Written by Rene Mallari
Being cautious about entrusting your e-commerce customer service to an outsider is reasonable. You should weigh all benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing, which is among the major business decisions you will face sooner or later.
Outsourcing e-commerce customer service has no shortcuts. Giving your customers the best possible service and satisfaction to make your company competitive should motivate you to consider outsourcing.
Read on for some helpful tips for outsourcing customer service for your e-commerce business.
1. Pick a BPO Company That Offers Round-the-clock and Omnichannel Customer Service
Find a business process outsourcing (BPO) partner that offers customer service your consumers can access 24 hours a day. Ask for robust multichannel customer service (phones, live chat, chatbots, social media, web forums, and email) to allow uninterrupted interaction between agents and customers.
Omnichannel service gives customers more choices to contact your business. They prefer to reach you as quickly as possible through the channel they find most comfortable to use on their digital devices.
This service also broadens the coverage of customer interaction and simplifies your customers’ switch from one channel to another. It provides smooth communication between them and you even if they use different channels.
Additionally, omnichannel support can expand your market reach, allowing you to engage with new customers. For instance, having a social media channel lets you cater to millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) who rely heavily on this means of communication for their buying decisions.
2. Work With an Outsourcing Entity With a Dedicated Team of Specialists
When you outsource e-commerce customer service, make sure the BPO provider has a team to focus solely on your tasks. It might cost you more, but specialists can deliver a better customer experience.
When you have a dedicated team, you have access to high-caliber professionals, including client support analysts and a project manager. They are seasoned pros experienced in dealing with different clients and product or service issues.
Having a dedicated team will work in your favor. You have total control over the way the team provides customer service. You can select the work procedures, decide on the kinds of assignments, and determine the work volume to direct the team.
Furthermore, a specialized team serves as an extension of your company. The team understands your internal and external operations, enabling it to analyze your processes accurately.
3. Partner With a BPO Company That Guarantees Data Privacy and Security
Check whether your prospective BPO provider stores all sensitive and vital customer information over the cloud and secures data using advanced customer service software. The provider should have high-security protocols across all platforms. This prevents unauthorized individuals or entities from accessing your customers’ private information.
Privacy breaches resulting from weak data security can hurt your reputation and brand. Ensure your partner’s privacy practices and its transparency in its processes.
The BPO company should also help you meet compliance requirements. Businesses that fail to execute privacy protection or comply with privacy and security laws will face hefty fines. You might lose several clients if they discover non-compliance.
4. Build a Relationship With a Reputable BPO Company
Look for a partner with an extensive track record that shows various startups and large-sized businesses it has worked with. Obtain client testimonials from sources other than the BPO company’s website or contacts to know its accomplishments.
An external service provider with a solid reputation draws skilled and experienced workers. A substantial track record showing the major projects it has accomplished also indicates that well-known clients hire its services.
Moreover, a BPO organization with a good reputation means only that it can get the job done. Learn about the provider’s performance by asking for its key performance indicators (KPIs). These measurements will let you know if it maintains high-quality customer service.
One example of a BPO company is Unity Communications. Established in 2009, the Arizona-based company garnered several global awards serving organizations of all sizes and types. It caters to its client’s needs, ranging from customer service and e-commerce support to data entry and other back-office services.
5. Select a Candidate That Is Accessible 24/7
Outsource e-commerce customer service to a BPO company that opens its communication lines 24 hours, seven days a week. You can reach out to the customer service team and get regular updates on the status of your outsourced tasks.
Implementing an open-communication policy will improve the customer service team’s work efficiency. Communicating with you and providing feedback regularly can build their confidence. They can express their ideas freely and constructively, resulting in higher morale and productivity.
Accessibility also helps close cultural gaps. Many BPO companies may have work cultures and communication styles that differ from yours. Constant interaction will allow you to easily learn and adapt to how the team handles customer service.
6. Ask Your Prospective Outsourcing Company About All Its Service Costs
Cost-effectiveness is one of the main reasons many e-commerce businesses outsource some tasks. This should be your motivation as well. Ask your potential partner about the fees it will charge, particularly hidden costs.
Third-party vendors have varied pricing schemes. Analyze each pricing structure. Compare BPO companies that have the same pricing model. You can also conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether or not partnering with one will be profitable.
Some third-party entities are not transparent about their hidden costs. While these expenses will not necessarily drain your budget, you should know them from the start to help build your trust with your partner.
The hidden expenses are staffing and management, employee termination and other human-resources-related costs, organizational change management, legal charges, knowledge and work transfer costs, and unexpected disruptions (such as the global health crisis).
Other Tips to Consider
These bonus tips will help you find the right way to outsource customer service for e-commerce to stay ahead in the highly competitive e-commerce marketplace.
Hire a BPO Company That Provides an E-commerce Administrator
When running an e-commerce store, you need regular updates on content, products, software applications, promotions, etc. You should have your own IT team to do these tasks.
If not, enlist a BPO company to provide you with an e-commerce administrator. This person is responsible for managing your e-commerce website. The duties include monitoring and resolving all site issues, keeping track of product performance, analyzing online transactions, and updating customers with vital information related to delivery and shipping.
Check Whether the BPO Company Sees Customer Service as a Revenue Driver
While the BPO company’s primary role in e-commerce is customer service assistance, it should view customer service as crucial for brand loyalty.
