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Why Outsourced Expertise Can Be the Right Choice

Customer-facing activities, such as customer service, order management and technical support are more important now than they’ve ever been. However, managing these activities to a level that consistently satisfies customers and creates advocates is increasing in complexity as needs and preferences and access to information continue to evolve. With a lot on the line for your brand, engaging the expertise of an outsourced services provider is often the most efficient and effective way to position your company as the choice customers prefer.

Service today is not the same as it was yesterday—at least not as far as your customers are concerned. When they ask, they expect you to be responsive, empathetic and efficient at resolving their issues, answering their questions or helping them to get their devices or technology to perform as expected. Customers have no patience for delays, wasting their time on products that don’t work. And, as you’ve probably experienced, criticism can be swift, harsh and publicly shared. But the voice of your customer can also represent rave reviews, referrals and advocacy for your brand and products.

Obviously, the latter is the version you want. In order to put the odds on your side, selecting the vendor with the most appropriate expertise to serve your customers is critical.

How to make sure the vendor you select has the technical support expertise you need:

Understanding the customer’s problem. Your customers will have varying levels of technology acumen. The same conversation will not suffice for your entire install base. From beginner to amateur to expert, support conversations need flexibility to fit the situation. This is true not only for the tone and depth of the conversation from the agent’s end, but in their ability to understand exactly what the customer is describing, regardless of the level of technical terms they are able to use effectively. Diagnosis is even more critical than resolution, for without it, agents will be spinning their wheels or solving for the wrong issue.

When evaluating technical support vendors, you need to understand the capability their agents display in working with customers with similar programs and customers as yours. But you also need a clear understanding of their recruitment, training and coaching processes. You need to ensure the vendor has processes that will enable them to replicate that environment by supplying the right caliber of agent to fulfill on the contract requirements. If the customers for your product category are unhappy, it’s very likely that discontent will affect their loyalty to your products and brand.

The vendor’s approach to rapid change. It’s one thing when change is planned for the next quarter or next year. It’s quite another when a spike in call volume must be dealt with due to a discount offer that wasn’t communicated to the contact center or a product launches ahead of schedule, or when a power outage happens without warning and takes down customer support with it. While the last example should be detailed in the vendor’s disaster avoidance plan, spikes in volume are much more likely to happen with greater frequency.

Some questions to consider asking vendors include:

  • If a heavy spike in call volume happens and you can’t bring in additional agents, what processes would you enact to do more with the agents you have? Can you share a real-world example?
  • If a bug is discovered or a recall needs to be issued, how will your agents be able to deal with a spike in call volume from customers who may be more frustrated than usual?
  • Do you use escalation processes differently during an unexpectedly high volume of calls to increase efficiency?

Recruiting and Training.

Attrition is one of the biggest challenges that contact centers must manage. Hiring agents for technical support—especially if at the engineer level—can be even more difficult. It’s important to understand both the vendor’s methods for recruitment and training, but also how their usual processes for both will be modified in line with your product and brand needs. As the “face” of your company, matching your corporate brand and values is of the utmost importance for a unified brand.

It’s important to understand the vendor’s level of commitment to providing the expertise you require. An example is certifications in specific technologies. Find out if the vendor is willing to staff for and provide certification training. Unless there are an unlimited number of workers with the certifications you require, your vendor will need to facilitate the production of qualified staff to provide technical support in order to counter agent turnover appropriately.

Equally important is the workplace environment at the sites and the agent lifecycle management processes in place to promote enduring workforce relationships and the continuous development of the best-qualified staff to provide consistent and superior service to your customers.

Ask and Probe

Product managers, divisional leaders, and geography owners have as big a stake in customer service and technical support as do customer service and site operation managers. The service and support your customers receive is a reflection on the products they use and choose to continue using. With the cost to switch becoming lower and more products being seen as commodities, service and support are a critical component of the overall customer experience.

Consider what “tests” your technical support provider may need to face in the future and ask them how they’d manage those. From a technical support perspective, the contact center may be the first to face a challenge brought to light by customers. Their ability to adapt on the fly will be critical to customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Make sure that when your company is selecting an outsourced vendor for technical support that you get questions answered, such as those presented above. Due to the level of difficulty in managing technical support and service, outsourcing for the expertise a contact center provider can bring can be the best choice for meeting your revenue and customer lifecycle goals.