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E-Commerce Customer Service: In-house or Contact Centre?

09.06.2021, 9m

As your online shop grows, you will eventually need help to take on customer service tasks. Should you hire your own team or outsource your customer service to a contact centre? In this article, you’ll learn about the advantages and disadvantages of both options. In addition, we’ll give you concrete tips on how you can find external customer services for your shop if necessary.

Content of this article:

☎️ What is a contact centre?

🏠 What is an in-house service?

⚖️ Customer service for your own online shop: In-house or Outsourcing?

💡 Tips on how to find a good contact centre

☎️ What is a contact centre?

According to a study by Microsoft Dynamics 365, 90% of consumers on a global level believe customer service is somewhat important to very important when it comes to choosing a brand. 

Since the coronavirus pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and led to an enormous growth in online orders, consumers are even more in need of customer care services. 

CRM (customer relationship management) services include services and interactions with customers. They usually make use of this kind of service with the aim of getting information or help on a certain product or service.

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In this article, we’ll mainly focus on contact centres, so let’s learn a bit more about this kind of service. 

You’ve probably already heard a lot about call centres, but what is the difference between a contact centre and a call centre? 

A call centre focuses on telephone contact only, whereas a contact centre also offers customer interactions via chat and/or e-mail.

What does a contact centre do?

Many people most certainly associate call and contact centres with annoying and disruptive calls in the evening. However, these kinds of marketing calls are a method of telemarketing and don’t have much to do with customer service centres! 

As their name also suggests, contact centres solely focus on customer service. They can either concentrate just on pure customer service tasks, but also offer services like technical support or even remote translation services.

🏠 What is an in-house customer service?

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In-house literally refers to customer service that is being operated directly in your own company. An in-house customer service is therefore carried out by your business’ employees.

If you’re currently taking care of all the customer care related tasks yourself, you’re however not running an in-house service. 

When talking about in-house customer service, we don't refer to an employee or secretary who only takes on various service tasks. Instead, we refer to someone whose full-time job position is about answering customer questions and/or providing technical support .

Recommended Reading:
E-Commerce Recruiting – When You Should Hire Your First Employee

⚖️ Customer service for your own business: In-house or contact centre?

What type of customer service is better? Unfortunately, this question cannot be easily answered. For every online business and online shop, the answer could be different. Therefore, let us now take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both options:

Staff & Employees

A nice benefit of outsourcing your customer service is the fact that you don't have to recruit staff yourself. This task is handed over to the contact centre!

The disadvantage, however, is that you most probably won’t know who the responsible person(s) for customer care matters for your shop is.

On the other hand, you don't have to worry about employees being absent due to illness or resignation - the contact centre has to always provide customer service for your shop.

In addition, if necessary, you can either request more staff in the contact centre for your online shop or cut back if you receive less orders or inquiries.

Training

One of the benefits of outsourcing customer service is the fact that you only have to train the respective customer service employees once and then the further training is taken over by a responsible trainer in the contact centre. 

The disadvantage is that you cannot check or control whether the trainers are communicating everything appropriately to the staff. 

Connection with the company

Another disadvantage of outsourcing is the lack of bond or tie that the staff has with your company. The staff is not your staff, but rather the contact centre’s. 

This can lead to employees feeling less responsible for what is happening with customers and they might feel less connected to your customers. 

For example, if your strategy is to ask the customer to wait a few more days for a package that hasn’t arrived yet, the contact centre staff may send the package again before the waiting time is over. 

After all, the most important thing for customer service staff is that customers recommend the shop and the service to others. In addition, the speed of processing orders often plays a major role at contact centres as they prefer to deal with as many other enquiries as possible, instead of focussing on one particular customer. In other words, quantity is often valued over quality.

Quality

According to contact centres, the quality of their customer service is better than the one offered at in-house services. The reason for this is that the manager of a team is responsible for fulfilling the agreements you have made with the contact centre. 

For example: what NPS should the employee have? How long do customers wait before their inquiries are being addressed? 

The manager is also responsible for coaching the employees. Especially if they have grown from customer service agent to manager within the same project, you see an improved quality here.

However, it is true that you have to look critically at the quality aspect. If the contact centre’s employees decide to send gifts, refund money, etc. to customers, they will most probably be satisfied. For your company, on the other hand, this strategy may not be the best way to go. Furthermore, the manager might not always be completely honest with you and customers and may try to paint a rosy picture because you won’t be able to verify what they claim.

