Outsourcing customer service: pros and cons for small business

Remember the time, back in the 1990s, when calling an outsourced customer service meant getting a person with a thick accent on a crackling phone line who only had a vague idea of how to help you?

Well, that’s not the case in the 21st century. Or rather, it doesn’t have to be. Outsourced customer service today implies flexible, scalable, and highly efficient solutions tailored to the exact needs of your business.

The main types of outsourced customer service

The classic case of outsourcing customer service is handing the task off to a general offshore business process outsourcer (BPO). Historically located in developing countries like India, offshore call centers usually boast huge savings, 24/7 customer service, and a large pool of agents ready to take your customers’ calls.

However, due to the rather bad reputation mentioned above, companies today can be hesitant to let their customers call an offshore BPO that may ruin their reputation. This created a demand for new, high-tech and (mostly US-based) highly specialized customer support services. Companies like Supportyourapp or Simplr offer just that.

If your products or services require customer support personnel with very specific knowledge and you can’t afford to have an in-house team, it may make sense to outsource the task to a service provider like that.

But what if you can’t find a company that offers the exact type of customer support you need? Don’t worry, there’s a simple solution: you can create one.

Or rather, not a company, but a support network. With a call center software like Talkdesk, you can engage freelance workers from anywhere in the world and create your very own, highly specialized and flexible outsourced customer service team.

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Outsourcing customer service: a green light for everyone?

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that outsourcing customer service is a definite advantage for every company. Each business case is unique with its own pros and cons, which is why you have to weigh your options very carefully before deciding if outsourcing is the right way for your business.

This is especially the case for small business owners. Since both human and financial resources tend to be limited for a small business, you really have to think twice before spending a dime on anything.

And, as each business case is unique, there’s no simple answer to this conundrum. However, there are some broad pros and cons for outsourcing customer service that are generally true for most companies.

The pros of outsourcing customer service

While busy small business owners are used to doing everything themselves, there are definite advantages to handing off customer service to a company that specifies in it.

Cutting costs

Outsourcing your customer service usually means saving a considerable amount of money. The reason for that is quite obvious, since you don’t have to spend funds on recruiting, training, and maintaining an in-house team of customer service agents. This means more money for your business’ core functions.

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More comprehensive service options

Depending on the type of outsourcing and the actual service provider you choose, you may receive an instant, highly trained, and constantly available team of customer service specialists. This elevates your customers’ level of satisfaction, which means more business for you.

Saving time

Not having to deal with endless customer issues helps you focus on your business’ core tasks. You can forget about troubleshooting menial errors and concentrate on further developing your products or services.

The cons of outsourcing customer service

While that all sounds enticing, there’s a downside to using outsourced customer services. How big that downside is depends largely on the actual partner company you choose, and the way you work together.

Losing your brand

Whether you like it or not, an outsourced customer center will represent your brand to your customers. Consider this: people have no idea if the number they’re calling to have their issues solved rings in your very own office, or at some outsourced location.

The way your outsourcing partner handles customers will inevitably reflect on your own business. And even if your partner provides impeccable service, minor slip-ups and inconsistencies may still alienate customers.

For example, if your business is dedicated to fighting climate change, your outsourced service partner can’t demand customers send them paper copies of anything. Similarly, if your business’ image is laid-back, young, and very personal, customer service agents saying “Ma’am” or “Sir” in every sentence may throw clients off.

This is why communication between you and your outsourced service partner is crucial. Let them know the way your company operates, and ask them to adhere to your policies when dealing with your customers.

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Bad quality service

As you can see, glitches happen, even if you’ve chosen the best outsourcing partner. But what if you haven’t?

If your partner provides unreliable service, their agents are impolite, unknowledgeable or unhelpful, or only speak broken English, your business will suffer. Why? One of the easiest ways to lose customers is to provide bad customer service.

Make sure this doesn’t happen. Before signing a contract with a service company, do your research and find out everything you can about your prospective partner.

Moreover, make sure not to lock yourself into a rigid contract. Build assurances into your contract that could help resolve any issues or even sever the ties with your business partner, should they fail to live up to your expectations.

Conclusion

There are many pros and cons to outsourcing customer service. But as we said above, each case is unique. This means that you and you alone know best if outsourcing your customer service could be the right way for you.

Luckily, the flexible solutions offered today allow you to choose from a wide variety of options. Consider all possibilities and pick a scaleable, high-quality solution that best fits your business’ profile.

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