Written by Dion Jay Tality
The e-commerce sector has grown significantly in recent years, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, online stores have started facing challenges in meeting consumer needs.
Online businesses have confronted high-volume messages, bulk order requests, and customer complaints. Boosting customer service has now become a growing concern. Hiring the best customer service outsourcing company is key to achieving e-commerce success.
Find out what to look for in a BPO service provider and learn the outsourcing benefits for your e-commerce customer service.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) for E-commerce Customer Service
Statista reported that global e-commerce sales reached almost five trillion U.S. dollars in 2021 and may grow by 50 percent in the next four years, possibly hitting 7.4 trillion dollars by 2025.
As the e-commerce market has expanded, many click-and-order businesses have started outsourcing. Before we go any further, let’s tackle some key BPO terminologies.
To begin, what is business process outsourcing? BPO is contracting with an external vendor to handle parts of your business operations. Companies heavily rely on BPO service providers to cut operating costs. They also use BPO to reduce workloads, improve processes, satisfy customers, and drive more revenue.
Outsourcing business operations include front-office tasks such as sales and technical support. Customer service is one critical business function you can outsource. It also covers back-office tasks such as data entry, IT support, and inventory management outsourcing.
Defining E-commerce Customer Service
Customer service is assisting customers in various ways. Customer service representatives answer questions, provide status updates, resolve issues, and more. All these apply to e-commerce businesses as well.
E-commerce customer service is how online stores assist customers. Assistance is through a call center, live chat, email support, or a self-service option. For instance, the front-office personnel coordinate with the back office. They can liaise with the logistics to manage, process, and track customer orders.
Outsourcing Customer Service for E-commerce
E-commerce outsourcing is having a third-party vendor perform business functions. Online businesses can outsource data entry, accounting and bookkeeping, warehouse operations, sales or telemarketing, and technical support.
In outsourced e-commerce customer service, hired representatives perform front-office tasks such as:
- Answering product inquiries
- Order processing and fulfillment
- Complaint handling and dispute management
- Product returns and customer refund management
- Customer issue resolution
What To Look for in a BPO Company for Your E-commerce Customer Service Outsourcing
Hire the right BPO company for e-commerce success. A reliable third-party service provider will help you improve your customer service operations and meet your business objectives.
For best customer service outsourcing, here’s what to look for in a BPO company for your e-commerce business:
1. BPO Credentials and Business Reputation
When looking for a third-party service provider, examine their BPO credentials first. Work only with a legitimate vendor legally allowed to operate. But what makes a legitimate BPO company? Consider crucial aspects such as:
- Business Licensing: Your hired BPO company should have the license to operate legally in the country. When employing offshoring or nearshore outsourcing, perform research and due diligence. The last thing you should do is to work with an illegal vendor.
- Business Certification: Hire a BPO service provider with business certification, proving its legitimacy and credibility. The best BPO companies have earned International Standards Organization (ISO) certification. ISO is a global organization providing standardization for companies and their products.
- BPO Awards and Recognition: The BPO sector comprises onshore, offshore, or nearshore service providers. To date, the U.S. alone has 265,679 BPO businesses. Work with a BPO company that has already earned awards and gained outsourcing recognition.
2. Years of Experience
Key players in the business sector coined the word ‘outsourcing’ only in 1981. It started as a business strategy in 1989 and became an integral part of the global economy in the 1990s. The BPO industry has exponentially grown in the 2000s. Its global outsourcing market was worth $92.5 billion in 2019.
Many BPO companies have long been in the industry. While some have changed their business names, others have entered into mergers and acquisitions (M&As) with other companies. Still, many third-party service providers have emerged and will continue to appear in the industry.
Suppose you are screening some BPO prospects. Factor in their years of experience. The longer they’ve been in the industry, the more reliable they have become. However, make sure to prioritize service quality over longevity.
3. Field of Specialization
The BPO sector has a vast scope of work. For supply chains, it provides front-office services (customer service, sales, and technical support). It also offers back-office services (data entry, finance and accounting, HR and recruitment, and IT support).
