The risks of live chat outsourcing

Live chat outsourcing seems gloriously convenient. On the surface, it promises that golden offering of extended support hours, without extra employee strain. By assigning your live chat customer service to an external vendor, you can take a step back and give your team one less thing to worry about.

Unfortunately, this lack of worry may be short-lived. While live chat outsourcing is an easy option, it comes with business-critical risks. Placing your chat sessions with outsourced agents means placing customer care outside your direct control. And that’s a dangerous dice to roll.

So, before you take the leap, here are some of the biggest risks of live chat outsourcing to bear in mind.

 

Why you might be tempted by live chat outsourcing

To start, it’s important to understand the outsourcing temptation. When done correctly, handing over certain elements of your customer service can benefit your business – live chat outsourcing included.

For example, outsourcing means that you could answer the need for support in different time zones by having human support available 24/7. Outsourced agents that monitor your chats will be specifically trained in offering customer support via live chat software, which can mean a slick chat experience for your customers. There’s no need to train your staff on a new system, and no need to reallocate internal resources.

Plus, some live chat providers offer outsourced agents as part of the deal – so it appears you’re getting more for your money. This cost element is key. Live chat outsourcing, or even outsourcing your customer support in general, sometimes means reduced costs. You aren’t forced to provide office space, deal with contracts and HR, or pay the expenses of your support team. Instead, you can focus on the other core elements of your business — knowing that customer service is being handled by people that specialise in your chosen channels.

But are these benefits worth the risks?

 

Risk 1: Reduces service quality

Live chat outsourcing can compromise the quality of your customer service. Because the agents answering your chats are not members of your business, they are restricted on the data about your customers that they can access. This means that they are less able to personalise each support interaction. Inevitably, they’ll sound stilted compared to real employees who know the business and its customer base inside out.

Service quality can also be slashed by live chat outsourcing due to reduced flexibility. Outsourced agents are often far more limited on the offers, information and compensation they can give your customers during a support experience. In other words, external agents are simply less capable of going the extra mile for a customer.

Plus, some outsourced agents could operate under a system that rewards team members by the volume of chats that they take, rather than the quality of service they provide. This conflict of interest between your goals and the outsourced agent’s goals can result in rushed chats that suggest a lack of real interest. Brusque chats can equal a bad customer experience.

 

Risk 2: Reduces brand identity

Live chat outsourcing is like hiring external telesales agents in call centres. Because your chat agents don’t work directly for you, the support they provide could fail to reflect your brand. Your customer relations – and by extension, your image and public brand – are in the hands of a third party.

Branding in your customer support is incredibly important. Your brand is a promise; it’s how customers experience your company and perceive trust and credibility. Consistent branding signals that your business can be depended on. So, when your live chat support isn’t consistent with your branding, it can damage the relationship a customer has with your entire business.

How well does that outsourced agent know your company’s tone of voice? How comfortable are they when the conversation veers off-script? Can they successfully embody your brand while embodying all the other brands they’re representing?

That’s the thing with live chat outsourcing: the agents answering your chats will be doing so for several other businesses too. (Potentially including your competitors.) They aren’t likely to be dedicated solely to your brand, meaning an experience with diluted branding. With more than one business to answer chats for, agents could easily fail to follow your service protocols and tone of voice guidelines.

 

Risk 3: Less control

You lose control when you outsource your customer service. You’re no longer the first to hear feedback or to get insights. Live chat, for example, gives you an opportunity to understand exactly what your customers are thinking and feeling while they’re live onsite. You get real-time conversations about your products and services, plus insight into common pain points.

When you outsource your live chat support, you step away from this service front line. This means you can lose touch with your customers, and distance yourself from valuable insight. And this isn’t the only thing you miss out on, either.

Live chat outsourcing also means that customer service interactions can be far more difficult to monitor. Instances of negative customer experiences can slip under your radar until that customer has already left for a competitor. You’re removed from the service scene, and not immediately aware of customer problems.

Plus, you have less control over your customer data when you follow the path of live chat outsourcing. This is because you can end up providing sensitive data to your third-party chat agents, as they may need it to do their jobs. This data often includes account information – posing a security risk. You will need to be sure that any agents that chat for your company are trustworthy.

 

To outsource, or not to outsource?

Outsourcing can affect customer satisfaction, your brand consistency, and the security of your data. That’s not to say that it’s automatically the worst move in the world. Used cautiously, there are instances where live chat outsourcing might be beneficial.

The decision to outsource your live chat support is ultimately up to you, and the ‘right’ choice will vary from business to business. However, the best customer service will always come from invested employees inside your business – not an outsourced outsider.

 

Useful links

Live chat pricing: the 101 for buyers

Live chat poor practice: let's make live chat great again

An open letter to live chat agents, from customers