Outsource Сustomer Service Guide.
To do or not to do?

In-house vs Outsourcing. Options. Guides and takeaways

Decision between in-house and outsource customer support requires thorough consideration. We gathered some tips from our experience to help you make this choice.

Any feedback is highly appreciated.
1

Keep it in house or outsource?

Hardly anyone can treat a customer better than the founders.

But as a business grows (which is wonderful), the support services may take a very unpleasant turn - you start spending more and more hours answering emails rather than running the business. At some point the open/new tickets folder reaches the size of a young whale, and that is when you are most likely to consider the options.

This is heading us towards the "resources / quality" balance:
In-house vs. Outsourcing
Time and money vs. Risks arising

Why consider in-house

Communication:
  • One time zone and one schedule.
  • Face-to-face conversations offer more engagement between employees.
  • In-person discussions help to generate new ideas.
  • Simplified communication.
  • Employees have greater familiarity with your organization, simply because they are on site all the time.

Cost control:
  • If a project goes overtime and someone is back after hours, the costs remain the same.

Process control:
  • You can treat your employees a cake on your BD.
  • Keep a specific work culture (make them all wear red shirts or even something more outrageous (e.g. make them wear white shirts), be a dictator.
  • Meet your people every day and keep in touch

PLUS You can all make group photos (everyday):
YAY, WE ARE WORKING IN-HOUSE AND WEARING SUITS!!!!
2

Work with freelancers or company?

Outsourcing work is an appealing idea. It can save time, money, and sometimes a great deal of stress. Below are the questions which can help you choose the best outsourcing option for you (just bend a finger each time you pick a blue one):

1. Need to handle Level 1 (mostly general questions, FAQ, Helpdesk ) or Level 2 (mostly tricky/techy questions) tickets?

2. Spend time on hiring or training (or ready to delegate both) ?

3. Spend time on management or ready to delegate it ?

4. Go through all the previous steps again as you grow or ready to delegate it ?

5. Need someone with the industry expertise or it is not that important ?
If you've got at least 3 blue - please, consider an outsourcing company (they will take care of hiring, training and supervision for you).

If you've got less than 3 blue - a freelancer/or a couple of them will suffice
(you will have to spend many more hours on hiring - training - management and, probably, will do it again down the road).

If you've got zero blue (all green) - in-house is the best option :)
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3
How to's - remote hiring, onboarding and management
There are 3 key steps towards "all set up and running" -
Hiring, onboarding and management, all remotely.
Hiring
Before we start, please make sure to define your needs. It would do a great help to draw a portrait of a person / team you are hunting. Below are the examples:
A great communicator. Support + sales. A person or a team that can handle calls, deal with leads and presales.
An experienced support specialist. Double support. A person who can make all tickets closed and convert angry customers to the loyal ones.
The most techy guy around. Support + tech side (bugs, issues, testing).
A great thinker. Support + processes. Someone who can look into the way you are running support and implement optimizations.
Skills that you need to look for:

Patience
Patience is a ground stone in customer support service. You receive messages from numbers of people, and all of them have different mood, different attitude and different understanding of situation. Regardless your support guru should treat everyone with patience and desire to help. While most of the customers are polite and ready to cooperate, some might test your patience.
Writing skills
The majority of customer support specialists deals with writing endless number of emails. Language is a very important part of persuasion, and people (especially customers) create perceptions about you and your company based on the language you use. "Positive language" can greatly affect how the customer hears your response.

Example: Please send an application tailored to this position that speaks to us. Introduce yourself as a colleague. Show us that future. We value great writers, so please do take your time with the application. Forget that generic resume. There's no prize for being the first to submit!
Ability to "read" customers
Basic principles of behavioral psychology and ability to "read" customer's current emotional state is an essential perk for a support guru. In a perfect world an ideal candidate should know basics of psychology :)

Example: Give your applicant a couple of tickets from frustrated customers and ask him to solve it.
Ability to handle surprises
Sometimes the customer support world is going to throw you a curveball. Whatever the case, it's best to be able to think out of frames.

