5 Best Practices to Follow when Outsourcing Customer Service
Outsourcing customer service can help you save money, scale your team fast, and provide round-the-clock assistance to your customers. However, building and managing a team of remote customer service representatives has its own unique challenges, and it’s important to do it right.
Here are five best practices that you should keep in mind –
#1 Hire the Right People
You already know that a great customer service representative must be patient, empathetic, and likable. But is there anything else that you should look for when hiring for a remote position?
It’s important to find self-motivated people. After all, it’s one thing to do your job well in an office where the boss is looking over your shoulder, and it’s another thing to work from your own home where there is no one else around to keep you on track. You want people who don’t need babysitting on your part to get work done.
Your best bet is to search for freelancers with customer service experience – someone who has worked remotely in the past probably knows how to handle all the challenges that come with it. Alternatively, you can go with a company that specializes in providing customer service for businesses. That way you won’t have to worry about hiring and managing people. However, this option is not ideal, because it means less control over a crucial aspect of your business.
#2 Invest in Onboarding
Proper onboarding is absolutely essential if you want to build a strong customer service team.
Here are the key things you should focus on when training new customer service representatives:
- Product knowledge: Make sure that they know your product inside and out. Keep in mind that it’s important to explain not only the technical aspects but also how to deal with common issues and frequently asked questions
- Technology onboarding: They should also be familiar with all the tools and tech that you use, including the helpdesk software, internal communication software, etc .
- Appropriate language. A message that contains the same information can be received very differently depending on the way it is phrased. You should explain how to communicate in a way that makes the customers feel heard.
- Organization structure: Outsourced agents will inevitably encounter frustrated or even angry customers so they should know who they can turn to for help if they run into a problem and how to de-escalate the situation.
#3 Have Regular Catch-Ups
It’s important to make sure that your customer service representatives feel like part of your team even if they don’t work from the same location. It’s hard to foster that feeling if they only communicate via email or Slack and therefore are nothing more than avatars on a computer screen to each other.
You can solve this problem by having weekly conference calls with your entire customer service team where they can discuss issues, give feedback, and ask questions. You can use Skype for both audio and video calls (the latter is preferable since it’s more personal).
#4 Pay a Fair Wage
Let’s keep it real: a big part of why outsourcing is so appealing is the fact that it costs much less than hiring a local team.
While there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of discrepancies in the cost of living, you should be careful not to cross the line where reasonable adjustments based on the local cost of living turn into outright exploitation of people who have no other options.
Buffer is a great example of how to offer fair, competitive salaries that take the local cost of living, the role and the experience into account. The Buffer model of salary benchmarking is an ever-evolving process and has been through multiple iterations before reaching the structure below –
Now, you don’t necessarily need a sophisticated salary formula like Buffer’s, but you should make sure that you are paying your customer support representatives a fair wage.
Otherwise, they will grow resentful and leave the first chance they get, especially if your business is doing well but you are still paying peanuts.
#5 Organize face-to-face Time
When part or all of your team is remote, it makes sense to gather in one place once in a while to get to know each other better since no amount of conference calls can replace face-to-face interaction.
For example, Jilt, a company that sells email marketing software, spent $60,000 on their last team retreat, and it was totally worth it for them.
Catherine Scallen, who is Jilt’s Chief of Staff, was put in charge of organizing the retreat, and the first thing she focused on was clarifying its main goal.
“We knew a little bit of work needed to get done (see below for more on how we structured that), but we wanted to focus on maximizing the in-person time we had together by simply enjoying one another’s company. To that end, we ultimately settled on the goal of bring the team together to have fun, bond, and recharge,” she explains.
When it came to choosing a location, she knew that the team wanted to meet in a place that was warm and close to major transportation, and the lodgings had to provide each member with a private room and bathroom.
Hotels might have seemed like an obvious choice, but Catherine knew that they weren’t as conducive to spontaneous interactions as living in the same house.
“Since our team is spread out over six countries, this once-a-year in-person time is really valuable. This trip replaces a year’s worth of lunches, coffee breaks, and after work drinks that teams in offices take for granted. With this in mind, we wanted to create an environment that would naturally encourage as many spontaneous water-cooler-type conversations as possible.
If you are unable to afford splurging on a retreat, you should try and figure out other ways to organize a get-together that fits within your budget.
Outsourcing your customer service can be a great move if you do it right, but you need to have realistic expectations. Building and managing a remote customer service team will require a lot of effort on your part. However, once you get things going, that remote customer service team will become a valuable asset for your business.
So don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and put in the work. It will pay off.