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When to Pilot Your Outsourced Customer Support Program

The North American economy is hot right now. With Canada, the United States, and Mexico expected to grow by 2.5%, 3.4%, and 3.9% respectively, if you’re one of the many companies that are riding this economic growth wave, you will most certainly have more customers to support this year. As any company grows and scales to meet the needs of customers, decisions must be made – especially when it comes to your customer support operation.

Executing on in-house efforts for customer service can be difficult; it takes the right background and continual hiring and training, not to mention complex IT systems to support and workforce management issues. You may also be outsourcing some portion of your customer support today, but you need more help, or you need a niche partner to support a new product or initiative. When the “customer support formula” to scale doesn’t feel right anymore, it may be time to make a change.

And change is difficult. Passing the baton of your customer service strategy to an outsourced partner comes with its share of worries. Concerns about transfer of knowledge, culture, and maintaining the intangibles are enough to keep many executives awake at night (will my customers be okay in the hands of a new partner?). Nailing down the business case and the ins and outs of exactly what you need can be a difficult task as well. That’s when piloting an outsourced customer support program may be just what you need.

While a pilot program is not for every company out there, we’ve found it can be a viable option for companies with certain requirements who need to alleviate valid concerns when selecting a partner.

Economic Concerns

The Concern: When exploring the options for outsourced customer service solutions, the question of expense is often the first concern. Building a business case from an economical standpoint can be a challenge: What metrics should you consider in calculating the true cost of outsourcing? And how does that cost compare to the expense of your in-house customer service? If your growing company has no current strategy for customer support, is this big step worth the cost? If you’re looking to switch outsourcers, how do prices compare? How will you allocate this expense within your budget? Does it even make any business sense to make this investment?

Benefit of a Pilot: When you’re concerned about justifying the expense, a pilot can help you assess if this investment is truly worth the cost. The best customer service providers will deliver a hoard of hard data to allow you to calculate an accurate ROI. A trial period will give you the opportunity to fully comprehend how cost is calculated, from productive agent time to quality assurance to infrastructure. Armed with data that clearly shows the benefits of outsourcing your customer service, the more confident you can be in constructing an airtight business case.

Cultural Alignment Concerns

The Concern: We know your company has worked diligently to establish a strong and distinctive brand. When you outsource your customer service, you’re essentially outsourcing your brand’s spokespeople. Obviously this raises legitimate concern: Will an outsourced customer service partner embrace your company’s core values when connecting with your clients and customers? How can you know if your brand’s voice will be carried across all mediums of customer support?

Benefit of a Pilot: A great customer service provider should be just as concerned with this as you are; they should be obsessed with their recruitment strategy for hiring agents who can adopt a client’s brand as their own. You’ll want to invest in taking a tour of the contact center – you can do a culture “check” get to know how your teams will align. Find a contact center outsourcer who is willing to train their staff, get them up to speed on your services and products, and inspire passion for your company and its customers. A customer service pilot is often the best way to ensure against conflicting cultures or inconsistencies in the projection of your brand.

Concerns about Scaling Growth

The Concern: If your company is in rapid growth mode, you may be worried about any outsourced customer support team being able to scale their efforts alongside you. The last thing you want to do is sign on with a new provider only to discover several months later that they no longer have the necessary manpower to keep up with the influx of your customers. In growth mode, you need to focus on your core competencies rather than scrambling to make sure your clients are being heard and supported.

Benefit of a Pilot: In this scenario, a pilot should provide sufficient time to assess how the outsourced team adjusts to the increasing pace of customer support. This is particularly true if your service or product is ever affected by seasons, holidays, natural disasters, or other events; seeing how the team scales their efforts to successfully handle increased call volume will give you a good idea – as well as the hard data – to predict how they will handle your future growth.

Concerns about Existing In-House Team

The Concern: When you already have in-house agents handling your current customer support, the decision to outsource becomes significantly more complex. The implications of this decision – shutting down the operation and potentially terminating those employees – create higher risk and raise significant concerns. Make the wrong decision, and you’ll be worse off than you were before.

Benefit of a Pilot: A trial run with an outsourced customer service provider will give you the analytics you need to make a true comparison between your in-house team and the outsourced team. You’ll gain a better understanding of how to integrate the efforts of these teams, and you’ll reduce the risk of disgruntled employees.

This post first appeared on the Blue Ocean blog.