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Customer service – should you outsource?

Published on Saturday, March 23, 2013 11:43:35 AM

Almost every business that offers products and services requires some kind of customer services department.



Customer_service300x140.jpg

If your business is currently expanding and you’re wondering whether to hire one or more new members of staff to deal specifically with customer queries, you may want to consider outsourcing your customer service department – here are some points to consider before making your decision.

Call Centre vs. Contact Centre

The days are almost gone when customers would dial a company’s call centre number with a feeling of dread – expecting to be placed on hold forever and without much hope of their queries being resolved. Unlike traditional call centres which simply put customers through to an agent who may or may not have been able to resolve queries, today’s contact centres are different.

A contact centre allows your customers to communicate with a customer service agent who prioritises solving whatever problem the customer may have. Today’s contact centre agents are thoroughly trained, well-spoken, and work under incentive programmes that encourage them to solve problems instead of telling customers that what they really need can’t be done over the phone.

Contact centres make use of telephone, fax, email, and live chat to assist customers with their problems and queries, reducing waiting times and following up on each enquiry on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the query (or “ticket”) is resolved. They also tend to operate after hours, making it possible for customers to query orders they may have placed in the evening, and allowing your business to serve customers in different time zones.

Do You Need a Contact Centre?

Many entrepreneurs pride themselves on handling all areas of their businesses, and may not want to lose touch with their customers when complaints or queries arise. While this commitment to serving customers is excellent, you should ask yourself this question - am I good at dealing with customers?

Customer service isn’t a job that comes naturally to everyone. The patience that is required when dealing with irate customers as well as the time commitment that is needed to attend to queries and complaints make it almost impossible for most entrepreneurs to deal with customer service by themselves. Dealing with unhappy customers can also be demotivating for entrepreneurs, because they invest so much of their time and passion in the business.

Because many small business owners feel so strongly about their products, they may feel personally insulted when customers complain, resulting in arguments and the loss of repeat business. For these reasons, it’s important to be honest with yourself – if you’d rather not deal with customer service issues on a daily basis, the best solution is to pay someone else to do it.

Choosing the Right Contact Centre

A good contact centre can make the difference between happy customers and alienated ones – and in the era of social media and review writing, you can’t afford too many of those. Before you outsource your customer service department, take some time to test out the potential contact centres to make sure that their service is up to scratch.

Hold an Audition

Just like musicians and actors have to audition to get work, so should contact centres. Since dealing with customers is a human activity, just like music and acting, the agents who work for a contact centre should be able to demonstrate their skills in resolving customer service issues.

When you approach a contact centre for more information on the services they offer, you should request a “listen-in session” where you’ll be able to observe the style of customer service the centre provides and decide whether it fits in with the culture of your business. Keep the following points in mind when you assess the contact centres you are interested in:

 

  • Politeness – Are the agents polite and professional? It’s important that customer service agents are pleasant to deal with, and have the ability to create a calming experience for customers who may be upset.
  • Effectiveness – Do the agents take decisive action to solve problems on the spot, and do they keep customers in the loop by telling them how and when their problems are likely to be solved?
  • Communication skills – If the contact centre is in a foreign country, is the local accent of the agents understandable? Many customers will have less confidence in a representative if they struggle to understand the person over the phone.
  • Price – Is the cost of outsourcing your customer service department really justified at this time? Remember that dealing with queries yourself or hiring a member of staff comes with its own costs, including the use of bandwidth, phone lines, and the cost of salaries.

 


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