Getting offshoring customer service to follow the sun

Aug 2
offshoring customer support

Getting offshoring customer service to follow the sun

Offshoring customer service can be a hot potato topic at the best of times. There’s the value judgement you have to navigate about taking roles offshore, as well as the logistical question of wondering how managing a remote part of your business can work?

The modern expectation that services should be accessible, people always contactable, at any time we like, is certainly on the rise. And the natural reflex for any business is to explore new ways to extend customer service – with the gold standard being 24/7 client support.

And that sounds pretty damn good, don’t you think? The ability to call at any time some highly educated IT guy to find out how to switch your computer on. Brilliant! To have someone let you change your password for the fiftieth time. Fun times. And not just for the customer.

Having the ability to solve those little queries that verge on the Darwin Award is a great way to build client rapport and your brand. However, one of the dilemmas businesses often face is providing this level of service in a seamless and affordable way.

And this is where offshoring customer service often pops up. It seems like the perfect salve for delivering 24hr customer support that won’t break the bank. And there’s a lot of potential here if you get the right balance.

But the other side is that, while there’s a feel good factor to responding to client demand, is it ‘quantity’ or ‘quality’ that they actually need? 

Why are you thinking 24/7 customer support?

It’s first worthwhile to research whether you need 24/7 customer support at all. While the concept sounds brilliant and could be a noticeable point of different to your competitors, the cost of servicing it could be greater than it’s actually worth.

Find out the hours your customers are most active needing support. Use call centre software to track their peak and slow times for calling in – and figure out if you can wear the dead hours you’ll be paying for offshoring customer service agents to wait around.

Does it really need to follow the sun?

Obviously it will depend on the industry you’re in and the difference between critical and normal service needs. It will also depend on the scope and breadth of your customer base and where they’re coming from.

Are they based locally or all over the world? Do they all speak English? Or is it several languages you need to cater for? Is it for day workers or night workers? Do you need the capacity to scale up or down, at any moment, to respond to call demand?

Or is it that you want to reach a new customer-base with a new campaign or service you’re launching? Often businesses on the cusp of expansion can be in the catch-22 situation of an explosion in interest and yet not having enough agents on the ground to take the calls.

The main thing to watch here is you don’t spread yourself too thin.

Particularly if you’re an online business and are starting to pick up international customers for all over the globe, by trying to cover all the key time zones with the same team you already have, you may be at risk of stretching yourself too thin. And an inadequate phone service will be noticed, leading to a rise in more callers stuck in queues, customer satisfaction plummeting and an adverse impact on your brand, which will also trickle down to affecting your bottom line.

Can you scale support hours back a bit?

For a bank website that crashes to a hospital database that fails, some services may always need 24hr support, and this you can’t get around. But for other industries this may not be as vital and you can offer support for normal business hours without any negative impacts.

Perhaps its 23 or 22 or 21 or even less – and the other hours you can mix up with email support and web chat. Whatever the number, it’s important to dig up the data and find the real inbound calling trends, so you make rostering and staffing decisions based on fact rather than instinct or feeling.

And every extra hour you can scrape back will make a difference to your bottom-line – for every agent, across a whole team and over an entire year – so getting the formula right at the beginning will save you a lot of money in the end.

If it has to be 24/7, it’s time to get creative

If there’s no way you can get around offering 24/7 support – but you cant afford it as it stands – then it’s time to get creative and find new ways of bringing on agents.

Burning candles at each end doesn’t work and will simply burn your staff out; night shifts at the best of times suck and deliver a poorer customer service, plus the expense can be prohibitive with local labour costs.

That is where offshoring customer service could be a good option and you can do this in several ways, from employing remote agents all over the globe to using an offshore call centre to manage the day-to-day running of a call centre team.

It may seem a little daunting thinking about how you can maintain control, however, this can all be managed easily if you’re using contact centre software and all your agents are hooked into the same cloud-based phone system.

Offshoring customer service to the cloud

With the same centralised online system, all your agents can work online, follow their roster, receive and take calls, manage their queues, update customer details, and communicate with their team, through their own unique profile. Location is irrelevant.

And the great thing is that every move they make is tracked and recorded from one central place. Managers can view a single agent to a whole team at any time, monitoring performance, tracking progress, and analysing metrics to make continuous improvements.

This kind of power helps bring offshoring customer service much closer; mixing it in with your onshore services so it feels like a natural addition to your service offerings – no matter anyone’s location.

And this is just the beginning. Combining the latest powerful contact centre software with a mixed working approach, from offshoring customer service to other remote potentials, could eliminate the need for having a central office at all.

A brave new world, and it’s yours for the taking!

Want to explore the offshore potential?

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Flickr CC: Counselman Collection