Call center outsourcing is a strategy many companies leverage to try and manage their customer service operations efficiently. Basically, it involves delegating customer service tasks to a third-party service provider, usually one located in a different geographical location.
A classic example is a tech company outsourcing its customer support to a center in another country, aiming to provide 24/7 service at a reduced cost.
Obviously the cost savings are appealing. But many companies are afraid to take the leap to outsourcing for fear their customers will hate them. If that’s you, we’re here to help.
The Biggest Problems With Outsourcing Call Centers
Outsourcing call centers is often the most economical option for many businesses. However, if you don’t handle potential challenges carefully, they can lead to a significant decline in customer satisfaction and even hurt your brand’s image or reputation.
So before you get started, make sure you fully understand the biggest problems that can arise from outsourcing your call center.
Scripted Responses and Lack of Flexibility
Outsourced call centers tend to rely heavily on scripts. Admittedly, this is for good reason: it can help maintain consistency and control over interactions between agents and your customers.
However, this can backfire as soon as customers start presenting unique or complex issues that don’t fit neatly into the script.
If your agents lack the autonomy or training to deviate from these scripts, it can lead to a frustrating experience for customers who want a more personalized and empathetic response.
Language Barriers and Cultural Misunderstandings
When a call center is located in a different country, the agents might not be native speakers of your customer’s language.
Even when they are fluent, subtle nuances and cultural references can still be lost, leading to misunderstandings.
This cultural disconnect can potentially lead to customer dissatisfaction, especially in situations that require nuance, sensitivity, or deeper understanding.
Reduced Quality of Customer Service
Many outsourced call centers are structured to optimize call volume, which can inadvertently prioritize quantity over quality.
This approach means agents are often rushing through calls, not fully addressing customer concerns, or missing opportunities to build connections with customers.
While this strategy may be efficient, the interactions can also feel rushed on the customer’s end. As a result, they may feel undervalued or be more inclined to share their negative experiences with others.
Increased Negative Feedback and Reduced Loyalty
Consistently poor customer service experiences can significantly damage your brand’s reputation.
We all know that customers are more likely to share their negative experiences than positive ones, both online and through word of mouth. This can deter potential new customers.
Plus, existing customers who repeatedly face unsatisfactory service are likely to take their business elsewhere. This can hurt both your brand image and your bottom line.
Difficulty in Monitoring and Controlling Quality
Compared to an in-house operation, managing and ensuring quality in an outsourced call center can be challenging—especially if it’s located overseas.
Differences in time zones and a lack of onsite supervision can all lead to inconsistencies in service quality.
Your business might struggle to implement and maintain the same level of service standards you could achieve with an in-house team.
Data Security and Privacy Concerns
Outsourcing call center operations also involves sharing sensitive customer data with a third party.
This raises concerns about data security and privacy compliance, especially if the outsourced center is in a country with different data protection laws.
This isn’t just about your business information, but also about ensuring the security and privacy of your customer information. This is both a legal obligation and a crucial practice for maintaining customer trust.
In short, outsourced call centers aren’t perfect. But by recognizing and addressing the biggest challenges, you can take proactive steps to mitigate the risks.
How to Outsource Your Call Center Without Negatively Impacting Your Customers
Given the concerns above, you might be surprised to hear that it’s entirely possible to outsource your call center operations without your customers hating you. With the right approach, you can leverage the benefits of outsourcing while keeping any negative impact on your customers to a minimum.
Careful planning, strategic implementation, and continuous quality monitoring will be key as you make the switch.
Just remember—if you want to maintain the integrity of your customer service, you can’t skip any of these steps.
Assess Potential Call Center Providers
Choosing the right provider is going to be key in making your outsourced call center work, but don’t just rely on reviews and hear-say. The most effective way to assess potential providers is to experience their service firsthand.
- Research and shortlist providers: Start by identifying potential call center providers. Look for those with experience in your industry or with a strong reputation for quality service.
- Test their services through their existing clients: Once you have a shortlist, investigate their current clients. Contact these clients directly, not just as a business inquiry but as a customer. Engage with their call centers to get a real feel for the service quality.
- Experience the full customer journey: Don’t just make a call. If feasible, try to go through the entire customer journey. This could include purchasing a product, making inquiries, requesting support, and even processing a return or complaint. You’ll come away with a lot of insights into how well the call center handles various types of customer interactions.
