For a small to medium company, customer service can be a tricky area to get right. Sure, we can all make it happen on a one to one basis, when we are in front of the customer with plenty of time on our hands; but when does that happen these days? The reality is that we have so much on our plates that some customers have to be prioritized; we cannot be on call 24/7 to fit in with people’s life styles; and taking calls and handling enquiries is taking us away from our real jobs. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could have a team of dedicated experts to handle all our customers for us, deal with the minor issues and simply pass on the juicy leads; but that would cost too much, there’s nowhere to house them and what about cost of the technology?
Use the cloud
Nowadays more and more companies are realizing that there is a way, using the facilities of an outsourced call center; and the beauty of it is that the customer will never realize they are not dealing directly with the company. Cloud technology can link up groups of people around the world with the same communications facilities as if they were sitting in the same building, if not the same room. It can then make it appear to the customer that this building is sited practically at the end of their street, whichever time zone that might be in. Suddenly the attraction starts to become more apparent.
So, what can we expect to come bundled up with this package, and what level of quality assurance is there? It is now possible for a company to book a number of agents (telephone operators) who will be briefed on how to handle their client’s business calls, which can be incoming or outgoing. Using a handy local number, customers can then contact the company and they will be directed either to an operator or to an automated system that will divert the call to the relevant department. Sales enquiries might go to the company’s own team while general enquiries are passed on to the call centre staff; or the centre’s agents could handle it all, payments included. The incoming call tells the center which company is being contacted and flashes the relevant details onto their screen; the customer is greeted quickly and efficiently with the company name, and by someone who is fully equipped to handle their call. Technical queries can be seamlessly passed on to the engineering department; which could be half way round the world, wherever the manufacturer is based. If there is a promotion and business suddenly picks up, it is just a case of increasing the number of agents available, no need for internal recruitment and training. Recording conversations comes as part of the technology, so quality control is simply a case of monitoring a random selection, and any improvements to the brief can be fed back.
As well as the benefits of convenience, most companies find that customer satisfaction actually improves as calls are picked up promptly and directed to the right person more efficiently. Any initial start up costs are avoided, as opposed to trying to set all this up in house; there is no need to purchase the hard and software required, which is kept up to date as a matter of course; no need to find extra space; and upgrading is simply the matter of a phone call or email with a request.
Outsourcing does not mean relinquishing control, in fact the opposite is often true. Now the company has access to a data portal that can give it powerful real-time statistics with which to organize its business; tracking sales, complaints, sources of enquiries and the geographic locations of its customers. It also opens up a host of new marketing opportunities, using social media and SMS to keep the data base informed of new products and special offers.
So, can customer service be outsourced? The question is more a case of whether we can afford not to?
Lucy Silvers is part of the marketing team at Magnetic North, a leader in the cloud contact center revolution, providing organizations of every size with a high-availability, secure, enterprise-class solution at a fraction of the cost of traditional systems.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker