Have you ever tried to outsource eCommerce customer service? If you have, then chances are you did not have a great experience. If you fared well, then you are fortunate enough to be in the minority. Customer service is a challenging area to hire for, even when you’re doing it in-house. When you outsource eCommerce customer service, it gets more complicated.
1. Plan and Think Ahead
There’s a lot to think about before bringing in an outside entity to handle a task in your business. This can be especially true for a business operation like customer service. Customer service does require in-depth knowledge about your business and industry. When you outsource eCommerce customer service, the agents you hire must also adhere to your business ideals and values. We cannot stress the importance of careful, thoughtful planning enough when building a customer service team.
List Out Tasks
Create a comprehensive and clear list of tasks and responsibilities that you want outsourced. If you want certain tasks done a specific way, you need to communicate that and make sure that hires are flexible to adhere to that.
Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs are essentially a list of standardized procedures and guidelines. These serve multiple purposes.
One of the main goals of SOPs is to introduce structure when performing certain tasks for a project or for business operations as a whole. When you outsource eCommerce customer service, you want SOPs to guide that process.
SOPs are also a form of quality control. They make it so that any product sold or service rendered is delivered consistently every time. This involves all the interactions that happen between employees and departments as well as customer interactions. You can think of SOPs as a kind of instruction manual for business operations.
SOPs make internal collaboration and communication so much smoother. Teams won’t have to always double-check with their superiors or with other departments on tasks when there is a standardized procedure for it.
SOPs can be particularly helpful when you outsource eCommerce customer service. For one, an outsourced team might have their own default procedures that they follow. There are cases where some of these procedures may be more streamlined or an improved version of yours. However, if you want to make sure they do everything based on your own set of standardized rules, SOPs make sure you stay on the same page.
Another thing to consider is that an outsourced team needs to learn how you operate. Standard operating procedures can help make the onboarding process so much easier. You can save time on multiple meetings and back and forth emails confirming whether certain actions should be taken. This means that they can also get started much faster and be more productive.
When you have these kinds of guidelines in place, business tends to go smoother. You can increase the efficiency of processes and lower the risk of miscommunication and other potential errors that could occur.
2. Build Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Key Performance Indicators are defined as measurable goals that companies use to gauge how effective they are at achieving a key business objective.
You can sort KPIs into two categories: high level KPIs and low level KPIs.
High-level KPIs have to do with larger overarching business goals. For instance, if you want to sell 10,000 products in a year, a KPI could be to reach 2,500 conversions in a three-month period.
Low-level KPIs have to do with smaller sections of a business, like specific departments. You can also track them on an individual worker basis. For a customer service department, a KPI could be to achieve a 90% and over customer satisfaction score.
KPI Best Practices:
- Make sure they are in line with your overarching business objective. Think of them as milestones towards a much bigger achievement.
- Your KPIs need to be clear and measurable. When you set vague KPIs, or KPIs that are already obvious, you raise more questions than answers. For instance, if you want your customer retention rate to remain high, you can’t just put your KPI as “Make them happier”. You need to think about what areas of customer satisfaction needs improvement. So instead, you could define your KPI as “Improve email response times to below 20 hrs.”
- They need to be realistic. It’s good to be ambitious but you need to make sure you aren’t biting off more than you can chew. Trying to force an unrealistic KPI can leave your team exhausted and unenthusiastic. Especially when you outsource eCommerce customer service, this can generally lower morale in an already isolated group that now can’t reach the goal.
- Just as KPIs are milestones to bigger objectives, they are also made up of smaller, bite-sized steps and metrics. Keep it measurable and actionable.
3. Hire People with Experience
The last thing you want is to outsource eCommerce customer service to someone who doesn’t have the necessary know-how. That’s where some of the hesitancy to outsource comes from. There are horror stories of inexperienced teams or individuals causing companies more problems than they solved. This has, unfortunately, tainted the reputation of the practice of outsourcing as a whole.
However, it is likely that these companies who have had negative outsourcing experiences may have benefitted from knowing the right channels or platforms to hire from.
Here are some things you should look out for as general guidelines when hiring from an agency or from freelance marketplaces:
- Check to see if the agency or marketplace vets applicants before allowing them onto their platform to serve clients.
- Review applicants’ histories to see verifiable evidence and results of their completed projects.
- Check their education level and work experience. While higher education doesn’t necessarily mean better results, this is usually the safer route.
- If you hire from a freelance marketplace, most of them have the ability for clients to review the ones they hire after a project is complete. Some less experienced individuals may have collected more high ratings than one who went to school for years. Checking the ratings will keep you from passing up an opportunity to work with a talented individual or team.
For some agencies, they display their client reviews on the front page of their website. They recognize how important these reviews are for the reputation of the agency as a whole. It’s common behavior for clients to be more inclined to purchase a product or service that has been tried and tested true.
- Check turnover rates and if they provide guarantees to set you up with a new hire if the first one doesn’t work out. Some marketplaces offer to pay for any applicable fees associated with the turnover process.
4. Get Customer Feedback and Ideas
At the end of the day, you need to outsource eCommerce customer service to a team you trust. The only ones who will be interacting with them more than you are your customers. Make use of these multiple unique touchpoints. Don’t waste the useful data you can get from customers regarding how good or bad your support services are. Give them the option to review customer service as a whole and even ask them to rate specific areas of the service to get more pointed responses. Encourage them to make suggestions regarding how you can serve them better. Scrutinize their answers and carefully select the ones that are constructive and that you can consistently deliver on.
Ultimately, your goal should be to make sure your customers remain satisfied and feel cared for. A customer that is cared for is a customer that is more likely to purchase from you again and have a higher customer lifetime value. They will not only stay loyal to your brand, but they will also endorse your business to their friends and family members.
5. Be Consistent and Provide a Good Post Purchase Experience
Good customer service means being reliable. The more consistent you are with response times and with the quality of your responses, the more satisfied customers will be.
Customer service that offers fewer features but more consistency will always be better than a jam-packed service that can’t deliver well on the basics.
It is also important to remember that customer journeys do not end as soon as they complete a purchase. You still have to maintain good customer service in case they have a complaint about the product or they want to return the item. This shows that you care more about the customer than about what you can gain from them.
There’s a lot of thought that goes into outsourcing customer service. It’s more than just making sure you hire someone who is skilled, experienced, and reliable from a reputable marketplace or agency. You also need to plan ahead and make sure you are prepared to onboard and transition them into the job as smoothly as possible. Once part of your team, the success of your partnership will rely on your ability to communicate effectively and stay aligned on how business tasks are performed. Partner with an individual or team that knows the space, cares about your business and your customers. and will help you achieve your business goals.