Exceptional customer service plays an essential role in the success of any eCommerce business. This is even more true now that the voices of consumers are becoming more and more powerful, thanks to social media. They are aware of it and are interested in wielding their power. That’s one reason why outsourcing customer service makes more sense than ever.
Just one tweet about a bad customer experience can catch a reporter’s eye and put your company in the limelight. Even if the tweet doesn’t go viral, the negative impacts on your business can certainly still be felt.
If you’re running a startup or a small eCommerce business that doesn’t yet have the capacity to hire many employees, it’s easy to drop the ball on customer service. Sure, it’s possible to keep track of orders, shipments and inventory — but doing all that while also dealing with angry customers is a completely different beast.
In such situations, many business owners suffer from task-overload and end up compromising the quality of their service in an effort to just make sure everyone gets the right products.
This is why many eCommerce businesses are outsourcing customer service, which can help you provide customer service beyond your scale — especially if you’re still at the startup stage.
The importance of customer service to your eCommerce business
The ease of internet shopping and the deals consumers find online have continued to fortify and stabilize eCommerce.
According to Statistica, worldwide retail eCommerce sales hit $2.3 trillion in 2017, and are predicted to rise to $4.88 trillion in 2021.
Even within a booming market, competition is tough. An eCommerce business without exceptional customer service will be lucky to turn a profit, and even then, will most likely fail to justify the hours spent developing a process for it.
In a brick-and-mortar business, a customer can walk in, touch the products, and directly ask staff questions. There is a face-to-face opportunity to build trust and relationships with the consumer. That’s not a possibility when it comes to eCommerce. For online transactions, consumers have to heavily rely on visuals, product descriptions, feedback and customer service.
What’s even scarier than the possibility of dropping the ball with your customer service is not even knowing you’ve dropped the ball.
Customer strategist Esteban Kolsky explains that only one in 26 unhappy customers will complain; the rest will just leave. According to Kolsky’s study, 67 percent of customers point toward bad experiences as a reason for churn — also known as attrition, which is the failure of customers to provide repeat business.
Though only a quarter of unhappy customers will complain to you, that doesn’t mean they all won’t complain to their friends and others on social media networks. As it turns out, unhappy and angry customers are more likely to talk about their experience than happy customers. However, according to Glance, if the problem is resolved, 70 percent of unhappy customers are willing to continue doing business with the company.
Outsourcing customer service: Pros and cons
There are pros and cons to outsourcing customer service. In the earliest stages of your business, you might not have to weigh these pros and cons too carefully. However, as your eCommerce business grows — and you need to handle more orders, answer more emails, and be more connected to live-chat support — you will need to start looking at your options.
Pros: 5 reasons you’ll want to outsource customer service
Outsourcing customer service is cheaper than hiring full-time customer service personnel. And, when you’re just getting started, finding every way to cut your overhead costs is vital. Additionally, most companies offering customer service expertise to business owners are able to create packages to meet your needs and budget.
Another advantage of outsourcing is that it allows your business to better cater to consumers throughout the entire world by providing customer care in many languages.
Being able to tap into markets where English is not a first language — and provide excellent customer care for those clients — really opens your business’s doors for further growth.
Expert customer service companies already have the resources and technology at their fingertips to allow them to provide outstanding experiences for your clients. The multi-channel technology they can offer your business will allow consumers to contact them through email, social media platforms, call centers and live chat.
By outsourcing the work, you can avoid investing directly in such multi-channel systems, and instead direct your funds toward the core of your business.
Even if you do decide that investing in a multi-channel customer service program for your company is worth the money, there is still the issue of developing the skills necessary to use it properly.
Finally, when outsourcing customer service, there’s just less stress. If you’re honest with yourself, dealing with consumers can be taxing, especially if you have other business problems on your mind. By outsourcing customer service, you can take a big chunk of that stress and let someone else handle it.
Of course, you’ll still need to be regularly checking the performance of your customer service provider. The good news? By outsourcing customer service, you won’t have to be dealing directly with inquiries day in and day out.
Cons: 4 pitfalls of outsourcing customer service
One of the biggest downsides of outsourcing customer service is that it creates a disconnect from your brand and your brand image. Some companies simply won’t consider your branding strategy as part of the customer service they provide. This includes everything from how the company interacts with your clients to how they build those relationships. Because these interactions are how your customers perceive your brand, this can be a big issue.
By outsourcing, you can be forced to give up a lot of control with regards to important interactions between your brand and consumers.
Though there can be a lot of flexibility in terms of services offered if you decided to outsource customer service, the actual contract you sign might feel constraining. Most of the companies that provide the services you need will only entertain long-term contracts with minimum requirements, which might become a financial burden.
There is also the issue of quality. The third-party company you hire has its quality standards — and you have yours. If they align, that’s great. If they don’t, you’re setting yourself up for problems, as you can’t simply jump in every day and distribute tips on how to better serve your customers.
Lastly, there is the issue of data protection. Outsourcing customer service means you’ll be sharing potentially sensitive data with the company you hire. To protect your clients, carefully analyze your contract. Be sure that the company provides the necessary levels of data protection.
Best practices when outsourcing customer service
Before you outsource customer service, make sure you know what your company needs. Do you need access to multilingual or multi-channel customer services? If not, don’t add this to your package. There can be the temptation to get services with all the bells and whistles. But any extra features can quickly empty your bank account if they don’t properly support your company.
Once you’ve established exactly what you need, consider your options. Talk with multiple companies and see which ones have packages that fit your needs and budget. Then, talk to them about how much flexibility there is in communicating your brand through their services.
If you’ve narrowed down your options to just one or two companies, ask to see what the contract will look like. Then, analyze and understand your contract. Make sure it clearly explains how the company will ensure the safety of your customers’ data.
Remember, you are their customer, and they have a responsibility to keep you — their client — happy, just as you have the same responsibility to your clients.
Of course, once everything is up and running, you don’t get to leave all the customer service stuff to them. You need to remain involved, providing necessary training, as well as monitoring the process.
Is outsourcing customer service right for your eCommerce business?
The answer of whether you need to outsource customer service depends on a number of factors, including what responsibilities you already have on your plate, the current quality of your customer care, your customer service needs and your budget.
Though the final answer varies from company to company, many eCommerce businesses find that hiring a third-party service lessens the burden of dealing with consumer questions and allows them to focus on developing other aspects of the company.
No matter what, the key is to ensure that your clients are being given exemplary customer service. Failing to do so is a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot and cripple your business's potential.