A BPO company can offer various services to improve your brand image, customer experience, and product loyalty. Loyal customers are the lifeblood of online business. In this regard, your external partner should help broaden and maintain consumer loyalty over the long haul.
Your prospective BPO company should maximize and turn customer service into a revenue driver. When you achieve consumer loyalty, your customer service can help generate an additional income stream through repeat sales, word-of-mouth promotion, and other product purchases.
Work With a BPO Company That Uses Advanced Technologies
Check whether the third-party vendor invests in the latest customer service software and platforms to enhance customer relationships. The organization should have access to various help desk and CRM solutions to track your customers’ histories, inquiries, preferred communication means, etc.
These platforms also improve work efficiency and productivity, allowing your customer service representatives to manage and process a high volume of customer calls and inquiries.
Check the Cost of Outsourcing E-commerce Customer Service
How much you will pay a BPO company depends on several factors, including the call center location, platform or channels, call volume, and difficulty of customer care processes.
Here are some of the pricing models that third-party vendors use:
- Performance-based: You pay according to the agent’s performance on several KPIs.
- Fixed price: The BPO company offers a standard rate (monthly or yearly) for its services.
- Transaction-based: The volume and types of transactions determine the fee.
- Cost-plus type: The BPO company asks for a fixed fee. It also charges you back for all the expenses it incurs from working on your outsourced tasks.
- Consumption-based (or usage-based): The third-party vendor charges you based on the resources it uses for its services. Cloud computing services commonly use this pricing model.
- Profit-sharing: You allot your BPO partner a percentage of your profit. You reward it for raising the total value delivered to you over and above your agreement.
Confirm the Benefits of Outsourcing E-commerce Customer Service
Reluctance to outsource e-commerce customer service is common, especially if this business strategy is unfamiliar territory. However, you can take advantage of three proven benefits. Let’s check them out.
1. Value for Money
The most significant benefit of outsourcing is the substantial amount of money you can save. Your partner will handle the infrastructure, employees, technology, and other resources to run customer service functions.
Many third-party organizations set up their operations in countries with a sufficiently skilled, educated, and cost-effective workforce. They offer their services at affordable rates.
Additionally, you can choose from numerous service providers worldwide. One way they compete and attract clients is either by bringing down service fees or by being flexible with service and payment terms.
2. Competitive Edge
You have an advantage over your competitors when you outsource e-commerce customer service. You boost your brand image and broaden your consumer reach.
A product or service supported by a competent customer service team can generate positive reviews and endorsements from end users. The team’s main task is to deliver an excellent customer experience most of the time.
Efficient and effective customer service is crucial for gaining a competitive advantage. It solidifies brand loyalty over your competitors. You can reap this benefit by outsourcing customer support to outside experts.
3. Opportunity to Grow
Reducing costs while solidifying brand loyalty through outsourcing enables your e-business to diversify and expand in the long run. It gives you more time to focus on other vital activities such as product innovation, market expansion, sales growth strategies, and technological advancement.
When you keep undertaking such high-value activities, your e-commerce company will become more dynamic, innovative, and competitive. And it’s all because you outsource e-commerce customer service.
Can Outsourcing E-commerce Customer Service Potentially Hold You Back?
Any business decision has potential drawbacks. Let’s go through some of the potential drawbacks of outsourcing e-commerce customer service.
Losing a Certain Degree of Control
Giving up some control over your service operations to the outsourcing partner is unavoidable because you should give them enough elbow room to move and manage your tasks properly. If you go into a kind of partnership, expect this situation.
An article on The Balance Small Business, a website on personal finance subjects and news based in New York, says that the loss of managerial control due to outsourcing might result in service quality issues.
The reason is that an outsourcing company is profit-driven. The contract price in the outsourcing service agreement is fixed. One way the third-party vendor can raise more profit is to reduce expenses. The quality of customer service might suffer due to cost reduction.
Being Exposed to Online Security Risks
When you outsource e-commerce customer service, you risk compromising your sensitive and confidential information. Turning over your customer service tasks to an outsider also includes sharing critical customer and business data.
Suppose you have credit card numbers, bank account numbers, residential addresses, medical records, payroll, or other private information that the outsourcing firm will use to handle your customer service. In that case, secrecy and security are at risk.
One way to address security issues is to ask your prospective partner about their cybersecurity technology and willingness to sign a non-disclosure agreement to avoid intentional misuse of your data.
Risking Employee Morale and Public Criticism
Your full-time employees might take outsourcing as a sign of future layoffs. Instead of assigning your regular staff the tasks, you hand the work over to an outsider.
Outsourcing can affect employee morale. Your employees’ low confidence in your business can lead to poor performance, slow productivity, and decreased revenue. One solution to this is constant communication.
You can also draw public criticism due to the unfavorable impact of outsourcing on the labor force in the local economy. This strategy can cause job losses in your location and worsen the unemployment rate.
The Bottom Line
Using some of these helpful tips to get started with outsourcing e-commerce customer service will increase your chances of success with this business strategy. Remember that a BPO company, regardless of its reputation, size, type of service, accessibility, and location, can enhance your customer experience.
For you, it’s all about the customers—acquiring, serving, retaining, and winning them over for many years to come. Your BPO partner can help with your efforts to stay competitive for a long time.