Optimizing Customer Support Without Outsourcing: Considerations and Alternatives

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May 17, 2023
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7
 min read
Jonathan Sidor

Your ecommerce business is finally starting to grow. Congrats!

Quick question — have you realized expanding your customer service isn’t exactly a walk in the park? I guess they’re called growing pains for a reason.

When most small businesses begin taking on more customers, they quickly learn those shoppers ask more questions, file more support tickets, and leave more feedback. Companies that can’t scale their customer support teams to keep up with ecommerce growth risk harming the customer experience and their reputation.

Since 89% of customers switch to a rival brand after just a single poor experience, delighting shoppers as your business grows is a must. Now, how can this be accomplished?

One option many companies choose to handle increased demand — temporary or permanent — is customer service outsourcing. While outsourcing can be a viable solution, it’s far from your only effective option. 

What is customer service outsourcing, and can it really help your business? Read on to learn what factors to consider before making a decision.

Discover all the ways customer support can drive greater sales with The Customer Service-Led Growth Playbook.

What is customer service outsourcing?

Customer service outsourcing is when a business has a third-party provider take care of part or all of its customer service operations. For companies that opt to outsource, customers interact with an external agent known as a business process outsourcer (BPO). The BPO handles the ticket on behalf of the company rather than the company's own internal support team.

Why do some companies feel the need to outsource their customer service? Here are the most common reasons:

  1. Flexibility: Ecommerce businesses frequently turn to outsourcing because they’re overwhelmed by customer demands. For companies needing to focus on other areas that require their attention, outsourcing customer support lets them hand the reins over to a customer service provider with more resources to cater to customer needs.
  1. Specialization: Outsourcing customer service is a common choice for newer businesses that lack a scalable customer support infrastructure. It allows ecommerce teams to make use of seasoned customer care professionals. 
  1. Faster response times: Your in-house customer service agents may be perfectly capable, but when hundreds of support tickets turn into thousands overnight, even the best reps need help. Working with outsourcing companies may improve support metrics like response times, resolution times, and CSAT.
  1. International reach: Growing ecommerce brands can turn to outsourced teams to overcome the unique challenge of serving a global audience. Outsourcing gives customers access to agents across various time zones and assists businesses looking to provide support in multiple languages. However, adding multilingual agents is often an expensive course of action. 

Outsourcing is one way to achieve any of the above, but it’s not the only way, let alone the best. Many alternatives can improve your in-house team’s efficiency and enhance their ability to deliver scalable, personalized, and cost-effective service.

Alternatives to customer service outsourcing

While outsourcing can provide service teams some relief, its benefits are frequently limited or short-lived. To sustainably unleash your customer support’s potential, consider the following alternatives:

1. Self-service options

An increasing share of shoppers view speaking to a human agent — outsourced or not — as inconvenient. That’s why two-thirds of customers prefer self-service, or solving issues on their own. There are two common types of self-service companies can provide, each with its advantages over outsourcing.

Fixed self-service includes static options like an FAQ page or a knowledge base. If a sizable portion of your customers handles their issues with these, agents can see much fewer tickets. This lowers customer support costs and frees agents to focus on more complex cases in less time. Moreover, self-service gives customers round-the-clock support, letting them solve problems 24/7 instead of limiting them to working hours.

However, fixed service doesn’t offer the chance to seamlessly transition to a human agent if customers can’t find what they need. It also isn’t personalized, making it difficult for customers to find it engaging.

Interactive self-service involves conversational tools like chatbots. It can accomplish all of the above, yet it’s able to achieve much more. Chatbots are capable of offering a fully personalized experience, boosting your bottom line, and collecting customer insights. Self-service chat support leads to engaging interactions that build customer trust and satisfaction.   

Chatbots also pave the way for omnichannel support, something that outsourcing partners rarely provide. Today’s leading chatbots come with built-in integrations for the most popular support channels, meaning customers can enjoy the same experience over SMS, social media, and so on. 

2. Automated customer service tools

Automation software is a powerful alternative to outsourcing customer service because it affords ecommerce companies several benefits that outsourcing doesn’t.

