Customer Service Outsourcing

Outsourcing plays a significant part in the global economy today despite the fact that it was both an entirely new concept and virtually unheard of ten years ago. In fact, key research firm Gartner predicted in August 2013 that the global outsourcing market would grow by 5.4% annually for the next four years, reaching a total value of $288 billion (£175.1 billion) by 2017.

Despite the industry’s rapid growth rate, there are still many corporate executives that remain skeptical about its benefits. Part of the reason behind their reluctance to embrace the industry, specifically the customer service outsourcing industry, is the lack of knowledge of its benefits.

Here we debunk three of the biggest myths that hold back far too many companies from realizing the benefits of customer service outsourcing.

Myth #1: We will be sacrificing quality service delivery for cost savings.

In its early years, it’s true that the motivation to outsource was driven by the opportunity to do cost reductions in business operation. While it’s also true that the significant savings to be had when you outsource eventually made outsourcing become synonymous with ONLY cost savings at some point, recent studies from business advisory firm KPMG showed that among 490 outsourcing contracts worth a total of £10bn, the main reason many companies chose outsourcing is no longer because of cost reduction, but for the enhanced quality of customer service.

KPMG narrated that 48% of the respondents based their decisions to outsource on a desire to improve service levels. This was an increase compared to the result of 28% in 2009. 56% of the respondents also explained ‘the need to access skills’ as an influential factor behind their decision to outsource.

Customer service outsourcing has ramped up its quality service delivery in recent years, making sure to align itself with global quality standards in terms of equipment, service delivery metrics, and manpower. The industry has become a powerhouse of its own, producing experts in their specialized field and adding more value to clients they service. Companies are slowly coming to realize that deciding to outsource doesn’t mean they are downgrading their customer service delivery—they are actually upgrading the quality of service they provide to their customers.

Myth #2: We will have no management control over employees.

Customer relationships are critical to the success of a business, so it isn’t surprising that so many executives are reluctant to entrust these relationships to a third party. When you’re able to monitor the customer service department that the company maintains in-house, it tends to be easy to feel confident about the quality of service delivery. It is because of the seemingly apparent lack of control over how agents perform that companies hold back from deciding to outsource. It is a common question–how do you monitor what an outsourcing company is doing, and how can you be sure that they are aligned with your core business practices?

The feeling of disempowerment from not having direct control over their business operations holds them back. However, with the help of technology innovations and sophisticated cross-platform business tools that help facilitate real-time monitoring of results produced by outsourced customer service agents, companies can feel and remain in full control of this aspect of their business.

An example of this is travel agency Thomas Cook. The company always maintained their web chat support in Scotland, but took a risk when it decided to outsource to Bulgaria. Despite the distance, they were able to monitor web chats in real-time with a platform tool that showed response and resolution rates, complete with escalation and complaint rate metrics. The company closely monitored the situation in the first few weeks to ensure the campaign was running as it should, but eventually relaxed when they became confident in the service the outsourcing company was providing to its customers. They were also even able to entrust telephone-based customer service after a few months.

Myth #3: The language will be a big hurdle.

The most common misconception about outsourcing to a firm based in a different country is that they will not have the language skills necessary to carry out conversations with customers. There are unfortunate reports of thick accents and inaudible words that make unfamiliar and senseless sentence constructions.

The truth is, in outsourcing hotspot countries like the Philippines, language skills are a selling point instead of a hindrance. The nation has a gold mine of well-educated, English-speaking, talented and easily trainable graduates. With close cultural similarities to the US and an education system that teaches in English, Filipinos are capable of speaking the language with a neutral accent. Among the many reasons why call center business in the Philippines differs from other countries, accent seems to be a major factor in why most BPO companies prefer to invest in the country.

The present industry is full of outsourcing agents both fluent and contextually aware of the languages they provide support of. Regardless of location, outsourced agents can be great assets to companies as long as you set expectations and screen them to assess if they are up to the standard your company deems necessary.

Deciding to outsource, like any other business investment, requires effort before it gives returns. With proper assessment, a clear outline of work expectations, and alignment of quality standards, customer service outsourcing may become a company’s biggest asset yet.