- Evaluate communication skills and problem-solving capabilities: Pay close attention to the agents’ ability to communicate effectively, handle complex queries, and deviate from scripts when necessary. Evaluate their problem-solving skills and how well they maintain customer satisfaction throughout the interaction. Don’t just ask surface level questions. If you’re investigating a call center for a SaaS provider, try to get into the nitty gritty technical details and see how well agents can navigate this.
- Assess the overall customer experience: Finally, reflect on your overall experience. Was it positive, efficient, and satisfactory? Your experience as a test customer will likely mirror what your own customers will encounter.
By going undercover and vetting potential call center providers through firsthand experience, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision. The extra work will be worth the peace of mind that comes from finding a provider who aligns with your customer service standards and values.
Handle the Transition With Planning and Care
Once you find your provider of choice, it’s time to make the switch. Transitioning to an outsourced call center is all about planning and execution.
- Designate a transition team: Assign a team from your organization, led by a capable manager, to oversee the transition. This team should have a deep understanding of your company’s customer service philosophy and how you operate.
- Work closely with the provider: Establish a strong working relationship with your new call center’s management team. Regular meetings, clear communication, and shared goals will go a long way for a successful transition.
- Plan for onsite involvement: If possible, it’s best to have your transition team spend time onsite at the call center. Doing so allows for immediate feedback and quick resolution of any issues that come up. It also ensures that the outsourced team thoroughly understands your expectations and company culture.
- Develop comprehensive training programs: Collaborate with your new provider to develop training programs that cover more than just the basics of your products and services. You also want to emphasize your brand’s values and customer service ethos.
- Monitor and adjust: In the initial stages, closely monitor the quality and performance of the outsourced call center. Use customer feedback, service metrics, and direct observation to identify any areas of improvement. Be ready to make adjustments to processes, training, or even staffing if necessary.
- Maintain open channels of communication: Finally, make sure there are open and regular channels of communication between your company and the call center. This will help in addressing any issues promptly and maintaining alignment with your service standards.
Plan for a Gradual Transition
The six step checklist above may imply speed and brevity, so we want to emphasize here that this process should be gradual. A slow, carefully planned transition is key to maintaining your service quality and minimizing customer impact as you switch to an outsourced model.
- Segment your call volume: First, analyze your call center’s workload and segment it into distinct categories. These could be based on geographical regions, customer demographics, types of inquiries, or even time zones. Choose a segment that’s less critical to your core operations and represents a smaller proportion of your overall call volume. This segment will be your pilot for the outsourcing transition.
- Start with the low-risk segment: Initiate your outsourcing with this low-risk segment. It’s a strategic move that allows you to observe how the outsourced team handles real-world scenarios without risking a significant portion of your customer interactions. Using this segment as a testing ground, you’ll be able to assess the outsourced team’s adaptability, efficiency, and alignment with your company’s service standards before going further.
- Closely monitor and gather feedback: Implement a robust monitoring system to track the performance of the outsourced team. This should include customer satisfaction metrics, response times, resolution rates, and any other relevant KPIs. Actively seek feedback from both customers and the call center staff. This feedback will help you identify what’s working well and what needs improvement.
- Iteratively address issues: Approach any problems that arise as opportunities for improvement. Work collaboratively with the call center provider to develop solutions, whether these involve additional training, process changes, or even staffing adjustments. This iterative process is crucial for refining the service to meet your high standards, ensuring a smooth experience for your customers.
- Gradually increase the outsourced volume: After successfully managing the initial segment, start including more segments in the outsourcing arrangement. Each new phase should be approached with the insights and improvements gained from the previous one. Gradually increasing the outsourced volume allows for a controlled expansion, ensuring that quality is maintained at every step.
- Maintain a balanced approach: Throughout the transition, keep a portion of your call center operations in-house. This hybrid approach acts as a safety net, providing a fallback option in case of unexpected challenges with the outsourced provider. Maintaining some in-house operations also ensures that you retain a direct connection with your customers, allowing for a more diverse customer service approach.
By now, you can see that successfully outsourcing your call center involves a lot more than just finding a service provider. It’s a nuanced process, and it requires a strategic approach that continues to prioritize your customers even as you make the switch.
By carefully selecting a call center partner, overseeing the transition meticulously, and adopting a phased approach to outsourcing, you can ensure your customer service quality remains high and avoid all the common outsourcing pitfalls we mentioned earlier.
With the right partner and approach, outsourcing can be a powerful tool to optimize your operations. And following the steps above, you can do it without losing the trust and loyalty of your customers. Just remember that the goal of outsourcing isn’t cost-saving alone—it’s also about maintaining, if not enhancing, the value your customers receive.