It’s been almost a year since the lockdown (I know that’s exactly what you wanted to hear). We’ve settled into new routines and grown accustomed to different office set-ups. We’ve also gotten used to grocery pick-up, DoorDash delivery, and online shopping. And, because of our improved relationship with technology, we expect these digital experiences everywhere.
Many contact centers feel overwhelmed by rising customer expectations. They just won’t stop. On top of that, you have the daily struggles of running a contact center, like high call center agent turnover rates and disconnected technology.
All of this boils up and it can be tempting to wash your hands of it and just outsource customer service. Then, you might avoid failing customers and losing too many frustrated agents. And while outsourcing is a great solution, for some, it’s not for everyone. Business leaders inevitably lose some control over cohesive company messaging. You can’t cultivate a collaborative office culture. And, coaching often falls from the priority list when you don’t have a direct relationship with those handling your customer interactions.
If you’re tempted to outsource customer service, weigh all your options first. Here are four alternatives to outsourcing to help you maintain control over your mission while still staying on top of customer demands.
1. Implement a virtual call center so your agents can work from home
As more contact centers move to the cloud, the idea of a 9-5, in-office, sit-in-your cubicle workstyle has slowly become less common. After 2020, this concept is basically extinct, as 74% of companies moved their contact center agents to work from home. Not to mention, about 70% of companies will continue allowing agents to work remotely after the pandemic.
Companies have discovered that remote work works.
Employees are still engaged and get their work done. In fact, they’re often happier when they have the flexibility of working from home. They don’t have to rush out the door with a granola bar in hand or deal with long commutes and uncomfortable clothes. Agent job satisfaction is directly correlated with agent turnover. If your agents are happy, your turnover rate drops. And in the long run, you save big on the costs associated with losing (and replacing) employees, training new hires, and ramping them up to full productivity.
Plus, with fewer brick-and-mortar costs, your company has more money to spend on things like better talent, updated technology, and employee development.
Remote work also opens up your hiring spectrum. If you’re no longer bound by geographical proximity, you can hire agents from all over the country. This includes dipping into the ever-growing pool of gig-economy workers who can jump in for part-time or temporary work during your busy season. Even with 1,000 new seasonal employees, you’re still in charge of your company’s messaging.
With happier agents, reduced in-house costs, and a bigger hiring pool, you won’t need to rely on outsourcing customer service to keep up with demands.
2. Implement omnichannel strategies to provide customer self-service options
Customers like solving their own problems. They don’t like wasting time waiting for someone else to investigate their issues. Especially when it comes to basic customer support with a product or service.
When you outsource customer service, there’s more room for company-agent miscommunication, which can lead to misinformation handed off to your customers.
So why not put the ball in your customers’ court? To cut down on customer wait times and eliminate a dependence on outsourcing, think omnichannel.
Omnichannel strategies with self-service options put the customer in charge of finding solutions, first. Over half of customers prefer using self-service channels for simple questions. And 40% say they only call a contact center after they’ve exhausted other channels.
Giving your customers options to solve problems makes them happier and more likely to stay loyal to your company.
Here are a few ways to offer more options to your customers:
- Offer up a customer favorite channel, live chat support, with triggered bots to answer easy questions for customers. That way customers get an answer in minutes – without having to wait on the phone for a live agent.
- Use text messages to connect with your customers, like sending appointment reminders or asking for them to check-in online.
- Offer FAQs to the most common customer questions (see: Hulu’s amazing Help Center portal).
- Use social media and train agents to manage the interactions so customers can reach you in between scrolling.
Omnichannel also gathers information from customers and passes that data along to your agents, no matter the channel. Agents get more context and personal information to answer questions promptly. It makes life easier for the customer and the agent.
3. Train your agents to work smarter, not harder
Consistent training and efficient workflows are guaranteed to turn your agents into strong employees. Improving agent systems and focusing on good coaching methods are keys to eliminating turnover and making it possible to serve your customers in-house.
Too often, contact center agents are poorly trained and have to deal with outdated systems and inefficient platforms. These issues make burnout inevitable. And your customers can tell when agents are stressed and overwhelmed. Coach your agents frequently with in-line training so they can digest new concepts during their downtime between interactions. Check in with them often so they can express their concerns and share feedback, too. Agents whose managers pay attention to their needs and get to know them on a personal level are more likely to stick around.
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But good training only goes so far when agents deal with outdated technology. Even the best agents get frustrated if they’re wasting customers’ time (and their own) waiting for slow systems to load. To increase efficiency, implement cloud-based systems that unify your inbound, outbound, and internal messages. Cloud technology makes sharing customer data simpler, so your agents can be more productive and speedy with every customer interaction.
What’s more? Adding shortcuts and resources like call scripts gives your agents more time to focus on complicated customer issues. They don’t want to waste time typing the answers to the same 20 customer questions over and over.
4. Add automation to improve reliability
Automation helps contact centers adapt to surges in volume when things go haywire (here’s looking at you, 2020). Automating certain pieces of your customer journey helps your team keep up with customer demands. And, it brings a level of reliability that’s almost impossible to maintain with only human agents.
Add automation into your customer support with 24-hour chatbots or intelligent call routing systems. Customers can get reliable customer support at any hour, from anywhere, with automated items like these. Making simple service available with automated tools leaves your customers unbound by time zones and agent scheduling.
Use routing rules and defined triggers to curate bots to answer common customer issues, so customers can hop on your website after hours to get the answers they need. Automate your call routing system so customer calls are more accurate and interactions take less time.
Add automation to your coaching methods after each agent-customer interaction. Come up with pre-crafted lessons on topics you know your agents need help with, like how to find pertinent customer data or how to handle angry customers. Then, automate your system to send this feedback to agents in between customer interactions.
Automation can do wonders in alleviating long call queues and eliminating disorganized operations. Don’t fall back and outsource customer service without evaluating automation as an option for more efficiency, first.