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The Ultimate First-Time CX Outsourcing Guide: Do’s, Don’ts, and Best Practices

As Demand For Omnichannel Support Rapidly Increases, It May Be Time To Engage Your First CX Outsourcer

You've created a brand that is experiencing hyper growth. You've put a lot of time, energy, and investment into your product, and customers are flooding in.   

But to keep up with increasing customer demands, you need even more time, money, and staff. After all the work you and your team have done to create value for your customers, you need to ask yourself - in order to effectively scale your business and meet growing customer demand, is now the time to outsource your CX program to an experienced partner? A Smarter With Gartner article argued, “To fully capture the benefits of customer service outsourcing, customer service and support leaders must prioritize customer experience to protect customer loyalty.”

As hard as it can be to hand over some control, outsourcing has its share of benefits when working with a proven CX partner. This guide will help you understand the benefits of outsourcing and find the people who will take your CX to the next level.

 

What is CX Outsourcing?

Outsourcing is when one business hires a third party, either an independent contractor or another company, to handle specified tasks. In the realm of customer experience, this may mean hiring a company that recruits and deploys experienced customer support agents at contact centers (and increasingly in work-at-home setups) to perform your customer support duties. The typical CX outsourcer can handle activities such as customer support via voice, email, chat, and social media, providing technical support, content moderation, staff augmentation, social reputation management, back-office support, and more. 

Benefits of Outsourcing Your CX

There’s a reason experts, like those at Gartner, suggest companies include customer experience in their outsourcing plans. There are several perks to CX outsourcing.

  • Top-notch expertise. You don’t have the time or bandwidth to keep up with every new CX innovation. Your expertise lies in your business. An outsourced CX partner will live and breathe the delivery of excellent customer experience daily -- so why not tap the best of the best? These outsourcers have tested different approaches and strategies for a number of clients, and have tried and true best practices infused with the newest innovations in customer support. These companies can optimize your CX strategy right out of the gate.
  • It allows you to scale — fast. As your business grows, so does your need for staff. Instead of interviewing hundreds of customer support candidates, you can vet one company and trust them to staff your customer support program.
  • You can focus on your core business. By delegating tasks to a third party, you can focus on big-picture items, such as expansion, migration, employee satisfaction, and evaluating the efficacy of existing customer experience programs. 
  • Risk management. With outsourcing, you may be able to offload some of the risks associated with having internal employees, like staffing during a viral outbreak, or turning-up support staff to handle unexpected burst capacity or seasonal needs.
  • Reduced costs. Full-time staff requires additional overhead costs, such as employee benefits. Outsourcing removes these costs. Another company will also provide the team with items like computers, software, and phones. Lowering these costs can allow you to focus on other priorities, such as the tools you need to enhance your customers’ CX journey.

Do’s of CX Outsourcing

Issues with outsourced employees can ultimately reach the customer — and that’s the last thing you need. Here’s how to mitigate risks when outsourcing for CX-related duties:

Build an air-tight CX strategy

Before you can offload tasks onto a third-party vendor, you’ll need to have a sound strategy. This strategy will provide a roadmap for them as to your brand’s values, customers, and customer journey, as well as how they fit into the plan. You’ll want to have:

  • Personas

    In order to improve your customers’ experiences, you have to understand your customers on a basic level. Customer personas are archetypes of different kinds of customers that help you to do that. They assist in understanding who your customers are, what they care about, and how they interact with your brand by looking at different demographics, frequent tasks or activities, pain points, demands, and any additional data-driven information that will help you create different personas.

  • Customer journey maps

    ​​In order to better understand your customers, a journey map depicts a visual representation of every possible touchpoint a customer may have with your brand — from social media and digital marketing exposure, to your website, to customer support interactions. This helps to understand the point of view of each customer type to expose what’s going well, what needs improvement, and where additional touchpoints can be added to streamline and improve the customer experience.

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that fit your needs

    KPIs are how you’ll measure the success of your CX strategy. This is especially important when you are outsourcing your CX, to ensure expectations are aligned, see if the CX focus needs to pivot, and protect your ROI. This provides insight into customer sentiment, satisfaction, engagement, as well as CX agent performance. Depending on your specific goals, certain metrics may be more important. Paying attention to trends in your current customer support data can help inform the areas you’d like to focus on -- for example, improving your CSAT, or improving resolution on first call.

  • Brand standards for consistent agent interactions

    There are few things more frustrating for a customer than receiving contradictory information or experiences from your brand. By having clear brand standards and messaging, customers will receive the same type of support each time, which will help to increase satisfaction and build brand loyalty.

Know your primary CX needs

This one sounds obvious — but it’s important. You’ll want to know what you need in order to accomplish your business objectives, and why. From there, you’ll be able to determine what you should outsource and what you should continue to focus on in-house.

From there, think about your ideal workforce (digital native, familiar with apps and social media?). What are your goals (i.e., decrease customer wait times)? What is the expected workload, and what are the hours needed? How will you measure efficacy? List these out as you would any job description.

