How to Approach Customer Support Outsourcing

Businesses continually try to find a balance between maintaining costs and providing quality care to customers. Customer support outsourcing can be a cost-effective way to cut costs and manage company growth.  Employees and resources can instead be applied to functions geared to output and efficiency. For this type of outsourcing to be successful, it is important to understand what it involves and the things to look for.

Advantages of customer support outsourcing
Customer support functions of any business in customer service can be time consuming and labor intensive. Complaints and routine inquiries require research of the issue in question and trying to resolve problems while maintaining professionalism. Certain times of the day may also experience high volumes of requests for support. By outsourcing this function, employees can focus on core functions of the business. It can help maintain productivity by concentrating time and resources on what the business is set up to do.

Outsourcing saves money in terms of salaries and training costs. By outsourcing, there is less overhead for the business as customer service is not done in-house. Money does not need to be spent on expensive costs of training programs for of new and existing employees.

Outsourcing can bring 24-hour service coverage in customer support functions. Contract firms that specialize in these services often have employees work in shifts around the clock to be available to handle customer needs. Businesses do not need to worry about staffing needs. If done in other countries, salary considerations like shift differential may not be an issue.

For firms that need to provide customer support but only on an irregular basis or at low volume, outsourcing can be ideal. They do not have to pay for employees who will have nothing to do in some periods but be overwhelmed in others.

Customer support outsourcing also gives the benefit of language. If services are outsourced to Latin American countries, services can be provided to bilingual or Spanish speaking individuals in the U.S. English is spoken primarily in India and the Philippines. Outsourcing services can be used there providing English speaking staff at a lower rate of pay. However, part of the outsourcing process will be ensuring those who will be answering the phone are highly proficient in the language.

Disadvantages of customer support outsourcing
Proper customer support often requires detailed knowledge of a company and its products. When outsourcing, it is difficult to train employees in this knowledge. There is also the fact that they will have no loyalty to the firm they are answering calls for.

To make sure the vendor is doing the job properly, time and resources will need to be devoted to monitoring their work.

Choosing an outsource firm and avoiding problems
There are steps that can be taken to choose the right firm and avoid problems. These are your customers and how they are dealt with reflects on your company. The way customers are treated can either enhance dissatisfaction or ensure repeat business. It is the only human contact many customers will have with a company and must be done properly.

It is important to look for a firm that is familiar with your industry. Check if the outsourcing companies have worked with similar businesses to yours. See if they specialize in your area of business, or if they provide general customer support services. Have someone in command of the outsourcing account who can handle a smooth transition of services.

Good customer service requires the right technology. Make sure the outsourcing firm has the proper technology infrastructure and software.

When setting up a program for customer support outsourcing, review the reporting standards of firms to see how they handle inquiries. Companies should have ways to track data and calls. Check to see the format they use and if it conforms to your needs and specifications. It is also important to know exactly where the calls will be handled.

When contracting with an outside firm, it is vital to set up a way you can independently monitor calls and service to customers. Customer service is an important aspect of any business, and there is less control when an outside party handles it. It is necessary to have access to information to include recorded calls, time spent on calls, number of customers served per day and any other data that can help evaluate the services provided. Arrangements should be made in advance with both parties prior to finalizing contracts.

To reduce the risk of the vendor taking secrets to another company, sign a non-disclosure agreement. Know what percent of that vendor’s business will be with your company and their financial health.

In addition, refuse any offer by outsourcing companies to set up their own in-house number for your business. Keeping your own number will make it possible to change companies at any time should the need arise.

Scripts for how to greet customers will need to be developed for outside firms that will best reflect your business and services. Staff should be trained specifically for your company’s needs. If possible, review the turnover of firms that you may work with. Places with high turnover may be continually dealing with new employees who cannot offer the best service due to lack of experience.

Essential Tips for Doing Business in China

There are various aspects to doing business in China. From getting around to conducting business negotiations, the following points can help those doing operations there carry them out in the most efficient manner possible.

