Over the past year or so, we’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of companies in helping them enhance their customer service teams and put them on a more professional footing.
Whereas for the past decade, technical and customer support has been in the vanguard of outsourced services, we’ve observed an interesting counter phenomena which I thought I’d share with fellow business leaders and perhaps try to give some insight into a growing trend.
With the costs of intercontinental communication shrivelling to virtually nothing, phone and online customer services have historically migrated to wherever they can be managed most efficiently and cheaply. Even for Malta-based companies we have seen a considerable trend of outsourcing of this kind. It has in some cases been more of a “near shoring” nature, with locally based call centres and BPO organisations absorbing the customer service requirements of Malta-based companies in the main. Though some companies still outsourced the function to places as far afield as the Philippines.
We’re seeing a range of organisations taking back or indeed setting up their own in-house customer service teams, despite all the attractions of cheap, low cost, offshore options as well other local onshore options. I believe the term that was first coined a few years ago was “insourcing”.
Despite rising salaries and office space costs, a growing number of companies are hiring more people to handle their customer services. One clear example of this is the iGaming sector. We come across companies of all sizes and invariably one of the key areas that are set up first, is the customer (player) service team. One need only pick up the local newspapers or visit a recruitment site and the inevitable plethora jobs going for Swedish, German, French, Italian, Russian and other language speakers pop up.
Given that there are a number of BPO/Call centre companies located in Malta, I was curious and decided to ask a few people in the sector why they were going to the trouble of recruiting, housing and running their own customer service teams. The answers were diverse, so here are some of the key phrases that stuck in my mind:
“You only get one chance to provide good service to our kind of customer – get it wrong, you’ve lost them”
“Getting the customer service function set up right from day one, was imperative for us, no company likes taking chances with their reputation and service quality”
The above brought home the heightened sensitivity that companies have towards their customers. The unwillingness to put valuable customer relationships in the hands of someone invisible and possibly far away is understandable. Some managers told me that they simply didn’t want to take that kind of chance with their customers, especially in a sector where the competition is just a simple click or two away.
This is where a growing number of companies have brought us in – to help them rapidly and economically set up their customer support team or re-organise it in such a way, that the variety of customer service channels such as telephone, email, instant messaging and social media are centralised, rationalised and efficiently run. To do all this economically and quickly, one has to take advantage of the cloud – it’s an ideal and relatively low risk function to run using cloud based applications like Zendesk. To date our record for setting up a customer service system and getting the team operational is approximately 5 days. This is a record that’s hard to beat and certainly appeals to people who abhor costly and long IT projects of any kind.
Keeping in mind that for a number of organisations a multi-lingual and multi-brand setup is needed, this sort of project aligns itself well with the objectives of the “insourcing” trend. In addition to equipping the customer service team itself, these sort of solutions also come with a “customer self-service” component as well.
So hypothetically, even as half a million Filipino customer-service representatives urge callers to have a nice day, they may want to peer over their shoulders.
With these kind of possibilities, especially in scenarios of low capital outlay, the prospect of insourcing customer support is likely to prove tempting for many companies.
More so, since tools like Zendesk, like many other technologies, provide companies with the opportunity to leverage very small teams of customer agents to handle workloads that would have previously required much bigger teams – which in turn forced them to outsource.
And so the wheel turns! I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the subject of customer service and the challenges you face in your own organisations.