The Most Important Business Relationship Of All: Obviously
In a recent article on LinkedIn by influencer Naomi Simson, The Most Important Business Relationship Of All was revealed: that between a company and its customers. This non-revelation was hammered home with a few examples of, granted, pretty bad customer service and the conclusion that businesses have to pay more attention to customer service or risk losing customers.
The article fails to make any exceptional points or offer any nuanced interpretations or insights on the subject. The main takeaway is that bad service is bad for business and this is not an incorrect observation.
The main issue with the article is the sentence in which Simson attributes companies’ service failings to their decision to outsource their customer service:
“The number one thing any business has is the relationship it has with its customers. If they outsource this relationship, there is no connection, no feedback loop, no understanding of the problems they face, nor how they can be assisted to solve that problem. Customers will go online in droves.”
She concludes the article by begging businesses to listen, pleading for companies to “Stop outsourcing [their] lifeblood.”
The article raises a valid point about the value of outsourced customer service by businesses. In the examples cited by Simson, the evidence of outsourcing was blatant in the employees’ lack of training, expertise, empowerment or willingness to be of assistance. The customer experience was not seamless.
It is not only possible to achieve this experience with the right outsourcing partner, but it is also simple, cost-effective and time-saving. The key to great service lies in a seamless transition between your company and your outsourcing partner.
Outsourcing some aspects of your customer relationships is not the same as relinquishing those relationships.
When Simson laments that by outsourcing customer service, they outsource their relationship with their customers, she misunderstands the goals of outsourcing and, indeed, the outcomes. Firms who outsource aspects of their business, including their email handling, telephone answering, social media management or customer service, do not sign off responsibility for those interactions or relinquish responsibility for relationships with their customers.
Rather, they employ the outsourcing company as a member of staff. Effective, reliable and consistently valuable outsourcing depends on staff training as much as hiring your own member of staff. The company representing your business must understand its responsibilities, its role in your company and how to escalate any problems or queries.
In order for a company to be a great outsourcing partner, it is crucial that their staff temporarily become yours, whether they are posting as you on social media, replying to your emails or answering your phone calls. Where outsourcing is concerned, bespoke service is the key to great service.
When you outsource particular interactions with your customers, you are not giving up on your relationships with them entirely. You are investing in a streamlined operation to help you serve more people more effectively and keep your customers happy as your business expands, without having to enlist the in-house support to do so.
This stigma surrounding outsourcing continues to be upheld by examples such as those given by Simson’s article of terrible, out-of-sync, badly-executed attempts at customer service. When you make the decision to outsource, you must always put your customers’ needs first: can they get hold of you when they need to; is there someone on hand to let them know you are working on the problem; are you easy to do business with?
When you enlist a third party to help you run your business more effectively, be careful you understand what you need from the service and that you are getting the best quality for the best price. Look to review sites to help you make up your mind, or find out who these firms’ clients are and contact them directly to get their opinion.
You are their customer. Make sure you get the most out of the service you are buying: they only have customers to lose by providing you with bad customer service.