There are many pros and cons, but before you consider any of them it’s important to get your thinking clear about customer service.
1. Customer Service is everyone’s job, not just the job of a team to which you give that name. Everyone in an organisation can influence the experience of customers for good or ill, and there’s a danger in referring to customer service in this way that some people fail to realise the impact they can have. Out-source by all means if you decide that’s right for you, but don’t forget that you’re only out-sourcing a small part of the overall job of serving customers.
2. Don’t think of the ‘customer service department’ as a cost-centre. Think of it as a profit centre. If you get service right when customers contact you, your customers will reward you with repeat business, with loyalty, they will allow you to cross-sell to them and if you are consistently good they will recommend you to their friends and colleagues. That means new customers for free.
3. Remember that staff satisfaction is a pre-requisite for customer satisfaction. Even the most highly trained and capable people will not represent you well if they are treated unfairly, paid poorly, or not given the systems and policies to enable them to do the job that customers need them to. You can only expect good service to be delivered if you look after the people who you expect to deliver it.
4. Culture is also an important factor to consider. How will people be treated if they use their initiative to resolve a problem? For example suppose someone offers a refund outside your allowed period because they listen to the customer and consider that it is merited in that particular situation. Will the person be punished for breaking the rules, or rewarded for retaining a customer? Which behaviour do you want to encourage – people who follow all the rules blindly yet alienate customers, or people who use their initiative to gain loyal advocates for your company?
5. The last but most important thing to consider is what your customers would prefer. Think about how you would feel contacting your company. If you can get another company to do a better job of representing you than you could yourself, then out-sourcing could be a good solution. But is that really likely?
In summary then, work out what would be best for your customers, not which would cost least – and in the cost analysis, include the factors above, not just the headcount costs.
And to save time, just ask yourself ‘which option will make customers write in to thank me, and which will make them lose confidence and look elsewhere?’
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