If it cannot be measured, then it cannot be improved. When analytics are applied to customer service, the first decision is to define the “it” being measured. Every organization has the key performance indicators it looks for in judging operations, and at least some metrics will overlap. However, they are not identical across organizations. In this article, we’ll look at maximizing your returns from customer service outsourcing investment and include examples of how ROI is a personal result.
The Indirect Impact of Outsourcing Customer Service
In the typical application, customer service is perceived as a cost center. It requires people and equipment to communicate with customers in resolving technical issues, answering product questions, and performing other consumer-facing tasks for which no fee is involved. But even within those parameters, there are opportunities for positively impacting the client’s bottom line. Chief among those is service quality that upholds or enhances the brand’s reputation and makes customer care an integral part of the user journey.
Entities from Amazon to Chik-fil-A to luxury hotel chains are known for pampering their customers by tending to the details: user-friendly shopping portals, hassle-free returns, old-fashioned hospitality, and high levels of personalization. None of those is a fee-for-service activity, but each builds customer loyalty and encourages an ongoing positive feedback loop. Also, happy consumers love to post about their experiences or tell their friends, which will result in repeat business and new customers.
Aligning with Business Goals
The decision to outsource is usually based on a specific need or two. From our experience, decision drivers range from cost management to dissatisfaction with a previous outsourcing partner, to better scalability to help manage growth, to improved retention, and a desire to improve sales. From the outsourcing partner’s perspective, the task is to align the service delivery model to fit the business goal that is being pursued. Here are two examples of clients with completely different expectations of the outsourcing journey.
The first is a global tech services company that is the parent to multiple well-known hosting companies. Our role was outsourced technical support, which was an ideal way of putting the client’s belief that “every customer contact is an opportunity” into action. We coached agents on first resolving the issue that prompted the customer to make contact and then building on that goodwill to pursue upselling opportunities. Team members asked questions to understand individual user needs better, and the atmosphere was one of suggestive selling based on the success of fixing the initial issue. Over time, the team generated 177% more revenue than the support cost.
The second client, a national dental insurer, switched to us after an inconsistent experience with a previous provider. The critical issues for us to address were agent absenteeism and attrition. The unpredictability of staffing had made the entire value chain chaotic, from call waiting times to user satisfaction. We created a recruiting profile to hire the right people, and the workforce management group developed a staffing plan. Attendance is at 97%, attrition is in the single digits, and we hit the mark of completing calls within 260 seconds 93% of the time. We were also rewarded with additional business.
Creating a Culture of Customer Service Excellence
Service has always been the wild card in the customer journey. The brands that generate the most user devotion are the ones that treat support as an engagement mechanism that goes beyond whatever reason drove a customer to make contact. It is perhaps the most crucial touchpoint in determining lifetime customer value, repeat business, the likelihood of gaining referrals, and retaining the consumers you already have. The cost of bad service has been highlighted again and again and again. So, how does your organization avoid being part of these dubious statistics?
Since it’s our business, we will be proponents of outsourcing customer service for the same reasons why organizations outsource anything else – to gain subject matter expertise in a subject that they may not have. And even if you have a high-performing internal service department, outsourcing can help with issues of scale, division of tasks to maintain reasonable workflows, and economics. Either way, service requires professionals who always have their game faces on and are ready to represent the brand.
The service culture reflects the organizational mission and supports business objectives. Things such as agents who are product experts, responsiveness to customer issues combined with accuracy, the presence of DIY tools such as knowledge bases, and omnichannel support are the building blocks for creating this culture. Add a dash of empathy, a dollop of brand ambassadorship, a pinch of personalization, a helping of software, and a sprinkle of automation where needed, and you have assembled the necessary ingredients. Now, they only have to be combined, which is done through training, nesting, coaching, and repetition.
Rounding It Out
The ROI on customer service is measured by how effectively it resolves the issue that needs resolution. Service moves into added value territory when agent activity promotes customer retention, which leads to customer loyalty, which takes the one-time business cost center and turns it into a revenue generator. The cash investments made in labor, technology, and other tools are only as good as the time and effort spent on training and inculcating a customer-first, service-as-the-product mindset within the team.
The question of whether expectations are met or not is answered by the customer, and today, consumers have more choices and access to information than ever. They can find out what service excellence looks like. So can you. What do you want your customers to say about you, the products and services you provide them, and the support and care there when they need it? Would they recommend you to their friends? That may be the ultimate ROI test.