Recommended Reading:
Why are Customer Reviews so Important for Your Online Shop?

Feedback

A disadvantage of a contact centre is that you often don’t receive any direct feedback about your company. A customer service agent may speak to as many as 50 customers in a day and the feedback that individual customers give about your business is forgotten and usually not passed on to you. 

If you hire a contact centre, it is therefore important to ensure that the feedback the agents receive actually reaches you and your company. As a company, you want to hear both the positive as well as the negative feedback, because that's what you learn from the most, right? 

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Costs

A contact centre is generally more expensive than providing an in-house service. After all, the centre is also a company that needs to earn money, whereas the in-house customer service is only an expense for you. 

You need to ask yourself whether the expertise of a contact centre outweighs the amount of money you have to pay for it.

Personal connection

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For all options (in-house, outsourcing or a combination of both), it’s important to always build a personal relationship with the employees. 

This may be easier for in-house since it’s more probable you’d work in the same location as the customer service team. With outsourcing, however, it takes extra energy and effort to actually meet the responsible customer service agents for your company. 

If you’ve decided on a hybrid combination of both options, it is especially important that the contact centre employees don’t feel any less valued than the in-house employees. 

Share some cake and get to know them - this will help you establish a personal connection with your employees! Remember, they are the ones that are in direct contact with your customers.

Recommended Reading:
How to Personalise Your Customer Journey in the Digital Age

💡 Tips: How to find a good contact centre

Let’s assume you’ve decided on using a contact centre after all. How should you proceed when trying to find a suitable contact centre for your online shop?

It’s difficult to choose a contact centre when there are so many. We cannot advise which one is the best, since each and every contact centre has its own advantages and specialties. 

For this reason, we’d rather show you which aspects you should consider when making your choice. 

Size

There are many contact centres around the world and some vary greatly in size. Some have locations with more than 20,000 employees, while others have only 30.

Location

It is good to know that in addition to many contact centres in Europe, there are also many abroad that recruit English-speaking staff.

 

Contact centres abroad have the advantage that they are often cheaper. Another advantage is that the staff abroad are often full-time employees. We will come back to why this is an advantage later on.

Who works in the contact centre?

Ask the contact centre about the profile of the average employee. Is the average age rather high or low?

Age can actually affect your customer service. If you sell mostly trendy products in your shop, a contact centre with rather young employees may be the better fit for you. However, if you sell ‘standard’ products, a higher age may be more desirable.

Recommended Reading:
Generation Z – How to Reach Tomorrow's Shoppers Today

Also, think about what the staff might need to be able to do. If you want support for your app, young people will most probably be able to understand how your app works faster and offer better support.

The older generation on the other hand, may have more life experience and therefore be able to help better if you have customers who need expertise on particular products.

Full-time vs. part-time staff employees

Are the employees mainly full-time or part-time workers? This is also something you should find out before making your choice.

The advantage of a full-time staff is that they may remember the training instructions better, have a better work rhythm, and be more aware of the different processes and up-to-date on recent changes. 

The disadvantage of a full-time staff, on the other hand, is that too much routine can creep in and the staff may not review new procedures or be motivated to find a different solution for the client.

Data protection

The agents of an e-commerce customer service team will need to see a lot of customer data in order to help customers out. However, this way employees know exactly what a customer has bought, which payment method was used, what the address is, and other customer data is also accessible. 


Get the GDPR checklistWant to read more on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)? Check out our free checklist:


Keep in mind: data protection is very important for customers!

Contact centres therefore often have strict clean desk policies. There are also certifications for this. One well-known certificate, for example, is the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards). It is important that your chosen contact centre complies with certain guidelines, so make sure you checked that they can provide this certification.

Ask around

Look up as many contact centres as possible and do as much research as you can.. 

Contact them directly and ask for as much information as possible: What can they do for you and your company? Who are the employees? What does the company do for its employees?

The latter might be underestimated, but it is actually very important! Working in customer service can be very boring (I speak from experience), so it’s the manager’s and the company’s responsibility to make the work atmosphere in the centre as enjoyable as possible. 

🔄 Conclusion

In-house customer service and outsourced contact centre service both offer different advantages and disadvantages. On this topic, the most important thing is to carefully consider what the most logical and the most profitable option is for your business.

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This article was originally published and adapted from our Dutch blog: Klantenservice: zelf doen of uitbesteden? (+tips: vind een callcentre)