Can you outsource customer service and expect to keep everyone happy?

Written by Michael Smith on the 4th of November, 2015

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Will our customers still say this about us if we outsource customer contact?


Driving home last night, I was called on my mobile by a contact centre. On answering, the call was ‘dropped’. When I called the number back, an auto-message advised that I had been called by the company (named) on behalf of one of its clients (name withheld).

This was not satisfactory. Firstly, I don’t know which brand was trying to get hold of me. Secondly, I’m in the dark as to why they were so keen to get hold of me. Finally, I’m concerned that they have thrown me into a contact centre that from the message appears to be dealing with a bunch of different online brands. And I haven’t even mentioned that fact that they called me at a time that for many people is wholly inconvenient (work, school pick-up etc).

Outsourcing is increasingly an operational imperative for many customer-facing organisations. However, if the rationale is cost-based and aligned with the objective of delivering a positive customer experience then it’s a false economy and a huge risk to brand equity.

So how can an outsourced contact centre work to ensure that they improve experience? Well, the most obvious way is to make sure they are an extension of the brand they represent and uphold their values.

From the customer’s point of view, they have to be able to interact when they want and in a way that they want to without switching channels. E.g. In an app, in a site from a tablet, on social media, by email, on the phone or a combination of all of these.

From the brand’s perspective, an outsourcer has to be able to be a multi-channel operator and still maintain a single view of the customer and share this with the brand real-time. No longer can a contact centre hide behind volume of outbound calls as a way of meeting a predefined service level. (Please note, an SLA should now be redefined a ‘satisfaction level agreement’!)

Achieving this requires shared help-desk technology. Even if the outsourcer is only being asked to manage a limited number of previously stated channels, such as calls and email for specific marketing campaigns. They may still need to more intelligent and tactile in the manner in which they meet SLAs in individual channels.

To quote Michael Maoz, a distinguished analyst at Gartner: ‘it is the overall impression of the enterprise generated by the quality of customer service that differentiates one enterprise from another." So whoever you entrust with a volume of sales leads or inbound enquiries, has to be able to deliver big style!

Helpdesk technology can play a major part in de-risking and improving outsourcer collaboration with a brand and its customers. Omni-channel technology like Zendesk allows ticket sharing between Enterprise users in different organisations. It therefore becomes very easy for a single view of the customer to be maintained across multiple channels on an intercompany basis.

More importantly, the brand is able to act quickly and support customer resolution in order that the whole process appears seamless to the customer. How can an outsourced contact centre be expected to resolve issues or meet objectives without the assistance of the brand?

Using shared technology means that at a practical level, everyone is looking at the most up to date information about a customer at any one point of time. Open tickets can also be allocated for resolution on an intercompany basis, so there is no confusion about ownership. Both the brand and the outsourced are essentially one and there is no risk of the ‘left’ and ‘right’ hand not working in unison.

Going back to my own experience, the outsourcer could have easily reached out to me passively using a tactile channel such as text, email or social to understand how I wanted to engage. I’m not averse to a call but I would like to know who wants to talk to me, what it’s about and then choose when to take it.



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