It's About the X
Walmart founder Sam Walton is quoted as saying, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company…by spending somewhere else.” The validity of that statement is evident by the number of organizations of all sizes and stripes emphasizing the customer experience, or CX.
Yet, in the US, 68% of companies outsource some functions. Often, those tasks are outward-facing roles such as customer service and support; in other cases, the task is internally focused, such as IT, payroll management, and accounting. At first blush, this may sound counter-intuitive; if the user experience is so vital, why would any business outsource the care of its most valuable asset – its customers? The answer depends on several factors, perhaps chief among them being what the business is trying to accomplish.
Everyone Talks a Big Game
Google a phrase like “importance of customer experience,” and nearly one billion results are pulled. As technology advances and as many goods and services become commoditized, the value of the experience stands out as a differentiator. Something as basic as tech support is not just tech support, per se; it’s also a listening exercise during which agents listen to the voice of the customer and hear what it is saying.
There is no more significant source of first-hand information regarding your organization’s brand than the people who use it and this presents an under-recognized value of customer service outsourcing. Too often, customer service works in a linear fashion: the customer makes contact about an issue, an agent then resolves the problem, and the two sides part. In between, a potential gold mine of information is left out if the agent does not take the time to do what bots cannot – engage the customer
Customer service is not just about the issue at hand; a well-trained agent will go beyond that to questions like, “What do you like about (the brand)? How can we improve? What new features would benefit you?” An organization could spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to tap into the sentiment of its user base. Or it can use the people who talk to customers every day to do it. This de facto qualitative research reveals what customers think and provides business leaders with a base of information for making future-leaning decisions.
Ditch the Binary
When presented with an “either/or” scenario, one option is to consider the “and.” For example, when pondering whether customer service should be done in-house or externally, the option that is usually ignored is doing both. What does this mean? It can mean several things – responsibilities can be segregated by line of business, by tasks, by the severity level of issues, and so forth. Specific examples include:
The question of customer service outsourcing is particularly relevant when a company is growing. If X percentage of customers can be expected to contact support, then simple math says that X will be larger with more customers. While anticipating and celebrating your growth, consider the foreseeable consequences that will accompany it. And here, outsourcing has a built-in advantage: BPOs are engineered to rapidly scale, whether for short-term spikes in traffic or long-term needs.
Embrace the Change
A second potential decision point arises from the BPO industry’s evolution, which has paved the way for new service delivery models such as robotic process automation, chatbots, and cloud-based computing. Technology is often ideal for improving processes and workflows or analyzing high volumes of data, but it is only a tool that facilitates service delivery, not a substitute for it.
When known brands look at service – be it internal, outsourced, or a combination – as a cost to reduce, little good will follow. Within that article lies this gem, “Note to carriers: no one wants to talk to your AI chatbots. They’re not smart or helpful.” Bots have value in augmenting live agents and providing an additional means of managing limited resources by automating the rote tasks while retaining the human connection that gives brands their authenticity.
This takes on added importance in a global environment, as this article outlines. Each example includes a balance of people in technology, though the level of equilibrium varies by location.
Curious agents who genuinely like interacting with people and take pride in resolving issues will produce a richer customer experience than impersonal tools that are impossible to program with human intuition.
AI has tremendous predictive value in deciphering where a conversation may be heading, but it is not yet ready to notice the subtle cues that often define interpersonal scenarios.
The outsourcing industry is steadily growing, expected to roughly double its value by 2030. You already know that memorable customer service experiences promote retention, reinforce brand loyalty, and have the potential to drive new revenue. There is a website dedicated to chronicling the adventures and misadventures that every company’s users encounter when reaching out to the service team. As the site’s name implies, the unhappy customer is far more likely to be vocal than the one who is satisfied.
What well-planned customer service outsourcing does is align your organization’s business goals with the well-being of the end user. Training agents to be brand ambassadors instead of people proficient in putting out fires makes support a strategic play. Agents gain a sense of buy-in to your success; imagine a level of service so good that not only was the problem resolved, but it was also resolved in a way that your customers wanted to post about it or tell their friends about it. What would the value of such testimonials be? What would the cost of not having them be?