Example: Give your applicant an uncommon tickets ask him to solve it. Like "Can't decide what to cook, Could you share your favourite pizza recipe?"
Onboarding
This is how our Support Hero or Team proceeds:
Study all FAQ/Helpdesk, get familiar with product and related documents. Gather information from any kinds of guides or tutorials available.
Solve tickets in test mode, discuss them, check the results, correct mistakes.
Dive deeper into the process and all the features.
Solve tickets in real time using internal notes before approval.
Become a dedicated Support Hero / Team. Read through the tickets & give feedback.
Management
Remote communication is crucial for effective management.

But difficulties on this part can prevent you from working with remote teams.

Veronica talking with Ilan, our client (clickcease.com)
The New York Times says at least 15,000 adults work remotely in the US alone, and this number keeps growing!

So why remote can be good?
  • It saves time and money.
  • It gives amazing opportunities (different countries, markets, languages etc.).
  • It's the future of work.
Recently, a New York Times reporter asked the president of Y Combinator - major Silicon Valley startup funder - if any one school stood out as a source of graduates with sparkling new ideas. He said there is one. It is the University of Waterloo.

Why does Silicon Valley look to it as a great source of brilliant minds and brilliant ideas? It has high intellectual standards, of course. And it values entrepreneurship. But diversity is its indispensable ingredient.

Their students come from everywhere. Fully half the graduate engineering students are international. And the University of Waterloo's domestic students are drawn from Canada's student population - one of the most diverse in the world.
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada,
World Economic Forum, Davos, 2016
Remote communication and management issues

Different companies can face different problems with remote employees. To understand this better, we asked our colleagues their opinion on the matter
(the answer we love most goes first):

  • You never know if people you work with are happy, if they need anything. You have no handshakes, no eye contacts and hugs to give you a hint.
  • It takes more time to understand a candidate is not "your guy".
  • hen it comes to interpersonal relationship problems, it's harder to find out the cause and fix it.
  • Certain risks grow (like scamming where a team can farm replies if you pay per reply).


There are practices to fight these issues:

  • Communication tools (check-ins, calls, meetings). There is a great number of dashboards to make remote management and communication less painful.
  • Discipline (once you have a remote specialist aboard, you'll probably have to implement some new rules for the team).
  • Checklists (try to think about the criteria and metrics that will reflect the actual state of things).
How to measure good customer service:
Resolution time
Resolving issues in a timely manner may sound very obvious, but it is not that easy, especially when you deal with so-called out of the box issues. If you can approach the issue from the right angle at once without wasting customer's time, that's what is going to keep him forever. Plus, it is a good way to measure customer service quality :)
Customer satisfaction
The greatest ideas are always very simple. If you want to know how great your customer service is … Bingo! Let's ask the customers! So far it's one of the most objective measurement criteria and also a valuable source of feedback not only on the support but on the product in general. How to measure it? Create a small survey and make your customers feel that you do care about what they think and do stand behind your product!
Reply time
Goes without saying. BUT! The smart optimization you can do is analyze peak times when you need to assign the biggest number of agents to handle the tickets in the fastest and most efficient way possible, and lessen this number when the churn is not as huge.
WOW customer stories / Success stories
To measure something you have to convert "it was so good they couldn't stop talking about it" customer service to a number. Each team can boast a certain number of WOW stories from their practice, and this number should remain consistent with time.

To do this we should first define what is outstanding customer support. Good support is about reply time, product & industry expertise and empathy. What is outstanding support then? What is never enough? What touches our heart? Makes us happy? At Dream Support we believe that it is - Love. Love is power that together with reply time, product & industry expertise and empathy makes people say WOW, feel your care and become loyal ever since.

At Dream Support we consider "WOW stories" to be a true mirror of the quality, we also align it with bonuses.

Veronica Grushko
ClickCease Princess
About the author
Veronica is ClickCease support ninja under Dream Support cover. She is kind, mindful and always willing to help. She loves learning new things about best customer service practices, and is always up for implementing some of those tricks.
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