BPO companies also offer onshore (domestic), offshore (overseas), and nearshore (in nearby countries) outsourcing. Grand View Research recognized the various segments of the BPO sector in terms of end users, including:
- Banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI)
- Information technology (IT) and telecommunications
- Retail (and e-commerce)
When looking for a BPO company, check their field of specialization. Choose one that caters to the e-commerce sector and has experience handling customer service. That way, you’ll work with the best customer service outsourcing company for your e-commerce business.
4. Customer Service Features
When looking for a BPO service provider for your e-commerce business, check their customer service operations. Features you should consider include:
- 24/7 Customer Support: Look for a customer service outsourcing company that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The representatives should be readily available to assist your much-valued customers.
- High Response Time: Ensure your hired BPO service provider focuses on efficiency. Customer service representatives must promptly address customer concerns and resolve issues. The entire team should be capable of assisting every customer.
- Technological Integration: Check whether your customer service outsourcing company invests in the latest technologies. It should incorporate advanced tech into its business operations.
- Trained and Specialized Workforce: Look for an external vendor with a stringent hiring process and who have people specialized in customer service for e-commerce businesses. Also, ensure they provide them with proper training before hitting production.
- Added Security: Ensure your customer service partner sets security measures. They always make your e-commerce business’ security a top priority.
- Management and Support: Check whether your customer service workforce consists of solid management and support teams. They serve as a link between you as the client and their employees. Their ultimate goal is to meet the needs of both parties.
- Customer Service Channels: Ask what customer service type they offer. Check whether they house a contact center for e-commerce customer service, and see if you can outsource email support or live chat to them. Lastly, work with the best customer service outsourcing company that offers a self-service option.
5. Customer Service Functions
E-commerce customer service varies from one business function to another. Decide which specific tasks to outsource, and hire a BPO service provider that can handle them. Check these customer service functions for your e-commerce customer service:
- Customer Care: This is the heart of customer service–assisting customers in the best way possible. However, customer care is more than just dealing with customers. It’s about providing the best customer service experience and ensuring customer satisfaction.
- Order Fulfillment: This entails receiving customer requests, processing orders, and fulfilling them. The process starts with taking orders and delivering products to the customers’ doorsteps or pickup centers.
- Order Status Update: This involves providing customers with updates on their order status. Customer service representatives check the records, monitor the order requests, and liaise with the back-office team to ensure their progress.
- Complaint Handling and Dispute Management: This covers receiving, acknowledging, and resolving customer complaints. The process also includes managing disputes and directing them to back-office personnel for research and investigation. The ultimate goal is to provide fair and appropriate resolutions to these complaints.
- Product Returns and Refund Management: This tackles customer dissatisfaction with your goods or items. Typically, these customers have the option to return the products and get refunds. Effective customer service representatives handle this as politely, efficiently, and seamlessly as possible.
The workforce is the lifeblood of an organization. Your customer service representatives are among your most valuable assets. They ensure day-to-day e-commerce business operations. Ensure that your hired BPO service provider has the best employees who make a stable workforce by considering factors such as:
- Hiring: Make sure your contracted BPO company has a stringent recruitment process. They hire the best talent with knowledge and skills in customer service. They also get employees specializing in the e-commerce industry.
- Training: Your BPO service provider can also hire BPO novices as long as they have the basic knowledge and bare minimum skills required. Most importantly, these employees are willing to learn customer service for e-commerce businesses. Ensure that your BPO company provides proper training.
- Production: Once employees hit the floor, they should receive regular updates on the process and products offered. Hire the best customer service outsourcing company that invests not only in resources but also in its people.
7. Infrastructure, Tools, Technology, and Other Resources
The best BPO companies build a solid infrastructure to house their employees, equipment, and other resources. They must exhibit an ideal working environment for their employees.
