Outsourcing customer service can save you money, resources and prevent massive stress. By hiring a third-party provider, you can also increase the efficiency of your customer support. But exactly how do you find a great outsourced customer provider that is operating from a totally different location?
There are several ways to outsource customer service for a small business, including using the services of the following:
- Call centers for small businesses
- Outsourced customer support teams
The rule of thumb in choosing who to work with is that you should only outsource customer service if the outsourcer can do the job better than you. In this article, we explain the top ways to outsource customer service as a small business, and which steps one should take when selecting the right fit for them.
All options for outsourcing customer service as a small business
Outsourcing customer service as a small business provides many benefits for companies lacking resources. So what are your outsourcing options?
Outsourcing call center services for small businesses
Call centers are often a great option for small businesses with a high volume of customer interaction. They are the ones who can benefit most from a call center.
Nonetheless, you must choose a call center very carefully as many of them can be hit-or-miss. Despite the popularity of providers located in developing countries, such as India or the Philippines, there are significant downsides and risks involved.
Many call centers tend to focus on handle-time, which is the average amount of time the representative spends with each customer. If a call center strives to minimize handle time to a few minutes per caller, this can lead to low-quality service.
In fact, we wouldn’t recommend using any call center as an outsourcing solution for your small business. Agents in such organizations handle hundreds of calls a day from a variety of companies, hence the quality might be quite low and employee turnover rates can be an issue too.
If you do decide to use a call center, it’s important to have set your expectations of what service you need beforehand. Consider which of the following is best for you:
- 24/7 customer service
- Inbound and outbound calls
- Lead responses
- Appointment scheduling
- Order taking/e-commerce support
- Virtual reception and call routing
There are also variables small businesses should pay attention to when selecting a call center for customer support.
A call center’s main language
As we already mentioned, outsourcing customer service to developing countries isn’t recommended. But if you decide to do so, select a service from a country with high English language proficiency.
Nothing is more frustrating than language barriers between your customers and your service representatives.
Besides language, there are many other communication problems that might arise. If your customer service team can’t resolve issues due to misunderstandings or miscommunication, you shouldn’t continue working with that company.
Testimonials from previous or current clients will give you a good insight into whether you should trust a call center or not.
Before you sign a contract with an outsourced call center, do a test call as if you were a customer. In order to perform this task, you need to figure out who some of their current clients are and call as if you work for one of their customers.
That way you will receive a great amount of insight into the actual communication style, workflow and treatment this call center provides.
Hire freelancers for your customer service
The second option for outsourcing customer service as a small business is to hire freelancers. Even using just one or a couple of them can do the trick for tasks you need completed.
This can be particularly beneficial when customer support demands aren’t constant, or a business doesn’t need a lot of manpower. Platforms like Upwork and Freelancer are reliable for finding capable people.
You can submit a description for a job you want to outsource on those websites, and applicants’ resumes can be reviewed. You can also just use the search function to browse potential freelancers and send invitations to candidates you are interested in.
You can then decide how many work hours your company wants to delegate to them and what an hourly rate should be. Freelancers don’t have to be in the same location your company is. A business might want to use opportunities of geoarbitrage instead of hiring someone within their own country who will demand a higher income.
Nevertheless, there are some downsides to hiring freelancers for customer service as a small business. The work done by such workers will require a higher degree of supervision and management time.
If your small business doesn’t have enough resources to manage this process, consider other customer service outsourcing solutions.
The best practices for finding customer support freelancers
Assess a freelancer’s qualities
A customer service representative must possess some key qualities and traits, and it’s your job to determine whether or not a freelancer has them. Firstly and most importantly, they need to enjoy helping people.
Other necessary and useful qualities of a customer service representative are:
- Problem-solving skills
- Communication skills
- Time management skills
- High emotional intelligence
Secondly, a freelancer should have long-term career goals within your small business and not just be looking for some short-term gig. That way, you can create a strong relationship with them and train them exactly the way you train existing employees.
Look for employees on specialized job boards
In some cases, small businesses need more specialized customer service workers. For instance, IT companies need support services where agents can answer technical questions.
For that reason, searching for a candidate on specialized job boards makes more sense. A small business can find a freelancer, contractor or a permanent customer service employee through niche job sites like the following:
- Support workers for startups – AngelList.co
- Support workers that use slack to communicate – Slack at Work
- Experienced remote workers from all over the world – Remote OK, Support Adventure
If you are hiring for help desk support, you can use our service!
Referrals are reliable for choosing outsourced customer service
Referrals are another way you can discover great candidates for customer service. They will help you gauge which outsourced companies or freelancers have proven their skills and knowledge. Always check a company or freelancer’s website or profile for referrals. If none are listed in those places, you might want to ask other customer support managers in your circle for recommendations.
Hire an outsourced customer support team
The last option for outsourcing customer service as a small business is to hire a dedicated customer support team. This can be one or just a few people provided by an outsourcing customer service firm.
Here are questions you should consider before proceeding to do this:
- Does your business need a 24/7 customer support team or representative?
- How many customer service employees do you need?
- Does your business need a multilingual customer support team or representative?
- Does your business require an omnichannel approach?
Check the legal side of the business
After answering these questions and finding an appropriate outsourced customer support team, a business needs to control all legal matters of any partnership. It’s especially crucial to pay close attention to the contract you potentially sign.
Find a responsible manager
The second step in hiring an outsourcing provider is to somehow maintain a connection between your existing employees and your outsourced team. This can be done through a responsible manager in your small business and a manager in the outsourcing firm.
Find the right culture fit
Make sure the outsourcing company’s culture fits with your own culture. In particular, the customer service provider matches your values and communication style. This has particular importance because outsourced service agents will represent your company and your customers will think they are talking to you.
Moreover, a small business should assess all customer agents involved in the work for your company. Include all your non-negotiables for customer service and all desirable traits you want a provider to have. For example, our company’s values in customer representatives are:
- Accountability when following procedures
- Clear communication with customers and staff members
- Authentic behavior and intrinsic desire to care for the customer
- Global-minded staff who has an interest in different cultures and experiences
Share required knowledge
A small business should correctly onboard remote workers and share knowledge about the company, products, and services with customer service representatives.
This can include the creation of documents such as:
- Product manuals
- Training videos
- Customer interaction guidelines
- Answers to FAQs
Set up a review system
After successfully hiring an outsourced customer service team you want to implement a review system to monitor the work of your remote employees.
When outsourcing customer service companies often lose control of the outcome and quality. To avoid it, your business should supervise an outsourcing company in some way.
Especially the level of service customers are receiving must be controlled and constantly improved. You can make periodic test calls to experience customer service firsthand.
Track customer satisfaction
Finally, businesses outsourcing their customer service want to avoid a decrease in customer satisfaction at any cost.
Customer satisfaction measures how the product, service, and overall experience either fail, meets, or exceeds customer expectations. Consequently, it is the responsibility of the business owner to regularly measure customer satisfaction and to react appropriately to the results.
Lastly, before implementing any customer service outsourcing solution for your small business – consider all legal and security risks related to it. You can read more about it in our blog post.
Outsource customer support with us!
At Support Adventure, we provide outsourced customer service for MSP help desks by matching you with dedicated technicians of all levels at affordable prices. Feel free to reach out to become a client here.