3.6.08

Outsourcing Help Desk Operations

To paraphrase a recent question from the LinkedIn Outsourcing forum:

Does outsourcing Help Desk Operations help or hurt the customer experience?

My answer to this either / or question is "yes."

I recently had the opportunity to address this problem in practice, and I laid out a back-of-the-napkin strategy for outsourcing an enterprise's help desk operations.

There were three key points of the strategy.

  • The first was to apply the "Pareto principle" and find the 20% of technical issues that resulted in 80% of the calls. Those would be delivered as "canned answers" on which the new offshore staff could be trained.
  • The second point was to build a well designed, well documented and well tested escalation mechanism back to the retained staff, to handle the other 20% of the calls. This is classic "Level 1 - Level 2/3" technical or customer support.
  • The final and most critical element of the strategy was to put a feedback mechanism in place that allowed users (i.e. customers) to rate their experience. I firmly believe that customer feedback is critical in operations like this.

    Ask your customers if they are happy with the transaction! If they couldn't understand the person on the other end of the phone, you need to know that. Then you need to do something about it. And lastly you need to let your customers know that you listen, and that you take corrective action if and when they point out a problem.
(I'll add the caveat that the customer is not ALWAYS right... This article provides a great (and very unconventional) riff on the old chestnut "the customer is always right.")

If you do these three things, you'll probably have no significant long-term change in your customer satisfaction. In some instances, simply by putting some process in place, and providing a feedback mechanism, you'll produce a slightly better customer experience. That's the help part of my answer. Simply by preparing to outsource, and managing it professionally, you'll tighten up that part of your business, and put metrics and targets in place for customer satisfaction.

If you fail to do at minimum these three things, you'll put your customers through hell, and they will suffer and view your efforts as "cheap" rather than "good." That's the hurt part of my answer above.

The feedback loop is the most important of these steps. No matter what business you're in, I'm betting that Customer Satisfaction is core to your business. As a general rule, you don't want to source away core business functions. If you fail to do these three things, your customer satisfaction will be in the hands of your outsourced service provider -- your vendor. That's dangerous...

So routinize your responses, test your escalation system, and sample your customers... If you give them a way to complain about bad service, they will feel like they're part of the solution, not simply victimized by the problem.


1 comment:

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