll pivot with you to keep being the right-size partner. Build your outsourcing dream team in just 2 minutes!