Being kept on hold for 20 minutes by a call center agent on the other side of the world is the last thing anyone wants in the middle of a busy day. Poor comprehension and articulation skills, lack of product knowledge and little to no authority to make exceptions to the procedure are some of the biggest irritants faced by customers when speaking to a stereotypical call center agent. However, when you need a complex issue resolved quickly with a service provider, there is perhaps no better way than picking up the phone and talking to a customer support rep.
It is no surprise that voice support is the most expensive of all customer support channels today. In fact, IBM estimates that the businesses around the world receive more than 265 billion calls each year, and spend as much as $1.3 trillion on servicing them.
Quick and Easy Solutions to the Challenges You Are Most Likely To Face
If you are an online store owner looking for a competitive edge, 24X7 customer support may be on your radar. However, before you sign on the dotted line, you’d need to consider the challenges of hiring an outsourced customer support team and how to overcome them.
Quality, Quality and Quality!
A warm, confident tone of voice can put the customer at ease instantly. Unless the conversation flows naturally, chances are that a resolution to the customer’s problem may never be found. When it comes to enquiries received over the phone, poor communication can mean missed opportunities in terms of understanding client needs and offering relevant solutions. Here’s the rub: more than 33% Americans said that they would switch providers after just one instance of poor service, according to the American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer survey.
How do you mitigate this risk? Work on an outsourcing model where the outsourcing provider puts you in direct contact with the agents and offers to specially train the agents for you. Then, make yourself accessible to the agents. Instead of considering this to be an ‘outsourced’ operation, imagine that you’re working with your OWN remote team, helping them build expertise at selling your product line.
When scouting for outsourcing providers, remember to ask how they train their agents. Modern outsourcing providers use technology driven training models that provide a realistic training environment for agents, enabling them to master your brand voice in a matter of hours. Store owners should be closely involved in providing the required hand holding to help outsourced agents learn the ins and outs of their product on an ongoing basis.
While it is important to focus on quality, avoid expecting instant results when you are just getting started. It can take time for even an inhouse employee to ramp up to full knowledge and full productivity. If you do not have a formal onboarding program for new hires, it may indeed be a while before you can expect them to perform. More often than not, it is the absence of a well designed training program that prevents agents at startups and online businesses from delivering superior customer service. A study by the Harvard Business Review indicates that it takes as long as 8 months for a new employee on average to get up to speed in terms of delivering the goods, which only adds to your costs.
Why not bring in an outsourced squad of customer service and conversion ninjas who get the job done with military precision? Though they’re humans, modern outsourcing providers have equipped them with smart search and machine learning algorithms to make sure they’re able to find the right answer to even complex questions easily. This means that even without you putting the training effort you would need to with an in-house employee, a “machine learning equipped” team is able to deliver outcomes that matter the most – including pre-sales enquiries and post-sale support. The result? Lower handle times, better customer engagement and data-based insights.
Not Having Access to Basic Quality Metrics
What gets measured, gets improved- or so they say! It may sound daunting but you do not need to create a data analyst position on your team to get the most out of customer data. In fact, you probably need to focus on just a few crucial metrics to ensure you’re getting good ROI, for example, cart abandonment rate and work your way backwards. Other ‘bread and butter’ metrics to pay attention to are Average Wait Time (AWT), Average Handle Time (AHT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS).
As you can imagine, AWT is the time it takes for a customer to get through to an agent on ringing your support line. On the other hand, AHT is the time taken to service a customer while NPS determines how likely a customer is to buy from you again and refer his friends and colleagues to you.
Ideally, your chosen outsourcing provider should have proven data analysis and reporting expertise. However, if they refuse to share these metrics with you, it can end up being very difficult for you to have a handle on quality. Ask for actionable data, not just dashboards and spreadsheets.
Long Term Contracts
A long term contract can weigh you down with upfront fees and uncertainty. For an e-commerce store, that can mean poor ROI, certain risk and potential legal issues. Rapidly changing market conditions can barely be anticipated, let alone planned for. If you choose to terminate a long term contract out of sheer frustration, chances are there could be penalties involved. Avoid getting straight-jacketed by long term contracts.
Outsourced support providers have turned the idea of long term contracts inside out. By doing away with cast-in-stone terms, companies like Helplama offer online businesses flexible and scalable services on an as needed basis. This immediately translates into lower hiring and retention costs and better customer satisfaction scores, enabling you to stay ahead of the competition.
Cultural and Language Barriers
The lack of cultural and contextual understanding can affect customer interactions adversely. Traditional BPO or offshore call center agents can potentially sound scripted and even lack soft skills like empathy and persuasion. In turn, this can have undesirable consequences for conversions and ticket resolutions, leading to increased escalations or worse, customer attrition.
Modern startups offering customer support as a service fix this problem by hiring exclusively from the country of origin, for example, the USA. This makes sure that they don’t compromise on quality and gives customers the ability to interact with local agents who sound familiar – and often strike up a natural conversation with them – allowing the agents to build rapport and positively drive business outcomes for you. In addition, you score better in terms of first call resolution as the number of transfers between departments – a major irritant for customers -is minimized.
Outsourced BPO agents may have little understanding of your brand values and customer service philosophy. This can cause a discernible disconnect in the way they interact with your customers, affecting your overall brand perception. Over a period of time, this can manifest in customer dissatisfaction and undermine the efforts of your in-house team.
The workaround: Make sure you ask your outsourcing provider to directly put you in touch with the agents themselves so that you can coach them on the brand voice and customer expectations. They should be able to let you take charge of training their agents thoroughly on your brand tone and voice, letting you take the final call on which agent will finally interact with your customers.
Not Being In Control of Insights
This is going to be a constant issue whenever there is a remote team offering customer support for you. In the absence of consistent reporting that reaches your business’ decision-makers themselves, you may be at risk of losing out on important customer insights or issues. For example, you might be completely left in the dark about how your customers feel about a change in your return policy or the kind of issues reported about a certain product.
To mitigate this, make sure:
1) You set up a ‘Voice of Customer’ process that allows frontline agents to share any customer insights they come across with you. This can form the basis for identifying training needs or systemic issues that need resolution.
2) Stay in direct touch with the agents and encourage them to share their feedback. This can potentially help you learn about what customers are saying about your latest products, giving you the ability to adapt and improvise. If multiple agents report speaking to angry or frustrated callers, there could be a larger underlying issue. Likewise, if they sounded happy/excited about your new product line, it is probably doing better than you’d hoped.
Outsourcing customer support to the right partner can save you as much as 40-60% in operating costs. With their flexible pricing and customized services, outsourced support providers can do a lot more than just cover for your in-house team after hours. Think of them as an extension of your team and adopt a ‘crawl-walk-run’ approach and you’ll see returns on your outsourcing dollars soon enough.
Make the customer experience of your store seamless across channels by partnering with an on-demand 24X7 customer support outsourcing agency like Helplama. We’re easy to work with and our team comprises of native English speaking representatives skilled in providing world-class live chat, email and phone-based support to customers around the world.
We help you avoid the costs of maintaining large in-house customer service teams and benefit from high-quality customer interactions. We deliver the goods when it comes to enhancing your average order value consistently.