Should e-commerce businesses work with outsourced call centers?
While some argue that customer support is too important for e-commerce to outsource, we’d argue the opposite: it’s too important to not have external support.
When you’re handling your entire customer support and CX in-house, you’re not only using a resource-heavy and costly method, but you’re also limited to the expertise, time, resources, technology and strategy available in-house.
However, when you outsource, you can improve your CX and customer service by leaps and bounds, without the same level of internal investment. Outsourcing is not only more cost-effective and scalable, but it also allows you to use higher levels of expertise and modern technology to improve your services and service levels.
The key lies in ensuring your outsourced call center implements some core best practices for e-commerce businesses. In this article, our team—with over 40 years of CX and call center experience—will walk you through those best practices, and how to implement them with your outsourced call center partner.
Understanding The Role of Outsourced Call Centers in E-commerce
In e-commerce, outsourced call centers play an outsized role compared to other industries. One major reason for that is because e-commerce relies so much more on customer satisfaction than other industries. Unlike service or utilities industries where customers may have limited choices and some resistance to switching brands, with e-commerce, there are generally many, many options available. As a result, if you can’t satisfy your customers, someone else will.
You might be wondering how exactly a call center comes into play here, though. An outsourced call center can provide a number of benefits for e-commerce brands, especially around customer satisfaction. For example, outsourced call centers can help:
- improve CSAT and NPS scores
- strengthen service levels, thus improving overall service
- strengthen loyalty and brand retention
- create stronger brand affinity and connection
- grow revenue and profits
- reduce costs and make operations more cost-effective
E-commerce brands don’t have much room for error when it comes to customer service. The better your customer service, the higher customer satisfaction you’ll have—and higher customer satisfaction is associated with higher brand loyalty, more efficient marketing, reduced costs and increased profits. The downside is that the reverse is also true.
That said: many e-commerce brands can benefit from an outsourced call center to make the most of these opportunities, especially those who:
- are growing or expanding quickly
- are expanding into new markets or internationally
- don’t have the resources to manage customer service in-house
- are juggling a high call volume
- experience significant fluctuations in volume throughout the year
Best Practices in E-commerce Call Center Outsourcing
Of course, finding an outsourced call center is easy. Finding an outsourced call center who can actually help you make the most of the benefits they can offer is another story.
Whether you already have a call center provider and are looking to get the most out of your partnership, or whether you’re considering an outsourced call center for the first time, implementing best practices for your e-commerce call center will help you get the most out of your partnership. We’ll show you five key best practices below, and then give some helpful tips on implementing them in your own outsourced call center.
Choosing the Right Call Center Provider
Obviously, if you don’t have a call center outsourcing partner yet, choosing the right provider is the first step. When you’re looking for a call center provider, look for the following qualifications:
- expertise and experience, both within CX generally as well as your specific industry
- testimonials and reviews from previous or current clients
- case studies that demonstrate their ability to get results
- modern technology and software that will enhance your current customer service offerings
- clear and straightforward pricing models and contracts
For e-commerce brands, it’s also especially important to look at the level and quality of service a provider offers, as well as the types of services and talent available on their team. For example, e-commerce brands should look for call centers who offer:
- PCI compliance, as this is a must when dealing with customer card numbers and electronic payments
- multi-channel or omnichannel support
- easy-to-understand and culturally familiar agents
- multilingual agents, especially if you serve a variety of regions or audiences
Investing in Training and Quality Assurance
Once you’ve found a great call center provider, though, it’s important not to assume they’ll fit into your brand and team perfectly “out of the box.” Instead, focus on investing in training and quality assurance—and make sure you choose a call center provider who is also willing to invest in these areas.
Brand and industry training is essential for e-commerce brands, as you want to ensure that customers have a seamless brand experience at every step, regardless of where they contact you or who they talk with. Creating brand guides, investing in brand training and ongoing branded support can go a long way toward creating a memorable, relatable brand that customers want to keep coming back to. It’s why here at Global Response we train our agents to be Brand Specialists—ensuring they’re a seamless extension of your brand that knows how to care for your customers as much as you do.
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Similarly, focusing on QA (Quality Assurance) is a must for outsourced call centers for e-commerce brands. Call centers with a stronger focus on Quality Assurance can deliver, unsurprisingly, higher quality service, and the data is clear that service quality is positively associated with customer satisfaction and brand success:
- 68% of customers are willing to pay more for services and goods from companies who offer great customer service.
- 93% of consumers are more likely to make repeat purchases from brands who offer excellent service
- Customers who rate a company’s service as “good” are 38% more likely to recommend that brand to friends.
For e-commerce companies, service levels need to be exceptional to stand out from the crowd—and working with a great outsourced call center can be a great way to focus on this without draining internal resources.
