You either have great or crappy outsource support teams. There are no in-betweens.
Listen, here’s the thing.
You’ve most probably heard about outsourcing customer support, and I’m willing to bet that what you’ve heard is mostly negative (if it’s not I would LOVE to hear about it in the comments below).
It’s selling out, some say. Others automatically think that companies who outsource something as integral as customer support are prioritizing cost-cutting over what’s best for their customers. A little like selling your soul to the devil to get what you want at minimum effort.
And you know what, they’re right, most of the time.
I’m a customer first before anything. I’ve had my share of horrible customer support experiences, from support agents stonewalling my frustration with templates to having to decipher shitty English from someone somewhere where English isn’t even in the top 3 commonly used languages to having to wait 10 years to get my problem fixed because no one on the other end knows what to do about it.
It’s not pleasant, and time and time again I ask myself which companies would be stupid enough to be okay with having bad customer support. And time and time again I find out that it’s always the same companies who outsource their support.
Companies who find themselves overwhelmed by the cost and volume of in-house support turn to outsourcing companies. Bim-bam, lowered cost and the ability to cater to more customers.
They think that solves the problem.
You see, outsourcing is a neutral service. It is neither bad, nor good. Much like Superman’s powers don’t make him a superhero. He could very well lift his pinkie to wipe us off the planet.
How a company sees outsourcing decides whether it ends up with impeccable customer support, or something they can flush down the toilet along with all of their customers.
The key, you see, lies in the execution of outsourcing. And a proper execution means putting in work.
Work, you ask? Isn’t that the very thing a company will pay outsourcing for? To not do work? Hold on, and rewind to what I said earlier. How a company thinks about outsourcing changes the course and quality of their outsource support teams.
If a company thinks that outsourcing is a way to cut costs just by dumping the tickets onto someone else, then they will get exactly what they pay for in terms of support.
If a company thinks of an outsource team as an extension of itself, an extension borne out of wanting to provide better support, then better support is exactly what they will get. A company should treat better support as a value over lower costs when working with an outsource partner.
A part of the business as integral as customer support should always be a value.
So now that we’ve established that outsourcing your support is neither a good or bad thing, let’s talk about the things that will make it good.
Find a good outsource partner
As obvious as it may seem, it’s easy to hand over your customer support to any random outsource partner that will fit your budget and your bare minimum standards.
Don’t. Know who you’re jumping into bed with, because once you’ve made it, the damage of partnering up with a lousy company will be on you and your company’s reputation.
Ask about their resources, their experience in the business. Ask about how they do things, and don’t just take their word for it. Ask for samples of how their agents respond to situations. Give them good old fashioned tests (one client in the past asked the teamf2psupport team to do this for hiring) just to be sure.
Another important tip, and one that could have helped all the outsource support team disasters out there, is to not build a destructive relationship with your outsourcing partner.
Companies and outsourcing teams should not be trying to outsmart each other! It’s not a competition to see who can cut the most costs. It’s a relay race with customer success and satisfaction at the finish line.
Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way first.
‘Personalized’ support doesn’t mean each and every reply will be personalized and written from scratch. There is absolutely no way to do that, unless you’re okay with customers waiting for weeks before a reply. Even in-house support teams use templates to save time. Outsource support teams handle an average of 300 tickets per day, and that’s on a slow day. Expecting them to spend more than 10 minutes on each ticket will build mountains worth of backlog and unhappy customers.
You need templates. This does not necessarily mean that your support is doomed to sound like Robocop (not as cool as it sounds).
Don’t settle for the ‘standard’. A quick way to check if your templates are working is to test them on yourself. Would you be happy if you received an email that referred to you as “Ticket #45239”? No? Then neither will your customers. A lack of empathy is not what customers want when they’re piping red hot angry about an issue, regardless if it’s the company’s fault or theirs.
There are tiny tweaks you can do that will go a long way in making templates just personable enough to convey empathy and not piss off an already anger customer.
Finding the right balance can be an on-going process. The support team needs to be sensitive enough to pick up what customers respond positively to and what needs to stay off your replies.
Be involved in the hiring process.
This is another step that companies looking to outsource always want to skip. I know the point of outsourcing is to minimize the load on internal, but again, what we’re talking about now is setting up your outsource team. Do this right, and it’s going to be ridiculously easy from here on end.
Hiring the right people will make or break your support. Make sure your outsource partner knows your non-negotiables, and make sure you know exactly who you want to hire.
Here are some basics on who should be hired for support:
- People who can take a verbal beating. Oversensitive people will be eaten by frustrated customers for breakfast.
- People who can take a verbal beating, CALMLY. Pick people who can maintain Zen for at least the 10 hours that they’ll be handling your customers.
- People who have empathy. If they can walk a mile in other people’s shoes, it will be easier for them to be…
- …people who are capable of standing up for the customer’s cause. Sometimes customer issues build up, and tickets get lost in the heap. Choose people who will have the determination to get answers for your customers.
On the client company’s side, one of the best things they can do to motivate their outsource team is to make them feel like a part of the team, and not something that’s hidden from the general public. Make sure agents know their purpose in the bigger scheme of the company, and know how important quality support will mean for your bottom line. Treat them like they matter, because they do, and they will.
Like I said before, working with an outsource partner is not a competition to see who can cut costs more. Companies shouldn’t be pressuring outsource partners to lower costs while outsource companies shouldn’t be afraid to always suggest the better alternative.
Everything should be out in the open. Expectations, performance indexes, goals and values. Keeping details from each side will only lead to miscommunication and badly executed processes.
Empower your outsourcing partner by giving them the agency to act to improve processes, much like you would give the same for an in-house team. Ask them monthly what they think needs improvement, after all, they’re the ones who will handle the system 24/7.
Meanwhile, outsourcing partners should never be afraid to report mistakes or lapses in operations to client companies. X is what happened due to Y, and so forth. Do not wait for customers to be the one to let the client company know that there’s something wrong with support.
The Bottom line:
Only you have the power to wield outsource customer support for good. If you and your company want your outsource support done right know where to cut costs, and know where you can’t. Invest time in setting-up your outsource team, because the magic of these teams only start working if built on well-prepared foundations. If you can do that, then that’s when outsourcing will really take that support load off your shoulders.
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- Game Dev Timeline: In-house to Outsourced Support for Games - August 19, 2015
- The Naked Truth About Outsource Support Teams - August 19, 2015
- A Game Dev’s Guide: Customer Support Channels in Asia - August 12, 2015
- 6 Traits That Separate Good and Bad Outsourced Support Supervisors - August 11, 2015
- If Email Support Replies Were People - August 4, 2015
- Social Media Sites Used By Top Mobile Games - July 10, 2015
- Outsource Support Teams Don’t Have To Be Black Sheep - July 10, 2015