Highly reliable BPO service providers invest in the latest digital tools and technologies. Some BPO trends in technology include:
- Robotic process automation (RPA) reduces manual work. It automates such business processes as customer service. The ultimate goal is to assist employees and boost their service efficiency.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence into digital technology. Chatbots integrated into business websites are perfect examples of e-commerce customer service AI. They answer customers’ frequently asked questions (FAQs).
- Cloud Computing involves services delivered online, such as data storage, servers, databases, networking, and software. Seven in ten businesses have already utilized cloud-based services. They are looking to grow their investments in these services.
Furthermore, ensure that your hired BPO company has a fast internet connection and stable phone lines (for an e-commerce call center).
8. BPO Pricing
Deloitte said that cost reduction was the top reason for outsourcing. It was second only to boosting business agility and improving the service quality. Now, it’s back on top as the primary BPO reason.
Pricing is one of the primary factors in choosing a BPO service provider. Offshoring can be more affordable than onshore or nearshore outsourcing. Syrow reported the average call center outsourcing cost in different regions in 2022 as follows:
- United States/Canada: $20 – $30 per hour
- Western Europe: $40+ per hour
- Eastern Europe: $12 – $25 per hour
- Australia: $35 – $55 per hour
- Africa/Middle East: $15 – $20 per hour
- Latin America: $8 – $18 per hour
- Asia/Philippines: $8 – $14 per hour
- India: $6 – $10 per hour
When looking for a BPO company, ask for their pricing models, compare their costs, and settle for the best outsourcing deal. Remember that your primary reason for outsourcing is to save money. But that must not compromise service quality.
The Benefits of Customer Service Outsourcing for E-commerce
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that e-commerce sales have exponentially grown amid the pandemic. It soared from approximately $2 trillion in 2019 to $2.5 trillion in 2020 and to $2.9 trillion in 2021.
Outsourcing has become a practical solution for click-and-order businesses. Online stores prefer to outsource primarily for cost reduction and several other valid reasons.
Let’s look at the potential benefits of outsourcing e-commerce customer service.
- Availability 24/7: Customer service representatives regularly handle a high volume of calls, bulk order requests, and customer complaints. Hence, customer service requires a readily available workforce. Outsourcing customer support to a reliable BPO company ensures 24/7 operation with zero to minimal disruption.
- Focus on Core Operations: Recent BPO trends include startups and small businesses joining the bandwagon. Clutch reported that 37% of small businesses outsource at least one business function, and BPO key players encourage startups to outsource. Through BPO, online entrepreneurs can prioritize their core business functions.
- Savings on Operating Costs: Deloitte identified cost reduction as the top reason for outsourcing. E-commerce businesses can also cut their labor and production expenses, primarily through offshoring. Working with a BPO company is more affordable than hiring and training employees and investing in tools and resources.
- Access to Global Talent, Technology, and Other Resources: Outsourcing allows companies to tap into a global workforce. Also, it lets them use the latest technology, such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence. A robust workforce and updated resources can ultimately help scale and grow your e-commerce business.
- Improved Customer Service Efficiency, Quality, and Customer Satisfaction: Most BPO companies set key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and enhance performance. These metrics usually include service efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction. The best BPO company meets these metrics.
- Business Growth and Scalability: Most e-commerce businesses want to expand operations and increase online sales. Outsourcing lets them tap into industry experts and use technological resources to optimize processes. Ultimately, outsourcing customer service can help scale and grow your e-commerce business.
The Bottom Line
The e-commerce sector has grown by leaps and bounds, and its future looks even brighter and more promising. But with growth and expansion come some challenges. E-commerce customer service is one business function that needs much focus and attention.
Working with the best customer service outsourcing company for your e-commerce business is key to addressing challenges. Consider the key factors above when looking for a BPO company for your e-commerce customer service. Conduct research and due diligence before agreeing to a contract with a third-party service provider.
If you hire the right BPO company, you’ll reap the benefits of e-commerce growth and business scalability. Expect your online business to thrive and succeed in the years to come.