Empathy in Outsourced Customer Support: Tips for Chicago Startups

Chicago organizations use BPO to boost customer service. Small businesses benefit but must manage outsourced support effectively. Tips in this article help Chicago startups maintain empathy in customer interactions, ensuring a human touch in call center services.
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Business process outsourcing (BPO) has become widespread across Chicago organizations. Due to its many benefits and features, it can serve as a starting point for small businesses looking to improve customer service.

However, outsourced customer support can sometimes go beyond your control. Thus, this article shares tips for how Chicago startups can maintain empathy in interactions.

If you want to ensure your call center services in Chicago have that human touch, this article is for you. Keep reading to learn best practices for building and maintaining empathy in your BPO initiative.

What is customer support outsourcing?

What is customer support outsourcing

Customer support outsourcing refers to hiring an external vendor to handle all or a part of your customer service processes and interactions. The main objectives of customer support BPO are to enhance operational efficiency and allow internal staff to focus on core competencies. 

According to 360 Research Reports, the global contact and call center outsourcing market reached $7.54 billion in 2021. The organization expects the sector to expand at a 6.03% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 2027. 

BPO providers typically cover the following customer support tasks:

  • Answering customer inquiries
  • Resolving issues related to products and services
  • Providing technical support and troubleshooting
  • Handling complaints and feedback
  • Building and maintaining positive customer relationships

The many benefits of call center services

Customer support outsourcing offers many advantages that can help Chicago startups scale faster. For one, BPO and call center firms allow you to enjoy cost-efficient contact center as a service (CCaaS) solutions. Let us briefly run through the other perks in detail:

  • Significant cost reductions. Chicago’s high living expenses and compensation costs make running a business expensive. Outsourcing to countries with lower costs of living and wage ranges can help you save on these costs. Additionally, outsourcing involves a virtual team, reducing the need for office space, equipment, and utilities.
  • Better access to expertise. Attracting and retaining talent locally can be challenging due to the Windy City’s low unemployment rate. BPO providers let you tap into a global pool of experts who are well-versed in call center best practices, etiquette, and regulations. They can handle interactions across various channels.
  • Ensured leverage of technologies. Purchasing customer service tools can be costly, especially for startups. BPO providers leverage the latest technologies to streamline customer support. These include artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and analytics, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and omnichannel platforms.
  • Round-the-clock coverage. Most BPO customer support providers offer 24/7 coverage. A tip for your Chicago startup is to leverage this feature to accommodate urgent customer concerns, questions, and issues beyond regular business hours. This feature reduces wait times and increases customer satisfaction.
  • Improved scalability and flexibility. Outsourcing lets you add and remove customer support agents as needed. This flexibility prevents understaffing during peak seasons and overstaffing during low-volume days. Scalable support is critical for consumer satisfaction, which is why many consider outsourcing call center services.

The importance of maintaining empathy in outsourced customer support

Outsourced or not, customer support thrives on empathy. Empathetic communication is the cornerstone of building positive relationships, resolving issues effectively, and turning customers into loyal advocates.

But what is empathy? It is the power to understand and share another person’s feelings. In the customer support context, it is an agent’s ability to see situations from the customer’s perspective. Empathetic interactions require agents to go beyond simply understanding the issue at hand, pushing them to truly connect with the customer on an emotional level. 

So, why is it so important? Below are a few reasons why empathy is critical to customer support and how it can tip your Chicago startup in the right direction:

  • It builds trust and rapport. Customers are more likely to open up and trust support staff members if they feel like they understand them. Seamless communication can help agents understand the issue better, empowering them to offer faster and more effective resolutions.
  • It reduces frustration and anger. Dealing with upset customers can be challenging. By showing empathy, support agents can ease customer frustration. This helps calm them down and makes them feel like the agent is on their side. This validation can make the interaction more pleasant for everyone involved.
  • It increases customer satisfaction. Going beyond routine service and showing empathy in customer support interactions helps buyers feel respected. It makes them more likely to be satisfied with their experience. An excellent customer experience leaves a lasting impression, generating positive word-of-mouth.
  • It builds brand loyalty. Customers feel more emotionally attached to your brand after a support experience that makes them feel valued and understood. Since they have a sense of connection and belongingness, they are more likely to repeat business with you, giving you a major competitive advantage in the fierce Chicago marketplace.

Empathy is not just about reacting to customers’ feelings but actively anticipating and addressing them. Maintaining this emotion across every touchpoint lets you position your business for long-term success, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.

According to Zendesk, 74% of customers expect better treatment from businesses. The same report mentions that a consumer’s feelings about a brand have more impact than their thoughts.

