Use outsourced staff to your advantage.

It doesn’t take much time to recall a negative experience you’ve had with an outsourced customer service representative. I can think of plenty of my friends telling me about when they were on the phone with “Sam” in India for two hours to try and get their computer fixed.

From my experience as a consumer and a customer service professional, some of the reasons why outsourced representatives often deliver less than ideal customer service is because they:

  • Cannot effectively communicate in the language (English).
    • They may know the answer, but may not know how to communicate it.
    • The wording and sentence structure can be confusing.
  • Are difficult to understand, which is by itself, frustrating.
  • Are not empowered to do anything.

From what I can tell, outsourced representatives generally seem to know their stuff and also usually want to help. They take pride in their work and do want to help – many just have difficulties doing so.

So, how can use outsourced employees to your advantage? Here’s what I generally recommend to the companies I talk to:

Have them do back of the house things.
If the language is an issue, avoid it. People in India, the Philippines, and elsewhere can make great programmers, data processors, server administrators, and so on. They don’t necessarily have to deal with customers firsthand. It allows you to utilize the large, educated, and inexpensive labor pool without inconveniencing any customers.

Email support.
This is quite dependent on the person. I’ve dealt with people in India who can write very well in English, but still have a very thick accent. These types of people would be great for email or live chat support. Find the people on your teams who can write well, but maybe not speak as well. Then, assign them to email support.

Empower them.
People in India are just as smart, if not smarter than their counterparts in the US and Europe. Keep that in mind and empower the representatives. I find it ridiculous that American support representatives have more power to give credits, elevate calls, etc. than their counterparts overseas.

Work with them.
Outsourced representatives should be treated the same as any other employee. Include them on group emails, in project management systems, and so on. If they are kept in the loop and know they are valued, outsourced employees will be motivated to work harder.

Teach them.
Outsourced employees want to learn as much as anyone else. Offer coaching, mentoring, English classes, technical classes, have a library of useful books available, and so on. Teaching and training employees almost always pays off down the road.

What are your suggestions for effectively using outsourced employees?

One Response to “Use outsourced staff to your advantage.”

  1. Service Untitled » The Technical People Barrier? - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Mar 06, 08 at 9:07 pm

    […] One of the most unique challenges that was my mentioned at my workshop was this one: technical people don’t like interacting with customers. I think I laughed out loud when I read the suggestion (the person who suggested it was someone I knew from before the conference), but I then remembered just how true it is (in some situations). We’ve all seen the funny videos on YouTube and similar sites making fun of socially awkward customer service (especially technical support) representatives. They don’t know what to say or how to say it, but they do know their stuff technically. The question is: how do you get them to work with customers effectively? My usual suggestion for companies dealing socially unadjusted technical support representatives is to work with them in the same way that they would work with foreign customer service representatives. Because the foreign reps don’t usually speak English as a first language, it is often difficult for them to communicate and interact with American customers naturally. The basic premise is the same; neither group is good at interacting with customers for one reason or another. […]