Emphasizing Customer Experience
Similarly, customer experience is at the core of e-commerce. With so many options, companies must have customer service to set themselves apart. Otherwise, customers won’t hesitate to switch to a competitor. In fact, some surveys have found that 92% of customers will switch to a competitor after just three or fewer negative experiences.
As a result, for e-commerce brands, it’s crucial for your outsourced call center to emphasize the customer experience. When outsourcing, you can focus on CX both directly and indirectly. For example, direct CX improvement can be the result of improving CSAT through better customer service. Indirect CX improvement through outsourcing can take the form of:
- effortless scalability to make your service consistent in all seasons
- improved omnichannel support to create a seamless experience for the customer
- more external CX strategy to improve internal focus on making a better product
- and so on
Regardless of how it happens, the key is focusing on and implementing an enhanced customer experience through your outsourcing efforts.
Utilizing Multichannel Support
Increasingly important for today’s e-commerce businesses is seamless multi-channel or, better yet, omnichannel support.
Omnichannel support—support that is seamless across a variety of channels, always knows the customer’s history, and provides personalized and consistent service every time—is becoming a must-have feature for e-commerce brands today. Consider the recent research on omnichannel:
- 80% of customers prefer omnichannel support because of its “seamless communication experience.”
- 60% of customers start and finish a shopping experience on different channels or devices.
- The average consumer uses three or more channels to contact the companies they do business with.
Not only is omnichannel support widely accepted—and expected—by consumers, it also influences purchasing and overall customer experiences. While omnichannel experiences improve CX and retention, only 22% of customers say they have experienced truly seamless customer support.
Part of this is because it’s much easier to implement omnichannel support when you’re outsourcing compared to managing everything in-house. As a result, when you decide to outsource your e-commerce call center, you should absolutely be looking for and using multichannel and omnichannel support options.
Ensuring Data Security and Compliance
Finally, an often overlooked best practice for e-commerce brands is ensuring data security and compliance—for any outsourcing partner, but especially for call centers. PCI compliance is a must, since call centers are frequently handling customer sensitive data.
While this can seem like a very background element, the risk of data breaches and security issues is only becoming higher and higher. Obviously, a data breach—especially with sensitive customer data—can be disastrous for your company, costing significant time and resources to resolve, as well as tanking brand reputation and customer trust.
Best practice: avoid the risk altogether by ensuring your outsourced call center has the necessary data security and compliance certifications to keep your customer data safe.
Implementing Best Practices: A Step-by-Step Approach
Although you might know these are important best practices to implement, actually knowing how to do so can be difficult, especially if your call center provider doesn’t lead the way. When working with an outsourced call center provider, follow these four steps to implement the best practices above:
- Identify business requirements. It’s best to start strong from the beginning. Clearly identify your business requirements, your outsourcing needs and goals, and what you’re hoping to achieve from the partnership. With clear goals from the outset, you’ll be better able to identify a partner who can meet your needs, as well as keep your team on track to actually hitting your goals.
- Select the right outsourcing partner. As discussed above, finding the right partner is one of the biggest obstacles toward having a successful e-commerce call center. By carefully vetting providers initially you can set your team up for an easier time implementing best practices. As you vet providers, you might also consider asking about their own best practices and what tried-and-true techniques they use to create successful partnerships. Their answers can tell you a lot about what the partnership will look like and if they’ll be able to meet your goals and needs.
- Set up effective communication channels. Without effective communication, your best laid plans will likely go unrealized. What creates effective communication varies widely depending on your team and your needs, but the core of effective communication is that it is clear, consistent and collaborative.
When you are able to communicate between internal and external teams effectively, work will move more quickly, productivity will increase and results will improve as a byproduct. Setting the foundation for this from the beginning is much more effective than trying to reverse-engineer better communication practices once things are already messy.
- Regularly monitor and evaluate the partnership. Implementing an outsourced call center as an e-commerce business is not a one-off project that you can “set and forget.” Instead, it needs continuous support and improvement to continue to grow and achieve results. One way you can continue to ensure your call center is set up to meet your needs is by setting up regular periods and frameworks for monitoring and evaluating results. With this in place, you can clearly see your progress and if your results are improving from one period to the next.
Conclusion: The Way Forward for E-commerce Call Center Outsourcing
In short: call center outsourcing can be a major advantage for e-commerce companies who want to:
- improve CSAT and customer experiences
- strengthen service levels
- make your call center more cost-effective
- improve profits and your bottom line
- reach more customers and strengthen brand loyalty
But don’t just sign on the dotted line for the first call center you come across. Spend an adequate amount of time researching and vetting potential providers to ensure you find a good fit, and then work together to implement best practices specific to the e-commerce industry.
For a call center provider who knows e-commerce inside and out—and can work with you to implement best practices for you industry as well as your specific, unique needs—reach out to our team at Global Response. We’ve helped dozens of e-commerce businesses achieve their goals, and we can help your team too.