For instance, one of outsourcing’s biggest drawbacks is that it requires businesses to give up control of their customer support. Automation provides team members the same flexibility, specialization, and reach as outsourcing does, but it allows companies to do everything their way, maintaining their brand voice.

Many in ecommerce gravitate toward outsourced support due to its simplicity, but customer service automation rivals the best outsourcing solutions in terms of ease of setup, use, and maintenance. Since leading automation software is specifically built for ecommerce, these highly specialized tools address a business’s particular needs. Chatbots, for instance, can answer an unlimited number of customer questions at once, in multiple languages, at any time of day. 

Automation takes things one step further by letting teams fully replicate knowledge of their products, customers, and processes. Your most repetitive questions are automated, while complex cases are saved for your in-house agents, those who live and breathe your brand and care about preserving customer satisfaction.  

Automation’s ability to free up your team and deliver instant help doesn’t just improve the customer experience and produce higher customer loyalty — it leads to sizable cost savings. Automated self-service can reduce the cost per contact to $0.09 compared to the $14 average of assisted service. 

3. AI-backed customer support agents

When powered by artificial intelligence (AI), automation solutions unlock your customer care team’s full potential, taking their efficiency to unmatched levels and allowing you to capture invaluable customer data.

AI is proven to boost customer service agent productivity by 14%. Moreover, backing your in-house customer service team with AI improves performance by streamlining data collection, chat customization, and issue resolution. Conversational AI can even produce considerable cost savings — it’s expected to lower customer support labor costs by $80B by 2026. 

Another advantage of AI is that it promotes better business decisions. By letting support teams instantly analyze customer feedback, they can spot what they’re doing well and what needs improvement. Thanks to in-depth quality assurance and feedback surveys, companies get real-time access to the voice of their customers — data that’s essential to gaining repeat shoppers and increasing customer retention. 

Furthermore, AI enables teams to generate support-driven sales. AI tools can detect buying intent and proactively assist customers who are most likely to convert. Agents are also equipped to provide relevant product recommendations, becoming product specialists capable of increasing revenue independently.

Automation vs outsourcing: company spotlights

As companies grow, many are faced with the option of outsourcing vs automation. Here are two businesses that found success going with automation over outsourcing.

Giesswein scales 350% with zero new support hires
Giesswein logo and Merino wool shoes.

When sales for European apparel and footwear manufacturer Giesswein rapidly increased, their agents simply couldn’t keep up with the growing number of incoming tickets. Facing longer wait times, they knew action was needed to prevent a decline in their customer experience. 

After opting for customer service automation from Zowie, Giesswein introduced an AI chatbot that reached an 89% automation rate in 3 months. The number of tickets requiring human intervention plummeted, and agents now have more time to dedicate to urgent customer cases. Giesswein can also now service customers in 13 languages without any pressure to increase staffing.

Media Markt enjoys company-wide benefits with AI automation
Media Markt logo, storefront, and mobile app

Media Markt is a market leader in consumer electronics with over 1000 retail locations. During the December holiday peak, their customer support routinely struggled to take care of the 3x surge in requests. Agents were overwhelmed, as handling tickets via phone and email proved costly, inefficient, and time-consuming.

Media Markt chose Zowie for their automation needs and saw immediate results thanks to a simple setup and a best-in-class time to value — the chatbot was fully implemented in under a month. Currently, 86% of chats are automated, and over 10,000 customer interactions are automated monthly during the winter holiday season. The AI chatbot takes on the rise in requests each December, delivering customers the instant support they’re looking for.

Media Markt handle incoming questions without a drop in quality and collect essential customer data to help them make better-informed decisions year-round. 

Meet more online businesses using AI automation to transform their customer service in Zowie’s Customer Stories.

Automation: an attractive alternative

Customer service outsourcing may seem useful at first glance, but ecommerce brands looking for efficient customer support that delights customers won’t find it in a third-party call center.

Supporting your in-house agents with AI-powered automation is a much more effective way to scale flexibly, improve your support metrics, and grow. 

Today’s top ecommerce businesses — from startups to MNCs — are choosing Zowie as their AI customer service suite. To see how it can maximize your customer support’s efficiency and unlock your true potential, book a demo today.