Getting closer to customers through outsourcing
For brand-conscious organizations who have never outsourced before, there’s a common fear that putting your customer care in the hands of an outsourced partner effectively builds a wall between you and your customer. We get the reasoning – after all, your customers are your most important asset and anything that adds a layer between you and your customers must be a barrier. We beg to differ.
After more than 25 years in the outsourced customer service space, supporting some of the world’s most trusted brands, we can assure you: that wall is a myth. The right outsourced partner is just as committed to your brand as you are and – most importantly – their core expertise is in delivering the right brand experience across every customer interaction. As such, not only is the assertion that outsourcing distances you from your customer false, the opposite is actually true – outsourcing can in fact get you closer to your customer. We explore why below.
What’s Your Core Focus?
We know you love your customers. And there’s nothing more you want than those customers to love you back. You’ve built a successful business founded on your core offering – whether that is a product or service. Your organization has multiple stakeholders and departments to support the creation, marketing, and distribution of that product or service. Even with a fully functioning in-house customer care program, few organizations would say they are a contact center first and a retailer/technology company/manufacturer second. These competing priorities mean that excellent customer service is often a secondary (though no less important) goal.
On the other hand, an outsourcer’s entire corporate infrastructure is built around the customer experience. Customer experience excellence is the core focus of their organization, and they know that every move they make has an impact. So, while you didn’t go into business to exclusively answer your customers’ questions or resolve their problems, your outsourcer did.
The right outsourced partner is obsessed with your customer. Not only will they do the work to passionately live and breathe your brand, but every tweak made to a process, every set of data analyzed, and every agent schedule set are all in direct pursuit of an exceptional customer experience.
The big picture here is that outsourcers – ones who are in the business of strategic partnership and the delivery of value-add, high touch customer care solutions – are tightly attuned to your customer because that’s their sole job. Their corporate success is dependent on delivering a brand-enhancing customer experience. The right partner who is culturally aligned with your company translates directly into satisfied customers who are inclined to stay loyal to your brand and promote your company to their friends, family, and colleagues.
How Do You Develop Top Talent?
Spending time in the contact center can serve as an excellent training ground for talented individuals who want to grow their career. For example, one of our clients (a billion-dollar+ organization with more than 100 offices around the US) used their contact center vendor manager role as a proving ground for high-potential employees in the management stream. They changed out vendor managers every six to 18 months. On our end, their program management team was stable and steady with little to no turn-over year after year. By outsourcing, our client got the best of both worlds – experience and talent retention on their end leveraging contact center management as a training ground – plus stability and knowledge retention on our end.
If you have an in-house center, you probably have seen it a hundred times, valuable new hires get in at the ground level, learn the ropes and the brand and the customers, and then they get promoted to other areas of the company, taking valuable customer care insight with them.
On the other hand, in the past five years especially, outsourced customer care providers have focused more and more on building meaningful career paths within the support solutions. The focus on career pathing in an outsourced model is focused on retention on the client program through Tier 2, Specialist, Program Management roles. That means an agent who gets to know your business intimately through customer care, can find the opportunity to grow with your program, even as they pursue professional development. Our largest client, a global leader in networking technology, has been with us for 13 years. We have program managers, specialists, and agents who have been with the program for the entire length of our relationship. We have had specialists who were hired by our client directly from our program who now hold management positions within the client’s organization. And we have team members at Blue Ocean who provide support in change management and technical writing for other outsourcers in the client’s global ecosystem from our head office in Atlantic Canada. That’s the kind of strategic relationship structure that gets you closer to your customer.
There’s also the reality that, with internal contact centers, unfortunately, agent jobs are often seen as the “poor cousins” of the organization – jobs to be transitioned through as quickly as possible. As committed as an organization may be to creating a great work culture, it can be difficult to extend that to their customer service department, where the environment can be significantly different – often with limitations and requirements that make employee engagement more difficult than in other functional areas within the company. Your in-house tech support agent, for instance, may just be paying her dues in the contact center, while in reality, she’s chomping at the bit to get on to your internal IT team where the hours are better and the perks are more attractive.
That’s where a great outsourcer can turn things around, particularly one that is an excellent employer and stays focused on retention. Find a partner that is committed to employee engagement and career pathing – and your program can flourish in that environment.
Finally, because their sole focus is on the customer, an outsourced partner has refined their candidate profiling and hiring process in alignment with the customer experience. In other words, the core function of their talent acquisition/HR team is hiring and supporting contact center agents. Does your HR team see hiring for the contact center as their prime responsibility or as a necessary, and perhaps secondary, chore?
How Does Outsourcing Impact the Customer Relationship?
These are just two key areas where making the choice to outsource actually gets you closer to your customer – quashing the argument that outsourcing by definition builds a wall. With the right partner, the end result is customers who feel heard and understood and supported through each call, email, live chat, or tweet.