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Customer Service BPO: Why, When & How to Outsource Support

Customer service10 MIN READDec 6, 2023

Customer service BPO - cover image.

At Peak Support, we know the value of having high-quality, engaged customer service teams that can scale with your company and your customers’ needs. 

Customer service outsourcing fills important niches: perhaps you’re preparing for a holiday rush, or your product went viral and you need 24/7 coverage, or you’re seeing a surge in requests in a language your support team doesn’t speak. 

Using a business process outsourcer (BPO) to supplement or scale your customer service is a great way to meet these challenges, without burning out your in-house team or burning through your funding runway.

However, customer service leaders often worry about the quality of service a BPO will bring. 

It’s an understandable concern because outsourcing customer support to traditional call centers has become something of a cultural meme. But today’s modern BPOs are far different from those stereotypical call centers of the past. 

A lot has changed, both in how BPOs operate and how technology is enabling far more effective quality assurance processes — such as Zendesk QA (formerly Klaus), which analyzes 100% of your customer interactions.  

What is a customer service BPO — meaning

BPO stands for business process outsourcing, which is when you contract with a company to provide skilled staff for a specific function in your business. From accounting or project management to sales and customer service operations — virtually all business functions can be outsourced. 

Customer service BPOs specialize in supporting customers across channels (think phone, email, social media, and live chat) and industries (such as software, retail, communications, and so on). 

While many BPOs started out as call centers, BPOs have evolved over the past few decades, just like working culture and technology in general. Modern BPOs bring deep expertise, major flexibility, and a massive talent pool that companies across industries can benefit from. 

Klaus creates a puzzle saying 'big picture'

Why (and when) do you need to outsource customer service?

We’ve identified six core benefits of using a customer service BPO. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s a helpful birds-eye view of how a BPO can help:

1. It allows you to scale quickly

At Peak Support, we’ve been able to launch teams within 1-2 weeks from establishing a contract, with agents working with customers almost immediately. We’re able to do this because we can source talent with the specific skills a company needs, and we have tried and tested processes for training and quality assurance.

2. It helps you reduce your costs

When you contract with a BPO you avoid many of the costs that come with building everything yourself. BPOs can hire in markets with high-quality agents at more cost-effective prices. They take care of built-in expenses like onboarding, training, and equipment. This means you can focus on improving your customer experience while simultaneously making your budget do more.

3. It means high customer service quality

Speaking of better customer service experiences, BPO customer service agents are experts in their field. At Peak Support, our team members have an average of 8 years of experience, so they know how to integrate themselves quickly into your team and product and how to engage with customers wherever they are — via chat, phone, email, or social media. This enables you to move quickly, without sacrificing quality.

A good BPO also has effective agent training, workforce management, quality assurance, and technical expertise in place — assets with all help create quality customer experiences, but take significant time and money to build out in-house.

4. It makes your core business your priority

Your product is the key to your success, so why shouldn’t it be your main focus? Instead of getting distracted with ancillary tasks like hiring, training, and managing customer service teams, you can hand those responsibilities to a BPO, whose entire focus is on getting those things right so you don’t have to think about it.

5. It adds predictability and flexibility

You might think those two qualities are contradictory, but they’re not! Customer service BPOs are well-versed in tracking and forecasting changes in support volume and capacity, which means they can help you weather short-term spikes in demand and plan for long-term growth. This lets you stay flexible and nimble, while still planning for the future with confidence.

6. It can send you around the world 

Customer service BPOs can travel as your product does, allowing you to offer support in a range of time zones and languages. Your customers can speak to an agent who not only understands them in their native language but who is culturally competent, providing great customer service.

Klaus receiving a lot of letters.

How to choose a customer service BPO to work with

At this point, you might be thinking, “This all sounds great! But how do I find the BPO that’s a perfect match for us?”

There are some basic questions you should ask, including things like:

  • Do you already have a customer service team, or are you starting from scratch?
  • What’s your ticket volume and complexity? 
  • Can your BPO team be remote, or do they need to be on-site somewhere?
  • Does your team need to be located domestically or internationally (or a combination of both)?
  • Do you need help with functions other than customer service?

Answering these questions will help you zero in on a list of BPO partners that might be a good fit. But when it comes to ensuring they’ll help you deliver a high-quality customer experience, you need to go further. 