Know The Benefits of Different Outsourcing Options

Once you’ve chosen to outsource your CX, you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to implement an Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, or a combination of these as part of your outsourcing strategy. By understanding the differences between these, you can understand which best fits your needs, and then narrow down your vendor selection based on your choice.

Onshore: Onshore outsourcing refers to using a third-party vendor who will leverage contact centers or at-home agents located in your home country. When keeping operations onshore, you reap the benefits of being in a similar time zone, sharing the same cultural values, and avoiding any security concerns about data being shared internationally. However, onshore outsourcing (especially for brands in the US and Europe) can be up to 3x more expensive than offshore outsourcing, and can have challenges related to specialized skill or capacity.

Nearshore: Nearshoring is a good compromise between onshore and offshore programs -- it provides staffing in countries neighboring your brand’s home country, and has similar benefits of onshore programs without the same costs. However, depending on the outsourcer, scale and resources can be an issue in a nearshore setting as well. 

Offshore: Offshore programs provide support from overseas, with countries like India, China, Malaysia and the Philippines being some of the most popular for offshore CX outsourcing. Because these areas are so popular for CX outsourcing, costs are low and the labor pool, including those with specialized skills, is much greater due to the established market in these areas.

Conduct a rigorous vendor selection process

The demand for omnichannel, on-demand customer support has never been higher, and this level of customer expectation requires the right partner to add value to your customers’ journeys. Selecting the right partner can be an overwhelming and daunting task, but will make or break your CX program.

When selecting a vendor, you should begin an RFI process with a few selected vendors, and focus on their core competencies, adaptability, best practices, and proven track record in your industry. You should also be asking questions related to the technology solutions an outsourcer offers, as digital tools and services, like AI and Business Intelligence, are becoming critical to CX success. Other considerations might be key geographic locations (onshore, nearshore, or offshore) and typical metrics for success. Having these answers upfront will be integral in creating an efficient, sustainable CX program. 


Onboarding & Knowledge Transfer

You’ve worked hard to establish a top-notch customer experience, and you’ll want to get your new contractors up to speed on your expectations before handing over the keys. Onboarding will look different depending on the position but might include:

  • Scripting 
  • Troubleshooting of common issues and solutions
  • Brand guidelines, including a tone, voice, and feel to be exuded across all touchpoints
  • Technology tutorials (i.e., email systems and ticketing)  

Know Your KPIs

Just as you would evaluate any employee, you’ll want to assess anyone you outsource. You can glean insights based on customer feedback, such as by sending surveys after support interactions. This helps to understand CSAT and NPS. You can also record calls for training purposes, and assess wait times, handle times, resolution rates, sales, web traffic, and improvements in the customer journey.

Example KPIs commonly used in the industry:

  • CSAT (Customer Satisfaction)
  • DSAT (Customer Dissatisfaction)
  • NPS (Net Promoter Score, developed by McKinsey)
  • AHT (Average Handle Time)
  • RCR (Repeat Contact Rate)

Don’ts of Outsourcing

As helpful as outsourcing can be, you’ll want to avoid these common pitfalls.

Don’t Leave Out “Obvious” Information

A CX outsourcer will act as an extension of your team -- but don’t assume outsourcers know your customers and your business from the get-go. Though outsourced employees are experts in a field, they are not experts in your customers. Onboarding helps ensure everyone is on the same page. 

In the same vein, your businesses’ specific metrics for success might not match the outsourcer’s typical KPIs. If your intention is to focus your CX program around a specific metric as being the most important, make sure your outsourcer is in-the-know so they can tailor the support they give accordingly.

Don’t Pick The First Outsourcer You Find

While finding the right partner can be tedious, it’s a necessary step for success. CX programs are not one-size-fits-all, nor are CX outsourcers. The most popular vendor, or the first one on Google won’t necessarily be your best fit -- especially if you are in a specialized industry.

Don’t skip the vetting process -- an RFI process with multiple vendors is the only way you will be able to compare and find the best-fit partner for your needs. Reviews and references are important, but you’ll want to go through a thorough vetting process for outsourced individuals or companies. This process allows you to see someone’s personality and values, and assess whether they’d be a good fit for your brand. It also helps set expectations from the get-go.

Don’t Expect Your Outsourcer To Handle All Things CX

Just because you’ve outsourced your CX, it doesn’t mean your outsourcer will be shouldering everything. You can’t just set it and forget it. You want to ensure that an outsourcer feels like an extension of your own brand, and doing so requires a true partnership in handling the customer journey.

Your involvement should include sharing goals you want to achieve, metrics you’re keeping an eye on, and full transparency on expectations. As you begin to see results, or as business needs shift (as they often do), you’ll want to check in with your CX partner. Their success is dependent on the collaboration and transparency you provide.

Outsourcing can be a way to cut costs, save time, and focus your energy on high-level tasks. Choosing the right person or company is essential in helping you meet your goals. Vet potential independent contractors to ensure they have the time, values, and skills needed to work with your company for the long-term. Great CX isn’t built overnight, but with the right outsourcer, it can be built to last.

 


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