The Oxford English Dictionary defines a misconception as, “a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding” and a myth as, “a widely held but false belief or idea.”
If you’ve spent more than a few minutes looking into outsourcing technical support then you’ve likely encountered enough myths and misconceptions to fill a story book.
We’d like to dispel five of the most common misconceptions or myths that we see time and time again.
Myth #1: You should hire the cheapest vendor you find
Very rarely! Choosing the lowest cost provider only works if you are buying a commodity, and everybody’s product is exactly the same. But even in that case, you may be sacrificing flexibility, delivery time and customer service.
Most products are not commodities, and competitive products are not the same. Certain products may focus on extra features while others prioritize ease of use. Some have better reliability records than others, and will likely last longer. Some companies have a better reputation for support.
Now suppose you are buying a service like technical support. Does every firm staff the exact same kind of people? Do they understand your market and your customers? Will they customize their procedures to work with you and your internal system, for record keeping and data exchange purposes? What is the quality of the interaction with your customers? Can you listen in, or hear the phone calls? What happens if you don’t like what you hear from a particular agent? Does the price include all channels, such as phone, email and chat? Do they support a self-help platform for customers to help you reduce unnecessary costs?
Everyone may say that they are providing “technical support”, but they are likely defining the service in different ways. There are lots of differentiators between vendors other than cost.
Myth #2: Outsourcing means losing control
Hopefully not! When you outsource technical support or customer service, the objective is to rely on your vendor to handle the staffing, training, supervision of agents, and answering of calls. You are outsourcing the work, not giving up control over quality.
Make sure you can effectively supervise whatever vendor you choose. Before deciding, make sure you can see the records of the tech support incidents in real time, and that you can listen to the phone calls. Ask for regular reports, or better yet, if they can integrate with your existing CRM.
Find out who will be in charge of your accounts. If this is your primary contact, find out what their experience is with similar accounts. Are they available to go over incidents and answer any questions that you have? Do they seem like someone you can work with? Ask them how they will handle it when you give them feedback and show them they are not handling certain calls correctly.
You should have more control with a good quality vendor, not less. If not, consider finding a new vendor.
Myth #3: Dedicated agents provide the most cost effective support
Rarely! If you don’t have a large volume, dedicated agents are typically your most expensive, least flexible solution. Unless you require highly trained engineers to deal with enterprise level products, a shared solution almost always gives you better performance and more flexibility.
You need a consistent flow of calls in double digits most hours to even begin considering dedicated agents. Remember, you can’t implement dedicated agents without at least two agents every shift, and three is much more realistic. Sixteen hours a day coverage, five days per week, and even if you are paying only two agents $20/ hour, your basic cost per year, without overhead and managerial costs, amounts to over $160,000 per year.
That assumes you are doing it in house. Any domestic outsourcing company will charge you far more than $20/hour. The costs add up quickly.
Unless volumes are very large and consistent, or extremely technical, most situations can be handled better by a shared agent model.
Myth #4: Cost is the only reason to outsource
Cost is one reason to outsource, but not the best reason. The best reason for outsourcing is so that you can concentrate on your core competencies. If you create or publish software, you should concentrate on that, and let experts handle customer contact.
Building a dedicated internal team has its challenges. You need software for record keeping and reporting, and you need a phone system with many specialized features, such as queuing, so callers can wait for the next available agent, instead of going right to voice mail.
Then you need to hire and train the people: good communicators who also have decent technical skills. When supporting internally, technical support is often left to programmers or sales reps, neither of which is ideally suited to the task.
You also need the ability to scale quickly with changes in demand. Time spent to implement all this and hire the necessary talent is time you are not spending making your business better.
Myth #5: Outsourcing means Offshoring
No, it doesn’t. This is one of the most widely held misconceptions out there. Outsourcing is a very common business practice in the United States, and it usually doesn’t involve working with vendors in another country.
Hudson Software, for example, provides Technical Support and Customer Service functions for other companies. We are located in the United States. When a company hires us, they are outsourcing. While cost is a concern, most of our tech support customers are also motivated by a desire to focus on core business strengths, and outsource other functions.
Offshoring explicitly refers to getting work done in a different country. It is nearly always a financial decision, taking advantage of wage differences in less developed parts of the world.
Separating fact from fiction
With so many myths, misconceptions, and fables out there, it may seem difficult to separate fact from fiction. The best way forward is to ask questions, and look for answers not fables. As they say, the truth is out there.