As you vet potential customer support outsourcing partners, take these steps to understand more about the quality of their work:

  • Ask what their average QA score is across clients and channels.  If they have clients in your industry, get specific information about the quality they’re delivering for those clients.
  • Explore whether you’ll have someone dedicated to managing your account. A dedicated account manager will get to know your brand’s voice, your company’s priorities, and your customer service goals. As your advocate within the BPO, this can play a huge part in aligning around what a quality experience looks like.
  • Ask if they provide analytics and reporting. Custom reporting will help identify issues, poor customer service performance or customer friction proactively, helping you take action quickly.
  • Explore third-party reviews. Sites like G2 and Clutch will help you understand how current and past clients of those customer service BPOs felt about the service they provided. 

Lastly, beware of really low prices when looking for a BPO company. An exceptionally low price may feel like a great deal, but it often indicates a BPO with no training support, no QA team, and limited account management. If your BPO partner’s main attraction is their low price, they may not have the right strengths to deliver quality service. 

Quality assurance and BPO customer service

Your BPO customer service agents will be an extension of your team. They’ll represent your brand and your product, so the most important questions involve ensuring that your BPO customer service team can deliver and maintain a high-quality experience for your customers. 

You’re making a big investment, not only in terms of money, but in time and in trust, and your BPO partner should be able to demonstrate how they’ll be good stewards of that investment.

When it comes to quality assurance at your BPO, there are two common ways to think about it: the traditional way and the newer, AI-driven way. 

Klaus crossing things off a quality assurance checklist.

Traditional ways to measure quality

Customer service quality has traditionally been measured with metrics like an Internal Quality Score (IQS) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). 

This one-two punch gives you insight into how your agents are delivering against your internal standards for quality (IQS) and against your customers’ expectations (CSAT). 

An excellent customer service BPO will be able to explain their QA processes, and give you some general stats regarding it — for instance, what QA scores have they achieved with similar clients? We prioritize quality at Peak Support, and it’s clearly visible in the 95% average QA score we see across all of our clients.

A traditional quality assurance process relies on a rubric or QA scorecard that highlights the factors you believe to deliver a quality experience.

Whether that scorecard lives in a Google Sheet or inside a quality management platform, your quality assurance process is essentially an audit of conversations. For each item on your scorecard, you’ll indicate whether the expected behavior — like a polite greeting or thorough troubleshooting — was achieved. If you’re interested, you can find QA scorecard examples here →

This process is proven, and it works. Unfortunately, it can also be highly manual and time-consuming, particularly when you’ve got a large support team or complex customer queries. 

The other aspect of traditional quality assurance are CSAT surveys. Customer Satisfaction Score can provide a helpful window into your customers’ experiences, but it’s often hampered by low response rates and outliers: 

▶️ The average CSAT response rate is 19% for chat, 5% for email, and 5% for phone.

▶️ Only 19% of all ratings have a CSAT comment beside the score. If you’re using chat, you only receive written feedback from 3% of your customers. On email or phone, it’s less than 1%.

Source: Customer Service Quality Benchmark Report

The newer, AI-driven way to do quality assurance

The vast improvements we’ve seen in generative AI over the last year or so are driving significant changes in how modern companies are thinking about quality assurance. It’s having a big impact on QA teams, as Mervi Sepp Rei, PhD explains in this podcast episode

By leveraging AI to evaluate 100% of your customer conversations — something that would be prohibitively expensive to do manually — Zendesk’s AutoQA solves for the biggest pitfalls of traditional QA: lack of scalability, inherent bias, and inconsistency.

And because automated quality management also includes automated customer surveys, you’re still able to effectively implement customer feedback into the story, giving you a clearer view of the big picture. 

In short, this new approach to quality assurance uncovers areas of real concern, enabling your QA team and management to focus on the biggest opportunities.

Quality BPOs are a solid solution to customer service challenges

At Peak Support, we’ve seen the difference great QA can make across dozens of clients. 

Whether you’re taking a more traditional approach or beginning to experiment with new approaches like AI-powered quality assurance, QA is foundational for you to deliver exceptional customer service. And outsourcing customer service brings an incredible edge here because when you work with a quality customer service BPO, you benefit from their deep experience and insights into how a great quality assurance program functions.

If you’re working with a BPO and you’re wondering how to improve the quality of your customer interactions, check out how Glovo reduced the time they spend on QA by 80% while still offering high-quality customer service across their combined in-house and BPO support team (in 25+ countries!).

Written by

Hannah Steiman - headshot.
Hannah Steiman
Hannah is the President & Chief Strategy Officer at Peak Support. Prior to joining the company, she was a strategy and innovation consultant at Innosight, speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, and communications manager.

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