Difficulties in keeping a human touch in outsourced customer support

Despite the advantages of customer support outsourcing, your Chicago startup needs to follow a few guidelines and best practices to avoid misunderstandings, customer churn, and similar problems. Below are other challenges to maintaining empathy in call center outsourcing:

  • Cultural and language barriers. BPO agents unfamiliar with regional idioms or cultural references might need to be more accurate with their language to avoid disconnect. Additionally, unconscious biases based on nationality or accent can affect how agents interact with customers, making them come off as cold or dismissive.
  • Distance and lack of context. Physical distance from customers can make it more difficult for outsourcing agents to empathize with their emotions and experiences. A lack of involvement in the entire consumer journey also restricts their perspective. They might miss vital context around interactions, limiting personalizations.
  • Metrics and scripts. Over-reliance on scripts and performance metrics often leads to robotic and formulaic interactions that lack genuine human connection. It can restrict an agent’s ability to adapt responses to individual needs and emotions, hindering flexibility, natural-sounding answers, and a sense of customer importance.
  • Inconsistencies and insufficiencies. Outsourcing customer support means you delegate a portion of control. Service quality assurance may fluctuate due to this authority transfer, affecting empathy. In addition, it could lead to a lack of internal empathy training, active listening skills, and emotional intelligence.
  • Technology limitations. While efficient, chatbots and automated systems used by customer support  BPO teams can tip your Chicago startup in the wrong direction, leading to cold and impersonal responses. Reliance on such technologies reduces opportunities for human connection, genuine empathy, and other emotional aspects.

Although these challenges may seem intimidating, your business can easily overcome them with adequate preparation and proactive measures.

How to build and maintain empathy among BPO customer support agents

How to build and maintain empathy among BPO customer support agents

Ensuring your outsourcing team has the empathy to provide effective customer support requires robust strategies in several aspects. These cover recruitment and onboarding, training and development, incentive programs, and technology and processes. 

You can build and maintain an empathetic customer support outsourcing team by applying the following tips to your Chicago startup:

1. Start with recruitment and onboarding

The first step in your outsourcing initiative can make or break your efforts for improved empathy. You must choose a reliable BPO provider based on criteria, including track record, client reviews, service inclusions, technologies, and available talent pool. Prioritize partnering with a partner that utilizes a human-centric call center approach.

Include a term in your service-level agreement (SLA) that requires your outsourcing partner to provide agents who can identify and respond to emotions. You can also ask for a project proposal to assess their active listening skills, open-mindedness, and genuine desire to help others.

Additionally, ensure your provider leverages a team of agents knowledgeable of your customer base’s diverse cultural backgrounds. This extra step fosters understanding and avoids misinterpretations based on nuances and differences.

2. Provide regular training

Empathy is not static; it is a constant learning process. Staying mindful of emotions in every interaction can be challenging, even for naturally empathetic individuals. To avoid unnatural and disconnected customer support, engage in regular empathy training for BPO staff, such as:

  • Cultural training. Equip outsourcing agents with an understanding of your target customers’ cultural nuances, customs, and communication styles. Recognizing humor, idioms, and nonverbal cues helps support teams to connect with customers better, making interactions more effective.
  • Context and storytelling. Train agents to actively listen and gather information that reveals the complete customer journey. Encourage them to ask clarifying questions and piece together the larger picture. This effort helps them make customers feel valued and appreciated, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing frustration.
  • Personalization. Addressing customers by name and tailoring responses to their needs and situations is an essential support tip, especially for Chicago startups. It is a critical differentiator in the city’s vibrant and competitive business landscape. Avoid robotic, scripted interactions that lack warmth and connection.
  • Emotional intelligence. Provide agents with tools and training for active listening, validation, and de-escalation techniques. These help them develop and maintain a high emotional quotient (EQ), enabling them to identify verbal and nonverbal emotional cues and respond effectively to customer sentiments.

You can never go wrong with prioritizing regular training. It equips BPO agents with the skills and knowledge to connect with consumers on a deeper level. Staying persistent transforms them into compassionate ambassadors for your brand.

3. Invest in continuous improvement

Building and maintaining a sympathetic outsourced customer support unit is an ongoing process. Efforts can fade over time, especially in high-pressure environments. Consistent workshops, reminders, and feedback help prevent this fatigue and keep the focus on human practices.

Additionally, customer expectations and communication styles constantly evolve, especially in fast-paced environments such as the Windy City. Continuous improvement ensures your support team is equipped with the knowledge and skills to remain effective.

Here are some steps you can take to promote development:

  • Monitor performance. Track empathy-specific metrics to help you assess your BPO teams’ call center efforts. Monitor the human touch in your customer support interactions through tips obtained from your Chicago startup’s customer satisfaction surveys. Some examples include net promoter scores (NPS) and agent self-assessments.
  • Gather feedback. Regularly collect feedback from both customers and agents. Use this data to get valuable, first-hand insights into how well your BPO team demonstrates empathy in their interactions and how your efforts translate to customers. Reviews help you identify areas where you excel and might need additional training.
  • Promote collaboration and knowledge sharing. Foster a culture of open communication and learning so the internal and outsourcing teams can share experiences and insights. An open culture helps build empathy and understanding. Encourage team members to support each other through challenging situations.

