Customer Support for your Small Business:How to Find the Right Partner
At a growing company with a small team, everyone typically does everything. That means the CEO might be answering customer service emails – and not just during the work day, but on evenings and weekends as well. So what do you do when the volume becomes overwhelming?
Many early-stage growth companies think that they are too small to outsource customer service. But outsourcing has significant benefits, even for companies with one employee. In fact, small companies can often benefit more than large companies can.
Outsourcing enables you to access the best talent, as customer service outsourcing firms – also known as business process outsourcers, or BPOs – have deep talent networks. Outsourcing customer support also provides you with access to expertise, as a good outsourcer can help you set and measure metrics, implement the best technology, and more.
Outsourcing eliminates the headaches of hiring, paying, and managing your customer service agents in-house. And it can significantly reduce costs. Meanwhile, it frees up the company’s founders from answering customer queries and allows them to focus on running the company.
But it’s important to find an outsourcing specialist that understands your needs as a growth company. When you’re talking to a potential BPO partner, ask these 5 questions to find the perfect match.
1. What’s the minimum commitment, in dollars or people?
Most outsourcing firms require a minimum commitment from a client. It might be a monthly minimum price, or a specific number of agents. Some outsourcers have minimums of 25 or more – this is obviously a nonstarter for a small company! At Peak Support, by contrast, our minimum is 2 FTEs.
2. How much flexibility will you have to scale up – or down?
Some outsourcers may ask you to sign a contract that locks you in for a minimum of 6 or 12 months. But at growing companies, the future can be wildly uncertain. What if your needs change?
On the other hand, what if you need to scale quickly, due to holiday demand or a media launch? How would the outsourcer handle these changes? Ask the BPO how quickly they can add new agents.
At Peak Support, we ask for 30 days notice of a cancellation but don’t require it. You can cancel any time, and pay only for hours already worked. If you need to scale up, we can typically add new agents within 1-2 weeks.
3. How much control will you have over your team?
Your outsourced team should feel like an extension of your internal team. That means your outsourcer should adopt your systems, use your preferred voice, and report the metrics that matter the most to you. If you have an issue with how a particular ticket was handled, your outsourcer should work with you to fix the issue.
Furthermore, you should be able to talk directly to agents, if you need to. Your customer service representatives are ambassadors for your brand. They are your link to customers, not only to resolve queries, but also to bring in valuable feedback. Outsourcers who try to put a wall between clients and agents are denying you a critical source of intelligence.
At Peak Support, our relationships with our clients vary depending on their specific needs. Some clients work closely with the team lead, but rarely interact with individual agents. Others have close, one-on-one working relationships with many agents on the team. The uniting factor is that we’ll design a structure that works for you.
4. Can you get multi-channel support?
Customers of today expect more service, fast, and via multiple channels, including self-service, phone, Facebook and live chat or instant messaging, depending on their requirement and convenience.
You want to look for a customer service specialist that has the capabilities to provide service through all of these channels. A young company, with limited resources, may want to start just with email, or with email and live chat. We advise clients on the optimal mix of channels, and tweak that as your business evolves.
5. What shifts and schedules can the outsourcer fill?
Can your outsourcer handle daytime, night, and weekend hours? Can they provide 24-7 support if needed? You may not need this now, but that’s no guarantee you won’t want it next year. At Peak Support, our agents can work any shift, and we can change those shifts if your needs change.
6. Will the outsourcer be a true partner in building your service team?
For early stage companies, account management is critical. You may need advice on what technology to adopt or how to set it up. You might be new to customer service metrics like First Response Time and Customer Satisfaction. You might not even have any training material developed. Any outsourcer can provide you with warm bodies – but can they help you build a world-class customer service team?
At Peak Support, we partner with clients we deeply believe in. We want to do whatever it takes to help you succeed, because our success is tied to yours. Our U.S.-based account management team is always available to support you as you grow.
The bottom-line: young companies can gain all the benefits of outsourcing, while still offering delightful service to their customers. The key is to find a collaborative outsourcing partner who understands the needs of an innovative, growing company. Contact us today to learn more.
If you want to learn more about scaling customer support, download our e-book “Scaling Customer Support for Your Growing Business.”
Illustration by Tristan de Leña