As your business grows, affording your customers the attention and care they deserve becomes a tougher task. You don’t have the luxury of customer service agents that larger companies enjoy, but at the same time, your good reputation depends on a high degree of service. Building customer relationships is critical, but how can you find the time? The good news is that customer service doesn’t have to get left on the shelf while you focus on improving and growing your business operation. Customer service outsourcing can be affordable and in many cases, can actually improve your performance.
After all, customer service is not everyone’s forte, but that shouldn’t stop you from running a business where customers come first.
Using Virtual Assistants for Customer Service
For larger organisations, outsourcing customer service might mean contracting with a specialised BPO company, with its own call center and an entire team to serve as the sole customer interface. If yours is a smaller business or a startup though, outsourcing on such a scale is not likely to be practical or necessary. Instead you can outsource your customer service duties to one or more virtual assistants, ideally through a company that can provide you with the necessary resources on demand, scaling manpower up and down as required. This method of outsourcing is as simple as finding a virtual assistant provider with a reputation for good customer service, then creating some workflows to outsource. You decide which customer service or relationship-building tasks to hand over, instruct and familiarise your appointed virtual assistant/s as to the protocols and approach to be followed, then let your remote customer service department get started.
Customer Service Tasks to Outsource
Of course, if you feel a little wary about handing your customer service responsibilities over to an external resource, especially one based overseas, you might wish to start with a few straightforward tasks and then outsource more activities as your confidence (and that of your VA/s) grows. The following are some suggested tasks to let your VA take on. These activities all cost you time and money to take care of in-house, tying the hands of your core business team and preventing them from concentrating on business-development activities. Once you outsource these customer service tasks, the value of doing so will become apparent in the amount of time gained by your team. In fact, you may wish you had thought about outsourcing much sooner:
Customer service email communication:
Email management is a classic devourer of time. Hand over your customer service email duties to your VA by setting up a customer service email account and providing him/her with the necessary access. Be sure to set guidelines as to which types of communication your VA should respond to and which ones should be immediately forwarded for the attention of your internal team.
Customer service phone traffic/voicemails:
A virtual assistant can intercept all the phone calls that come in on your customer service phone line. With a little training, he or she will be able to provide appropriate responses to many of the calls, but you can specify that certain calls are transferred to your team to handle. If there are certain times when the phone line is unmanned, you can capture messages by voicemail and have your VA check and respond to them.
Add a little extra customer care:
When you engage a virtual assistant provider, you can enhance your ability to provide great customer service and to build relationships. A VA can perform relationship-building tasks which you and your team might otherwise have no time for. You can have your VA make follow-up contact with your customers after a sale or when your company has resolved a customer complaint. Your VA can also send out promotional information to customers via email and can even send greetings on customers’ birthdays or other special dates, provided you capture the necessary information through your business information systems. These extra touches help to make the difference between the perception of ordinary and exemplary customer service and will both help you retain customers and perhaps increase the amount of referral business you receive.
Great Customer Service Needn’t Cost the Earth
It doesn’t have to be expensive to outsource your customer service activities to a provider of virtual assistants. If you choose a provider with resources in overseas, English-speaking countries such as the Philippines, you’ll find the rate to be extremely affordable. Incidentally, the Philippines is a country with a great customer service reputation, which is why so many Western BPO organisations have based their operations there. You’ll find there is plenty of Philippines-based VAs and VA providers too, all of whom provide their services at a fraction of what you’d pay a domestic freelancer or VA company. If you hadn’t thought about outsourcing your customer service, why not give it a try. Start off small and see how things go.