Remember that empathy is not just a skill but also a mindset. The success of your initiative lies in prioritizing improvement and camaraderie. These features allow you to foster a customer support environment sensitive to emotions.

4. Empower authentic engagement

Finding the right balance between providing helpful resources and encouraging agents to use their judgment and empathy is crucial. This unlocks the full potential of your customer support outsourcing team, tipping your Chicago startup to create a compassionate experience.

However, motivating your call center agents to be authentically empathic in their calls requires a multifaceted approach. It goes beyond telling them to “be real.” In addition to empathy training, you can apply these other strategies:

  • Navigate beyond scripts. While scripts can offer valuable guidance, you should push customer support agents to deviate when necessary. Scripts can come off as robotic, making consumers feel less valued. Give your call center team the flexibility to personalize their responses and express genuine empathy based on the situation.
  • Recognize and reward empathy. Create a culture that celebrates empathetic behavior. Regularly acknowledge and reward agents who go the extra mile and demonstrate genuine customer understanding and connection. This recognition reinforces the importance of empathy and encourages agents to sustain this behavior.
  • Implement incentive programs. Aside from bonuses, you can offer non-monetary premiums to top-performing agents. These include flexible scheduling, additional paid time off, or career development opportunities. A game-based incentive system with points, badges, and leaderboards is also a great motivator.
  • Focus on employee well-being. Your call center team’s mental health is crucial for fostering authentic engagement. A customer support tip for your Chicago startup is to offer employee assistance programs, stress management workshops, and flexible work arrangements. These help address potential burnout and emotional fatigue.

Pairing these strategies with consistent training and development creates a customer support system where empathy thrives. 

5. Optimize technology and processes

While genuine empathy stems from human interaction and communication skills, maximizing the strengths of technology and processes is still helpful. It plays a crucial role in building and maintaining the human touch in customer support interactions by:

  • Streamlining workflows
  • Facilitating personalized communication
  • Fostering emotional intelligence
  • Providing context
  • Reducing friction
  • Maintaining consistency
  • Improving data-driven decision-making

Here are a few ways you can integrate tools and software to improve empathetic interactions:

  • Automate routine tasks. AI-powered chatbots, knowledge bases, and automated workflows can cover support processes that do not require human interactions. Using these tools frees agents’ time to focus on complex issues and personalized interactions where empathy is most impactful.
  • Find data for tailored responses. CRM systems and customer information platforms provide support teams with insights into critical individual customer data, such as preferences, past interactions, and behavior. With this information, they can personalize interactions, anticipate needs, and offer empathic solutions.
  • Navigate nuanced situations. Sentiment analysis tools can help call center agents enhance their emotional awareness. It can give customer support agents tips on identifying keywords and phrases indicative of the emotions of your Chicago startup consumers. Thus, they can adjust their style and address unspoken concerns.
  • Bridge the physical gap. Use videoconferencing, screen-sharing tools, or other face-to-face communication options when appropriate. These tools can enhance understanding and emotional connection by allowing agents to see facial expressions and read nonverbal cues.

Strategically leveraging technology to empower genuine human connection can help you build and maintain empathy among outsourcing teams. It enables you to deliver efficient services and emotionally resonant support that leaves a lasting positive impression.

Other strategies for fostering an empathic customer support environment

In addition to the strategies previously discussed, you can further solidify empathy among your BPO team through the following approaches:

  • Lead by example. Managers and executives should also model sympathetic behavior when interacting with agents and customers, setting the tone for the entire organization. According to Forbes, if your executive team understands the need for empathy, you can ensure it will trickle down to your employees’ culture.
  • Perform customer journey mapping. Identify opportunities to incorporate empathy at different stages of the customer journey. Mapping out the consumer experience helps you ensure a consistent and empathic experience throughout their interaction with your brand.
  • Develop a human-centric design. This customer support approach will tip the focus toward understanding the needs and emotions of your Chicago startup’s consumers. It ensures that your tools and procedures support compassionate service delivery rather than hinder it.

The bottom line

The bottom line - customer support tips Chicago startups

While outsourcing customer support significantly benefits startups in Chicago, building and maintaining empathy in internal processes can be challenging. Several factors can hinder call center BPO teams from establishing a solid customer connection.

Nevertheless, your business can easily overcome challenges with adequate preparation and strategies. You can ensure your outsourcing agents practice empathy by choosing a BPO provider that offers human-centric call center services.

Let’s connect if you are looking for more customer support outsourcing tips to supercharge your Chicago startup!

Picture of Ezra Samarista
Ezra Samarista is a history graduate who found a career in and passion for writing during the pandemic. She enjoys copywriting the most but finds content writing and research fulfilling. Her love for learning and simplifying information led her to become one of the minds behind the pool of business process outsourcing (BPO) knowledge that the Unity Connect website offers its visitors. Outside work, Ezra is either creating digital art, playing video games, shopping, spending time with her family and cats, or just sleeping in.
Picture of Ezra Samarista

Ezra Samarista

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