Outsourcing Customer Service: Which Tiers Should You Consider?

Maximizing Efficiency and Cost Savings Without Sacrificing Quality

When managing your business, providing top-notch customer service is essential. Happy customers lead to increased sales and a positive reputation. But managing customer service in-house can be challenging, especially with the recent layoffs. Outsourcing has become a potential solution for many. A recent Global Managed Services report by NTT suggests that 45% of global corporations plan to outsource more work in the next 18 months.

Outsourcing customer service can help reduce costs, improve efficiency, and access specialized expertise. A PA survey found that two-thirds of organizations plan to continue or increase their outsourcing in the next two years. However, there are many potential downsides, such as language barriers, a lack of control over outsourced staff, and negative customer experiences. This makes it even more crucial to carefully consider which customer service tiers to outsource and which to keep in-house.

The Different Tiers of Customer Service

Taking a closer look at the three tiers of customer service is an initial starting point: General, technical, and advanced support tiers.

General support is the most commonly outsourced tier of customer service. It involves handling simple inquiries and resolving common issues that customers may face. Outsourcing general support can be an excellent choice for businesses looking to save money while providing quality customer service. General support inquiries are usually less complex and can be handled by less experienced representatives.

General support inquiries include general information, billing and account management, and general troubleshooting. Normally over half of customer service requests are solved here. 

About 30-45% of problems are too technical and would be routed automatically to tier 2. The second tier of customer service is technical support or product support. This tier involves handling more complex issues that require specialized knowledge and expertise. Outsourcing technical support can be a good option for businesses needing specialized technical expertise. Technical support representatives typically need to be more knowledgeable about a company’s products or services and can provide detailed assistance to customers experiencing technical difficulties. Ensuring the outsourced staff has the technical skills and experience to handle specific technical support needs is essential.

Related Links: Applying the 7 P’s of Customer Support

Technical support inquiries include troubleshooting complex technical issues, assisting with software or hardware installation, and providing support for specialized equipment.

The third tier makes up only about 5 to 10% of cases of customer service is advanced support. This tier handles the most complex and specialized issues requiring the highest expertise level, technical and some time engineering teams. Advanced support is usually not outsourced due to the high expertise required. Instead, it’s handled in-house by highly trained and experienced professionals who can provide customized solutions to meet each customer’s unique needs.

Examples of advanced support inquiries include providing in-depth technical support for specialized software or equipment, troubleshooting complex network or infrastructure issues, conducting in-depth investigations into customer issues, and giving detailed resolutions.

Deciding What To Outsource And Why

When deciding which customer service tiers to outsource, consider your business needs and goals carefully. Outsourcing can provide significant cost savings and access to specialized expertise. But, it’s vital to ensure that the outsourced staff has the necessary skills and experience to provide high-quality customer service.

General Support

General support is the most commonly outsourced tier of customer service. Outsourcing general support can help companies:

  • Reduce costs while providing quality customer service: Outsourcing customer service can reduce costs compared to hiring and maintaining an in-house team while still providing high-quality service to customers.
  • Find qualified outsourced staff: It can be easier to find and hire qualified customer service staff through outsourcing providers with an established network and recruitment process.
  • Increased flexibility and scalability: Outsourcing customer service allows businesses to adjust staffing levels and resources based on demand, providing greater flexibility and operational scalability.
  • Improved language capabilities: Outsourcing can offer access to multilingual customer service staff, which can improve communication and support for customers around the world.

Technical Support

Technical support requires specialized knowledge and expertise, which can be challenging to find among outsourced staff. However, some companies outsource technical support to take additional advantage of the following:

  • Cost savings: Outsourcing can lead to cost savings in recruitment, training, salaries, benefits, and equipment.
  • Access to specialized technical expertise: Outsourcing providers may have specialized technical knowledge in IT support, software applications, and data management, providing access to valuable resources and expertise.
  • Reduced risk of hiring and training in-house staff: Outsourcing can reduce the risk and cost associated with hiring and training in-house customer service staff, especially for businesses with limited resources.

Advanced support is typically not outsourced. Advanced support requires the highest level of expertise and often involves customized solutions for each customer. Finding outsourced staff with the knowledge and experience to handle advanced support inquiries can take time and effort to train.

Ensuring Success Outsourcing Customer Service Tier 1 and 2

What to do next? Outsourcing your customer service operations can offer many benefits for your business. However, it is crucial to carefully evaluate which customer service tiers to outsource and which to keep in-house based on your specific business needs and goals. Doing so can ensure you continue to deliver high-quality customer service while managing costs effectively. Ultimately, outsourcing can be a strategic move for your business, but it requires careful consideration and planning to ensure its success. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Choose the right outsourcing provider: Look for a provider with a proven track record of delivering high-quality customer service. Research, read reviews, and request references from other businesses using their services. Also, ensure that the provider has experience handling your industry’s needs.
  2. Clearly define your expectations and goals: Provide your outsourcing provider with clear guidelines on your expectations and goals for your customer service operations. This includes providing them with information on your products, services, and customer base.
  3. Develop a training program: Provide training materials and conduct training sessions to ensure the outsourced staff understands your products and services, company culture, and customer service standards. This will help ensure they can provide high-quality customer service that aligns with your brand values.
Related Links: Top 10 Tips To Improving Your Customer Service Training
  1. Establish clear communication channels: Establish clear communication channels between your in-house team and the outsourced staff. This includes setting up regular check-ins, providing feedback, and promptly addressing any issues or concerns.
  2. Monitor performance and provide feedback: Monitor the performance of the outsourced staff regularly and provide constructive feedback on their performance. This will help ensure they meet your expectations and deliver high-quality customer service.
  3. Continuously improve processes: Continuously evaluate and improve your customer service processes. This includes reviewing customer feedback, analyzing performance metrics, and identifying areas for improvement.

Special Considerations For Tier 3 Outsourcing

Outsourcing tier 3 customer services requires high caution, so looking at potential outsourcing partners and their ability to provide customized solutions for each customer is essential. Working closely with the outsourced staff is recommended, providing them with comprehensive training and support to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and skills to handle advanced support inquiries. Clear communication and a defined escalation process are essential to resolve customer issues effectively and efficiently. Additionally, regular monitoring and feedback can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that outsourced staff meets performance expectations. Finally, a contingency plan can help mitigate potential risks or challenges during outsourcing and emergencies.

Be Sure To Outsource Wisely

When outsourcing, choosing the right provider, clearly defining your expectations and goals, developing a training program, establishing clear communication channels, monitoring performance, and providing feedback are essential. Outsourcing suitable customer service tiers can reduce costs, improve efficiency, and access specialized expertise, but it requires careful planning and consideration to ensure success. Remember, outsourcing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Start slowly and plan well, so you can reap the advantage of what outsourcing can bring to your business!