When Is the Right Time to Outsource eCommerce Customer Service?
Customer service is a crucial part of the eCommerce experience. Yet for some brands, customer service can become an afterthought.
It shouldn’t be.
Customer service is actually your most powerful marketing tool, says Needle’s Brandon Anderson. “If you want to master a successful marketing strategy for your eCommerce store that nurtures leads and obtains conversions, you’ll need to master customer service first.”
You can still leverage the benefits of great customer service when you outsource. For some brands, this is an essential step for sustained growth. Making a success of outsourcing is just a matter of getting the timing right. Here’s how you can do just that.
Don’t Outsource Straight Away
If there’s one moment when it is definitely the wrong time to outsource customer service, it’s when you first launch your brand. You need to walk before you can run, and that means getting to grips with your own customers and their expectations of your brand.
When you do your own customer service, you learn so many valuable lessons, writes Cody McLain, Founder and CEO of SupportNinja. First, you get to get to connect with customers and learn more about them. You also get to understand what they don’t love about your products or branding so that you can fix either of those things.
You should also bear in mind that the way you deal with your first few customers will be different than with customers at a later stage of growth, says HubSpot’s Michael Redbord. For those early customers, customer service will necessarily be hands-on work. As your customer base grows, however, you’ll begin to start conceptualizing customer service in terms of processes.
Outsource When You Can’t Respond Quickly Enough
How quickly are you responding to customer service requests? If you’re afraid the answer is “not quickly enough,” then having someone else handle the never-ending stream of requests may be the answer.
Customers love eCommerce precisely because it’s fast, notes HubSpot’s Clint Fontanella. They expect their queries to be answered quickly, too. “[Customers] don’t want to wait for answers when they came to your site for a quick purchase,” Fontanella writes. “This is why it’s important to focus on average response times when working with ecommerce customers. If visitors reach out, reps should respond in seconds.”
The 20 Media’s Pratik Dholakiya says live chat is a great way to improve response times, though he concedes it’s not always easy for brands to run these channels round the clock on their own. That’s why outsourcing customer service is a great solution.
Outsource When Managing Several Support Channels Gets Overwhelming
Exceptional customer service means being able to respond to requests on every channel your customers are active on, says Acquire.io CEO Laduram Vishnoi. “The goal is to take the service directly to your customers — they shouldn’t have to come and ask for it. Give them an easier life by removing the pain of waiting days for a response.”
What’s more, the demand for support on new or even existing channels is only going to grow. Take SMS, for instance, says Ecommerce Tech’s Derric Haynie. Amazon has made this customer support method de rigueur, so much so that it is one of the fastest-growing channels of 2019.
Social media are frequently channels that brands don’t use to their full potential, digital marketer Elaine Bennett writes. You shouldn’t just be using these channels for content and social media marketing, but for customer support, too. “Social channels often serve the same purpose as your live chat on your website, but they add another ‘personal’ note to the mix.”
If you’re struggling to keep up with customer service requests across multiple platforms, it could be time to adopt a BaaS solution. Juggling different platforms can be hard without a large, dedicated team or specialist software. With BaaS, you get both.
You also get structure. This is important because it’s not enough to offer customer support on every channel. You need to do so consistently, growth marketer and Elumynt Founder William Harris writes. “To create the right reputation among your customers and prospective customers, you have to be consistent with the way you respond to questions and address problems that people have.”
This means being able to deliver a great experience, no matter which platform your customers use to get in touch. For instance, if you’ve made it company policy to respond to email requests for support in 24 hours, yet you take several days to respond on Twitter, some customers are going to think they aren’t as valued as others.
Outsource When Your Support Needs Fluctuate
If you find that your customer support needs go up and down throughout the year, you could be a prime candidate for outsourcing some or all of your customer support team.
If this kind of fluctuation describes your business, it can be hard to justify having customer service employees on your payroll year-round, writes Supported Content Founder Sarah Chambers, especially when those overheads could be better invested in product development or marketing.
Having a customer service team is essential, however. That’s where a BaaS solution comes in. Rather than hire employees just before the holidays, you can use the built-in flexibility that customer-support-as-a-service provides.
This approach comes with a number of benefits.
For one thing, hiring and training customer service employees is incredibly time-consuming, writes HubSpot’s Swetha Amaresan. You have to recruit candidates. You’ll need to confirm that they have the necessary interpersonal skills to successfully handle customer service problems during the interview. Then, after they’ve been hired, you’ll need to spend time getting them getting them familiar with your brand and your products.
You also won’t have to worry about all of the additional administrative tasks that come with hiring and employing more staff. When you outsource customer service, pay, benefits and all other HR responsibilities are taken off your plate.
When you take a BaaS approach to customer service, you aren’t just hiring anyone. BaaS service providers are experts at customer service and have dedicated entire business units to it. Relying on these teams is going to yield much better results than trying to hire and train staff for only the periods when you need them.
Outsource When You Expand Overseas
There are many challenges that come with entering a new market. Customer service is right at the top of that list. For almost any brand, outsourcing customer support to people with the right linguistic and cultural understanding is essential for success.
According to Common Sense Advisory’s Can’t Read, Won’t Buy report, almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents said that after-sales care in their own language would make them more likely to purchase again. The demand for localized customer support is particularly strong with consumers who aren’t comfortable doing business in English.
It’s about delivering a level of service that keeps customers happy and keeps them coming back to your store, says Hugo Macedo, VP of Marketing at Unbabel. Outsourcing customer support to a multilingual team is essential if you want to grow sales and increase retention in your new market.
This capability can even be a selling point, notes Time Doctor Cofounder Liam Martin. Advertising the fact that you offer native-language customer support is a great way to improve brand perception and broaden your customer base.
The right time to outsource customer service will be different for every eCommerce brand. Don’t be scared to make the leap — just make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons.