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David S. Carlson
Although the number of organizations who outsource their support has seen a slight decline, it’s still a cost-effective and valuable way to scale and supplement your support department. Based on the results of TSIA’s Support Services Benchmark survey, we’ve uncovered several benefits to outsourcing that can have a significant positive impact on the quality of support organizations can provide. However, outsourcing can also present some common issues that you should be wary of. In this post, I’m going to share some of the top outsourcing mistakes you should look out for and avoid making.
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Source: TSIA Support Services Benchmark
Source: TSIA Support Services Benchmark
First, I’d like to touch on just some of the many reasons why outsourcing can be beneficial to your company. Our survey results showed that 62% of technology support providers currently outsource. While the choice to utilize an outsourcer can be difficult, you’ll find that in the end it will open up new ways to manage growth and scale your support operation. Here are a few of those benefits:
It’s true that the biggest cost to an organization’s bottom line is headcount. Outsourcing tends to be less expensive, as their overhead is spread over multiple clients, allowing organizations to spend less on the same resource. Equipment and training costs are also reduced as a result of outsourcing.
62% of technology support providers outsource.
While the outsource partner will provide the support coverage an organization needs, most larger outsourcers tend to have operations that run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. These services allow you to maintain or expand your hours of support coverage and provide follow-the-sun support. The right outsource partner will also allow you to ramp up quickly for seasonal or unplanned spikes in case volume.
Outsourcing tends to absorb the lower-priority, easier-to-handle yet time-consuming Level 1 activities that normally eat away at an engineer’s time. This allows your in-house staff to focus on the more important and difficult issues they were hired to handle, making them more productive.
That said, to ensure that your support organization continues to provide customers with the most positive outcomes, TSIA has identified a few common mistakes to avoid when implementing an outsourced support solution:
While cost savings is arguably the major reason to outsource, it’s easy to fall into the trap of picking the least expensive bid in order to save the biggest buck. Unfortunately, this can sometimes translate to poor quality hires and systems, which in turn creates a negative experience for your customers. From language barriers to lack of product knowledge, if your customers come away from their support experience frustrated, that’s a big problem for your company.
If you’re working with a limited outsourcing budget, this mistake can still be avoided if you are proactive in understanding what the customer experience will be with your chosen outsourcing partner. Once you’ve identified your partner, it is a good idea to start with a small group of engineers from the outsourcer instead of sending every case to them all at once. This small subset of cases will allow you to determine what training, knowledge transfer, and so forth will be needed to make the transition to this outsourcer successful, and keep tabs on the customer experience they’re providing.
The contract you have with your outsource provider is there to make sure the level of service paid for is what is provided. However, many companies tend to sign the contract and forget it without having resources to manage the contract and the relationship.
This is why it’s always wise to be involved in every step of the hiring process. While your outsource partner has to manage the hiring process, your organization can still have a hand in defining the criteria, such as level of technical skills, pre-employment tests, etc.
It’s also a good practice to staff a company resource at the outsourcer. This badged employee, either full-time or part-time, can help bridge communication between the two organizations, which also allows the outsource partner to be more engaged with your company and get a sense of ownership for the work they do for you.
While your partner might have their own policies and procedures for the same processes, if your company and your partner are not on the same page, the customer experience will suffer.
Companies tend to write policies and procedures for internal staff but do not provide them to the outsource partner. While your partner might have their own policies and procedures for the same processes, if your company and your partner are not on the same page, the customer experience will suffer.
A way to combat this is to train your outsource staff as if they were badged employees. While one of the cost reduction benefits of outsourcing is not having to absorb training costs, the organization should still have a hand in the training and make sure the outsource staff is as up to date on changes to your product as your internal staff. Make sure the same training that occurs internally also happens at the outsource partner to ensure the customer receives the same experience from both internal and external support resources.
As part of TSIA’s Support Services research initiatives, we’re constantly running industry surveys and doing deep-dive research on the most current practices in outsourcing. You can read about our recent findings in my report, “Outsourcing Support Trends.” I also encourage you to contact us to learn more about how a TSIA Support Services membership can help your support organization stay on top of its game and keep current with industry standards.
Post Date: June 20, 2017
David S. Carlson is the former director of support services research for TSIA. In this role, he worked closely with TSIA members to help them achieve their support-oriented goals and transform them into world-class support services organizations.
David has a Bachelor of Science degree from National-Louis University and is Lean Six Sigma Green Belt trained. Throughout his over 30 years in the industry, he’s held various leadership roles in both customer services and support organizations in the areas of Support Operations, Support Talent Optimization, and Support Quality Assurance.
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The Technology & Services Industry Association (TSIA) is dedicated to helping technology and services organizations large and small grow and advance in the technology industry. Find out how you can achieve success, too. Call us at (858) 674-5491 or we can call you.