Outsourcing after hours customer service – why?
By Julian Harris, Executive Director, People & Customer.
It is a great question and there are plenty of reasons why you should outsource your after-hours support. There are the obvious ones of course. It is cheaper, and I mean much, much cheaper to hand over your customer calls that come in at night-time or weekends to a specialist. It is very expensive to do it yourself in-house. It just is, and that it is because it is a really broad window of time to cover. Much broader than most people realise. But it’s just a couple of hours through the night and weekends though, right? Wrong.
Cover approximately 6,800 out-of-hours a year
Think about it. If we say there are eight core business hours a day, five days a week, when your customer service teams are all in place, that’s fewer than 2,000 hours a year. The thing is, taking care of those core business hours, still leaves 16 more hours a day during the week and 48hours over the weekend. Don’t forget public holidays and shutdown periods too. It all adds up. It all adds up to quite a lot. Around 6,800 hours a year, for easy numbers. So, by saying you have it covered in-house during core hours, we also have to say you have a whopping chunk of time not covered. Less than a quarter of time is covered, with the other three quarters having no support. (Eye opening, isn’t it?)
Respond to an average of 5,500 out-of-hours calls QLD councils receive each year
But, you say, most enquiries come into council during core hours – and, yes, you would be right there. Most, but not all. Our data shows that on average a Queensland council will receive around 5,500 calls out-of-hours each year. This excludes emails and social media enquiries. That is not a number to be sniffed at. And if someone does need to call late at night or on a weekend, they will usually have a pretty good reason to do so.
Now to try and cover that other three-quarters of the year yourself is just not practical. In order to do it properly, the operating cost would be extraordinary. So that leaves you with a cut down, rudimentary partial support model – which we all know just isn’t worth doing.
The world is changing, and people’s expectations are changing with it. Can you imagine if social media closed at 5pm? Me neither. We expect ratepayers to call Council during core hours for general business, when so many of them are busy themselves at work. Well, maybe that is still accepted for now (although I wonder for how much longer) but for other stuff, that is not general business, what about the sort of stuff that happens after hours?
People are becoming less accepting of waiting until Monday morning. Those people, those good people, the ones who are community-focussed enough to go to the trouble of trying to “tell somebody” about the other stuff, shouldn’t have to wait. Their efforts should be welcomed and embraced. So there needs to be some customer service available after hours.
Offer a 24/7 human interface
But we have an online service available after hours, you say. Again, true. But here is a question for you: if that online service is good enough, why bother to have any daytime, core business hours customer service support? Just move the lot online. Job done. Of course, we all know how that would be received so, we all agree that a human interface is the best way and the way that is expected, indeed demanded, from our residents.
The benefits sum it up
So, that leaves you with the other two options to weigh up. The first option is to not bother providing any service at all. It’s harsh but it is an option. (Not a particularly good option but an option, nevertheless.) And then there is the final option– the right option, the best option, the option that just makes sense – get a professional to help, utilising an established footprint with proven systems, processes, and people. In other words, outsource it.
Specialist customer support providers offer high quality, focussed, experienced, and reliably demonstrated support, supplied at a surprisingly low cost. The cost delivers such amazing value, it becomes quite difficult, perhaps impossible, to argue why you wouldn’t take that option, given the amount of service provided, and the time window spanned, all supplied for a fraction of a fraction of the expense of core hours support.
And there you have it: the question isn’t why but, rather, why not? That is a far harder question to answer and one that I will leave you to answer…