Why Outsource Technical Support?

There are many debates about outsourcing customer technical support and whether or not it is a good idea. Why would a company chose this path?

1. Cost

If an outside firm can deliver  equivalent quality customer support (emphasis on quality) for less than an in house organization, then organizations will opt to outsource this function to stay competitive (that is, if they don’t do it and their competitors do, then the competitor will have a cost advantage which may translate into more attractive prices to customers).

2. Presence in a local market

When your customers are spread out and not necessarily near your office, you may need a presence in local markets, either around the country or around the world.

a. Automobile manufacturers outsource their warranty and repairs to Car Dealerships because they need to have convenience service locations for customers and spare part depots.

b. At IBM, Software and Hardware support is “outsourced” from the product  development group to each of the IBM country organizations, because of the need to repair machines locally, and speak the local language of the customer. Even software, which can be handled remotely, still needs local language skills and the need to send someone on site if the problem cannot be handled remotely.

3. Affordability of the Best Technology

Not every organization can invest in the  processes, tools, and people and the skills to run a good technical support center. Firms that specialize  in customer care may be able to afford more robust technology (systems, software, data bases and tools),  management systems and training facilities.

4. Ability  scale up (or down)

Sometimes during a product launch or a crisis period, your organization may need to staff up quickly. Outsourcers may be able to accommodate short term staff up requirements faster than doing it ‘in house’ and help handle peak or crisis situations.

5. Ability to handle 7/24/365

Some products or services require support 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Not every organization can find skilled staff willing to work those hours.

What to Outsource:

1. Customer Problems that are repetitive in nature and for which you have a solution (so you can train the call takers on the right response to customers).

2. The gathering of information about a problem for which you have not provided the outsourcer a solution, along with a process to get the newly found problem back to the product or service development group for a response.

3. Training of new call takers: product or service specifics, about your business, your policies and soft skills related to customer care.

4. A Problem Management system that allows for the capture the information about the customer and their problem history.

5. Customer satisfaction surveying to ensure the customers the outsourcer is handling are happy with the service they are getting.

6. The tracking and reporting of key metrics (be careful how you set those metrics to avoid unintended consequences).

What Not to Outsource:

1. Accountability

While you may outsource the customer technical support function, you should never outsource the need to ensure customers are satisfied with it. Not only should you have measurements (Key Performance Indicators or KPIs) but you should insist on regular reporting on customer satisfaction with the service provided. Ensure surveys are done after a support transaction is completed. Also listen carefully for feedback through your sales organization and large customers and, if applicable, watch for reactions through social media.

2. Policy Setting

Don’t allow the outsourcer to decide on your policies. Those should be part of your product or service plan. You should determine the warranty provisions, the duration that technical support is available, the pricing of your support offerings if you charge for them, who is entitled to call in for support and similar policies. That being said,  you may want to consider empowering the customer support team to satisfy customers by providing a budget to handle small items.

3. Regular Communication

Are you planning any activity that might impact the customer support center? Are new products or services being introduced? Are there regulatory changes or systems changes that customers need to be aware of and that might cause an increase in volumes at the support center? Are you involved in a crisis of some type? Remember that your outsourcer is a part of your team. Their management needs to know about any changes in volumes expected or new (or decreased) workload. It is also a best practice to provide some background on the company and any changes that take place at least once a year so the front line staff relate to your organization in a more personal way.

4. Processes that feed known problems back and forth

At IBM, we had a data base of known problems that some customers might encounter. We updated the known data base of problems regularly around the world (multiple times a day) so our country support centers would know any new problems that had been uncovered and what the fix or workaround was. Similarly if you become aware of a problem that customers are having, you need to advise your outsourcer how to handle it.  And your outsourcer needs to have a process to bring problems to you that they cannot handle with small customer accommodations. They should have the responsibility to gather as much information as possible about the customer’s problem but there needs to be an industrial strength process that allows the outsourcer to get response from your organization on how to handle these exceptions.

5. Root Cause Analysis

Try to determine what is causing customers to have to call your technical support center for help. Include in your contract with the outsourcer the ability to review the causes of the largest volume of calls. Set up a categorization system to determine why the customer is calling in the first place and what resolution was necessary. Investigate the root cause of these problems. Is there something you can be doing in your organization that can stop the customer from ever needing to call in?

 

Do you have other factors that you use when outsourcing your call center? Leave them in the comments section below.

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For more information on Outsourcing a Call Center, visit the sponsor of this post, Global Response Corporation, one of the nation’s premiere Contact Center and Fulfillment companies, serving America’s most prestigious brands.

 

 

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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