Outsourcing customer service can be an effective way to reduce costs. It can also be an effective way to damage your most valuable asset – your brand’s reputation. How you manage brand cultural assimilation makes the difference.
What is your reputation worth?
Of all the risks associated with outsourcing customer contact operations, none is more potentially damaging than the risk to the reputation of the brand. A company lives or dies on the strength of that reputation and the expectations associated with the brand by its customers.
Your brand is not a product.
Product knowledge is typically defined as a practical understanding of features and associated benefits. But the ineffable quality brought to the product by the brand is a crucial intangible that must also be considered. The transfer of product knowledge is a straightforward training task. Transfer of the aura of the brand is a more subtle and complex process.
Sensitivity to brand values and the ability to fully represent them in direct contact with the customer requires assimilation of the qualities of the brand. Product is about features; Brand is about style, values and emotional associations.
The Brand Care concept
At Global Response, the importance of instilling brand awareness and sensitivity to the nuances of brand identification on the part of customers is reflected in the title worn by their customer contact representatives who are formally known as Brand Care Specialists. Indeed Global Response has positioned itself in the contact center world as the Brand Care Company.
Conceptually Brand Care means focusing on how perception of the brand is influenced by customer contact with brand representatives. Everything the Brand Care Specialist says, and the way he or she says it, affects the way the customer feels about the brand. Brand Care Specialists take their cue from Hippocrates and learn to “first, do no harm.” Protecting the reputation of the brand is their most essential function.
But Brand Care goes beyond protecting the downside. An effective Brand Care Specialist can be a powerful force in the marketing of the brand. Customers feel a real connection with a knowledgeable and empathetic Brand Care Specialist who engages with them as someone who shares their affection for the brand. That feeling has value. It brings customers back. Customer service in the Brand Care setting is not a cost but a valuable asset.
Eliminating the distinction between in-house and out-source
A brand is a set of expectations on the part of the customer. Those expectations include not only the performance and quality of the products on which the brand logo appears, but also the way in which the company behind the brand treats its customers. The customer experience is not only with the branded products or services but also in every contact with brand representatives.
It follows that brand management must include careful vetting of the qualifications of those chosen to represent the brand. These qualifications should not be compromised when call center or contact center services are outsourced. The same recruitment, selection, training, orientation, coaching, brand identification and cultural assimilation should be required whether the representatives are in-house or out-sourced. Done properly the effect will be that the location where the customer contact takes place will be irrelevant – the result will be the same.