Once you are crystal clear about why your business needs outsourcing, you have to think about how to outsource customer support and ways to go on with the outsourcing process. Many aspects have to be brought into consideration such as pricing, infrastructure, personnel selection, training and onboarding. The whole process of transitioning from in-house to outsourced infrastructure is quite exhaustive and has to be handled with attention and care. Listed below are the three main consecutive processes for outsourcing your customer support to an outsourcing company, to help you grasp the whole process and decide which way is the right way for you.
Choosing the Right Customer Support Pricing Models
With the advent of cloud-based technology, the market has an abundance of options when it comes to customer support. This abundance results in a variety of pricing models for the respective services.
You must decide a pricing model that seems promising for your business and to do that you’ll need to look at the popular ones that the outsourcing companies offer. There is so much variety on the table that confusion is inevitable. But, we’ll help you grasp these models and decide which one to choose.
1. Fixed Price.
Example: $300 for 100 chats
The outsourcing partner might charge you a fixed priced for a certain number of email interactions/chats/phone call minutes. They usually have a tiered pricing structure and might offer 100 chats in $300, for example. They will provide 100% uptime guarantee. This usually works well if you have a low call volume.
2. Per Minute/Per Chat/Per Email basis
Example: $1.05 for every minute on call or $3.45 per email
Here, the outsourcing partner only charges you for the number of minutes spent on calls or a fixed amount for every chat/email attended to. The outsourcing partner will guarantee 100% uptime but will only charge you when a customer requires your attention. Thus, this pricing model works extremely well if you’re not expecting a heavy volume of calls/emails/chats.
3. Seasonal basis
If your inbound chat, email or call volume come in predictable patterns, you can hire outsourced agents on a seasonal basis. For example, if you can just bring the outsourcing partner on board for the holiday season.
4. Fully Outsourced/Per Seat
Example: $3,500 per seat per month or $20/hr
This works really well if you get a very high volume and the outsourced staff will see 80-100% utilization. This may work very well if you’re in a high-income city or if you don’t want the overheads of managing full-time staff.
Essentially, the pricing option you end up choosing will depend largely on the volume patterns you see. Getting hooked on the wrong pricing model might make a heavy difference to the ROI you get from outsourcing.
5. Volume Based
This is how we like to do it here at Helplama. Here, the outsourcing partner uses a specific pricing methodology to give you a quote based on your expected volume and preferred support channel.
How much will you be expected to pay? It completely depends on your expected volume. We have companies with low volumes paying as little as $3/hr for US based support. Why is it so low? Because on this model, the outsourcing partner doesn’t charge you for the time not spent on resolving queries from YOUR customers.
Transitioning to a Multi-tiered Customer Support Infrastructure
When a startup starts out, it is usually the founders doing customer support and they are usually subject matter experts who can answer any query, no matter how complex it is. But as a company grows, more team members and eventually, layers of customer support are added. When a company outsources their customer support, they usually do it in a tiered manner so that the newly added outsourced team only handles the basic, non-complex issues while the more complicated issues are ‘escalated’ to the company’s internal team. Here are what the various tiers then look like:
Every incoming request will first go through this tier. It is usually made up of the personnel working with the outsourcing partner and this makes sure that the internal team only receives the most critical of requests, saving them time. Tier-1 agents are trained in the broad overview of the process and usually escalate a request to the internal team whenever they are even slightly confused.
Whenever they receive an email with a complex or critical request they usually say something like “Our order team will have more information on that, let me quickly escalate it to them and you should be hearing back from them soon”. These agents will serve your customers 24 hours a day and escalate any technical issue to tier-2 and generate an issue tracking ticket for the concerned customer.
Tier 2 comprises of trained employees i.e. people with technical expertise who can diagnose the problem using advanced tools and data analysis. These people will usually be employees of your company. Their job is to use their troubleshooting abilities to deal with customers’ problems that fall in their area of specialization. The tier-1 team makes life much easier for this team by making sure that vast majority of the queries are resolved at the tier-1 stage itself.
The tier-1 team can either escalate full emails to the tier-2/3 team. Alternatively, they can simply update all the orders that need to be cancelled every day, for example. This makes the tier-2 team very efficient and they simply need to go through a list at the end of a day to process all the orders. The list contains the conversation id and the tier 2 team can reference back to the conversation if they are doubtful about something.
Training, Testing and Onboarding Process
When the Outsourcing Partner wants you to work it out
Certain outsourcing companies would need you to dictate the whole process, hence all the hard work falls on your shoulders. From curating the training material for support agents to creating a knowledge base, you and your employees will have to do it all.
You’ll have to fill numerous forms regarding the specificities you need in the outsourced agents, be it personality traits, tone, verbiage or knowledge about a given product or service.
Taking this route makes you aware of the whole onboarding process by governing each and every step it entails, but you and your employees have to contribute a great deal and hence risk facing a setback in your core business.
When the Outsourcing Partner does all the work
Some companies try to keep it simple for the clients. You simply hand over past customer interactions such as emails, chat transcripts along with the store policies and product catalogue, and just sit back and let experts handle the onboarding process.
From sketching out a knowledge base to preparing the training material using the data provided by you, here the outsourcing partner does all the work. You just have to oversee the whole process and give insightful pieces of advice so that the process can be improved for both of the parties.
The outsourcing company trains the support agents using the training material and is responsible for their quality testing before deployment (e.g., curating simulated mock chats). The results of these tests are subjected to your scrutiny. You may pick the agents that you deem suitable for your store. This ensures that every single customer interaction is pitch-perfect.
The customer service experience of the outsourcing partner can be instrumental in driving your customer support to the top as they are experts in this domain.