If it can be done online these days – it’s pretty likely you can outsource it. In your MSP, I’d be surprised if you didn’t outsource something already. You can outsource lead generation, sales, marketing, copy writing and content production, book keeping and accounting and on goes the list.
But what about your customer support? If you are serious about scaling your MSP – you can’t really do it if you don’t confront the resource drain customer support puts on your business.
Assuming you’ve seen the light and are ready to embrace outsourcing (read my post Fail to Scale if you need some more convincing) you better make sure you do it the right way with the right partner. Of course, it would be disingenuous not to declare my obvious bias towards Benchmark 365 as the best choice for your outsourcing partner. But whomever you decide to go with here’s a few key pointers to help you get started.
Adjust to the scale mindset
The first thing to do is make sure you are thinking like an entrepreneur looking to scale their business. I go into more detail in Fail to Scale but essentially it involves:
- taking a long hard, realistic at the numbers in your business,
- committing to spending 80% to 90% of your time on sales, marketing and customer relationships; and
- really acknowledging that growth only happens with change – some of which will be difficult and uncomfortable for you, your team and maybe even a customer or two.
Build your outsourcing brief
Now you’re ready to decide exactly what you will outsource – is it 1st, 2nd and 3rd level support, traffic control and/or billing? Also think about the skill mix you are looking for both right now and what you will need in the near to medium term to make sure you can expand your offerings as the market evolves.
Often there is a temptation to outsource the support of a few select clients as opposed to your whole book. Or perhaps you are thinking you just need after hours support. I have to say, in my experience, “half-baked” is rarely successful. It’s much harder for the outsourcing partner to learn, respond and service your customers fully if they are only privy to half the story. It can also be confusing for the customer – switching back and forth between you and your outsourcing partner.
Systems – yours or theirs?
When selecting an outsourcing partner – some will require you to use their systems and software. The thing to watch out for here – is understanding what is their priority – selling you software or improving the technical support experience for your customers. Be careful that you don’t get stuck with a system that doesn’t really meet your needs and you find you have to continue to upgrade to get what you need or forces you to change the way you want to do business. Look for partners who can work with what suits you. Having said that – don’t be too precious about your current configuration if your partner can offer a better way. You’re not in the business systems you’re in the business of customer support.
Not all outsourcers are the same
Make sure to grill your potential partner on what services they will provide. The last thing you want is to end up partnering with someone only to find that you have not saved yourself any time or costs. For example, some outsourcers will only find you off-shore staff that you have to hire. These are people who take holidays, sick days and need to be managed directly. It might be cheaper but it can be harder and more time consuming to manage offshore people – and you still might not get around the clock support. Look for outsourcers that provide a service not people. It’s their job to manage the people and fill the gaps when they are sick or away. What you get is the 24/7 support your customers expect without you having to manage people day to day.
Communication skills are key
Communication skills can often worry those looking to outsource. The good news is that if you offshore to an established market like the Philippines the local workforce is highly trained and proficient communicators. So when checking in about this with a potential partner, think more of what you would expect from a local provider. Accents are everywhere – at home and abroad – so it’s time to leave those kind of judgements in the past where they belong.
Ask your potential outsourcer about how they ensure good quality support for your customers. At a minimum they should have a QC Supervisor who regularly monitors how their people interact with your customers. Ask them about their QC processes – including training, error resolution and process reviews.
Investigate what kind of benchmarking and performance tracking you will have access to. This is critical to the success of any program and will also provide you with critical insights into what is and isn’t working in your business.
Adding extra value
This is a big investment and often means fundamental changes to your business. So it’s not surprising that you will be navigating some unfamiliar territory. Its pays then to find an outsourcer who acts more like a partner than a vendor. It’s something at Benchmark 365 we emphasize. We have found one of the best way to help is to connect our MSP’s to each other through weekly forums where they can discuss their business challenges and learn from each other’s successes and failures. We also as a matter of course track and performance benchmark everything and then feed it back to customers with views and strategies on how to improve customer experiences and business outcomes.
So good luck! It’s exciting times for MSP’s with so much change in the market bringing lots of challenges and lots of opportunities. Don’t be afraid to make some significant changes to the way you do business. With options like outsourcing coming into their own – you can leap the barriers to scale and focus on growing profitably and keeping your customers happy.