Article

Making The Transition: In-House To Outsourced Customer Support

Luna Tidrick

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Many businesses today are choosing to outsource their customer support. Although there are many benefits to outsourcing, there are key steps to take in order to make the transition seamless.

Many businesses today have chosen to either outsource their customer support entirely or to supplement their existing internal staff with the aid of a third-party service provider. Making a successful shift from in-house to outsourced customer support should be treated as a key customer project, with a proven transition method, step by step planning from your new service provider, and continuous communication to ensure expectations are properly managed.

In this article, we'll provide a summary of the customer support transition process and outline how to ensure that your customers will have a smooth experience as you make the transition from in-house services to outsourced client care.

Business people handshaking in agreement

Why Make The Transition?

There are many benefits for a company shifting from a service model where they handle their own customer interactions to one where they pass the process on to an outsourcing partner:  

  • Cost savings: A reduction in overall costs with employees freed up for more profitable activities, such as building new products or adding value by providing further services.
  • Improved productivity: An increase in overall productivity - agents can be assigned to multiple clients or dedicated to just one.
  • Large talent pool: An increase in language capabilities - the pool of available agents is much larger when they can provide their services from home.
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All to say that there are plenty of benefits when it comes to outsourcing customer support services. But with so many companies entering the field, how does one ensure they are getting the best quality customer service and customer experience when working with an outsourced partner?

Fortunately for your company and team members, we've put together a comprehensive guide to transitioning customer support to a call center.

A business professional thinking about KPIs

Transition Methodology In BPO

Step 1: Define SOWs, KPIs, SLAs

Contracts, service level agreements, and statements of work ensure that your BPO partners deliver on the services you require. These instruments state the quality of service you expect to receive from agents as well as stringent criteria and standards against which you may measure it. When a support team has access to KPIs, project management is much more attainable.

Professionals exchanging documents

What's included in a statement of work

A statement of work is a document that provides detailed information about the agreed upon deliverables from both parties. The document typically includes details such as:

- Pricing and payment schedule (is it cost effective for your company?)

- Services, equipment, infrastructure, software to be provided by the service provider (do they provide call centers and software designed to scale?)

- Responsibilities of each party in providing a successful project or project phase (e.g., coverage, omnichannel support, social media support, security, remote capabilities, etc.)

- Requirements for reporting progress, measuring performance and capturing actuals versus planned.

An SOW also typically includes termination clauses which detail how either party can terminate the contract.

multilingual support outsourcing 24/7

What should be included in SLAs and KPIs

In order to ensure your BPO partners are meeting expected levels of performance you must have ways of measuring it. If you don't know how performance is documented or measured, how can you ensure it is being met and there is a consistent customer experience?

An SLA typically includes:            

- Expected performance levels (e.g., how error free or fast customer support email responses or calls are, etc.)

- The method by which performance will be measured (e.g., randomly selected transactions to verify accuracy)

- Who is responsible for performing the measurements (e.g., client or service provider)

- Timing and frequency of measurements (e.g., once per week, every 10 minutes)

- Escalation procedures if actuals are not meeting plan (i.e., who to contact at what level when various issues arise). As with any contract, specific items should be included in an SLA.

With the help of the SOW, SLAs, and KPIs, the BPO provider may then determine how many agents and skill sets are needed to meet and exceed KPIs. These standards will assist you in developing an appropriate structure for each customer support program.

A customer looking at her smartphone

Step 2: Know Your Customers & Your Company

One of the most important aspects of customer service outsourcing is making sure you understand how you speak to your customers as well as their most common questions or problems. Both are usually done through a knowledge base and brand guidelines.

The value of a solid knowledge base

Slacks's FAQ or knowledge base

A knowledge base is where customers can find answers to the most common product or service questions for your company. By incorporating one, you are more likely to increase customer satisfaction and save on time and money. An FAQ also extends to your customer base, allowing them to resolve their own problems via self-service.

The value of brand guidelines

Mailchimp's brand guidelines example

In addition to an FAQ, businesses should consider providing brand standards when outsourcing customer support. A comprehensive brand guide will include both visual and vocal guidance. By offering your partner with guidelines they will be better equipped to accurately and consistently represent your company visually as well as train reps on how to interact and communicate with clients.

Customer support agents undergoing training

Step 3: Provide Training Materials & Continuous Feedback

After selecting your contact center partner - whether it's based on customer support, quality or cost - you should sit down and work out how your business will be able to provide training materials and constant feedback to support agents as well as the overall support team. This will make it easier for you to monitor and maintain your BPO provider.

Example of an escalation process

Customer Support Team Training Materials

Training materials should be gathered to ensure not only outsourced customer support success but also customer success.  

Scale your customer support

Customer care training materials should include:  

  • How to handle customer service via voice, email, social media, etc.
  • Business process for adding, editing and deleting data that is important to customers
  • Identify tools and provide overview
  • Samples (good and bad) for all channels supported
  • Type of customers (age range, demographics)
  • Scope of support
  • FAQs
  • POC of training (your team’s SME)
  • Escalation process
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Focus on hiring the right BPO

When a business works with a BPO, it obtains access to a wide range of services and coverage. It's critical that you have trust in your partner and are well-versed in your own organization, so that your consumer base remains loyal to your brand. From protection to procedure to coverage and growth assistance, the ideal BPO will work hard to help you get what you need to provide the best customer experience.

Outsourcing customer service comes with a certain amount of mystery for those who have never worked with BPOs before, but as you can see, there are many ways to ensure that your service is top-notch.  If you are looking to outsource customer support, it's time to start searching for the right BPO.  The more research you do now, the better you can prepare yourself for the transition process.  You might even learn something new about your own business in the process!