Accommodation
China is still a developing country in many ways, and those traveling there cannot make the same assumptions as they would in nations with higher levels of income. This is especially true with hotels. Maintenance can be spotty, and sometimes basic amenities like hot water will not work. In other cases, windows that do not shut properly or noisy karaoke rooms may be a real nuisance.

To avoid problems, try to choose newer hotels, since they are much more likely to be in good condition. Inspect rooms before checking in to make sure they are up to standard. If visiting a factory or other company, they will likely help find accommodations, but they may simply book the nicest and most expensive place without negotiating the price. Make sure the hotel is near transportation and any needed services.

Be wary of offers for special massages since they are often fronts for prostitution, which is illegal in China and can get a foreigner into lots of trouble.

Transportation
When booking domestic airline reservations, it is better to use a Chinese website that offers service in English, since they will show more flights than an outside site such as Expedia. Sites to include http://www.elong.net can be used to find both airline tickets and hotels. Remember that airline ticket prices are usually set and waiting for the price to come down will not work.

Trains are a good option if they are available. If not, buses can be used with many point-to-point routes between cities and other places.

If using taxis, make sure the driver turns on the meter, and that it is working before getting started. A taxi called by the hotel will likely cost much more than one flagged down on the street. Since the taxi driver will probably not understand English, having a phone number of someone at the destination can be useful.

Whenever using any form of transportation, having someone write down the destination in Chinese is always a very wise move that can potentially save a lot of trouble.

Keep in mind that tipping is not a custom and not expected. In addition, a service charge is already included in the bill in most upper-end establishments.

Another traveling tip is to only use official money changers and beware of fake exchange bills at airports.

Tips for doing business in China

Communication
The first major obstacle to doing proper business in China is the language barrier. Remember that reading, speaking and understanding English are all different skills. Just because someone can read most English and make themselves understood in the written word does not mean they will be ok in conversation. In general, the English proficiency is not very high in China. Be sure to speak slowly and clearly and pause between sentences. They are making the attempt to understand a foreign language, so be understanding.

Chinese generally do not like to say “no” directly and will often just nod and say “yes” (sometimes simply because they do not understand what has been said). Look for indirect hints that something is not acceptable.

If using the services of an interpreter, make sure that interpreter is familiar with the business terms that will be used.

In addition, be careful with written communication. Write in a way that is easy to understand while being detailed and accurate since Chinese put great emphasis on these details. Remember that credibility can be shaken if mistakes are made, not to mention the other potential problems that may occur.

Saving face
Maintaining personal honor is very important in China and other Asian societies so doing and saying things that will make the other side lose face must be avoided. Be careful of saying critical things too directly and in front of others.

While it is necessary to be firm at the appropriate times, it is often not wise to push for an instant decision. Be prepared to walk away.

Connections and delegating
Personal connections and relationships (quanxi) mean more in China than in Western countries, and the importance of building and having them cannot be overestimated. Work to cultivate these connections. At the same time, be wary of delegating too much to a partner in China. There are many stories of businesses losing to partners they put excessive trust in. Still, having a local representative is very important for many forms of business.

Verifying
Do not rely too much on documentation offered by a potential supplier as proof of their legitimacy. Look for outside verification. If visiting their facilities, look at size, level of activity, movement of materials, etc. In addition, try to visit more than once.

Talk to as many people as possible, including their competitors.

Entertainment
Chinese business contacts generally feel it is their responsibility to keep clients entertained during their entire visits and will plan dinners and events. They will often try to feed their guests until they cannot eat anymore and keep their glasses full of drink at all times. It can be hard to break away, but this is often were deals are made.

This is also part of building relationships. Chinese will usually expect initial contacts to be more small talk about weather and the like that gradually builds up to more serious business negotiations.

With its increasing dealings with the outside world, doing business in China is not as different as it used to be. Chinese businessmen are becoming more familiar with Western business practices. However, there still are differences to keep in mind.