Customer Service Recruitment Agency vs. Outsourcer; What’s the Difference?
Don’t hire an agency; outsource instead!
November 30th, 2021
During the busy period over Black Friday, Christmas, and through to January sales, most retailers will experience rising customer service contact volumes. This is just par for the course as customers cash in on deals, prepare for Christmas, and chase down lost or late orders.
But if you’re not properly prepared, if you don’t have the resource you need in place, this peak period can quickly overwhelm your team. You might see your operation slowing, notice your customer satisfaction dipping, or even receive more negative reviews than normal. When this starts to happen, it can become overwhelming, and that’s when fingers start to itch to call in a recruitment agency. It’s just for a few weeks, so what’s the harm, right?
The truth is that agencies are not your friend. They don’t care about the longevity of your brand, and they certainly don’t care about your bottom line. So why go with an agency when you could outsource instead?
Outsourcers vs. Agencies; Aren't They the Same Thing?
It’s a common misconception that agencies and outsourcers are similar, if not the same. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A recruitment agency has staff on standby to fill in during a crisis situation, whether that be the peak period or for any other reason. They are not – nor will they ever be – experts in your brand or even your industry as agencies often don’t specialise. That means you may receive workers who have little to no experience as customer service agents.
There is the option to have more control over who you receive for your operation. However, that slows down the recruitment process
and defeats the point of going to an agency in the first place; getting resource fast. But this extra resource can be invaluable to get you over any little humps or hiccups in your operation. Whilst agencies can be useful in the right climate, they’re not a long-term fix and using one can have a negative impact on your operation even in the short term.
An outsourcer has permanent staff that can fit into your operation seamlessly. Their staff are highly trained and quality assessed so that they can be experts in your industry and brand. They’re designed as a long-term solution, adaptable and customisable to your business needs year-round. Outsourcers act as partners, not temporary fixes. And, with strong resource planning, contingency teams in place, and good communication with marketing and sales, an outsourcer will always have the right amount of resource for the time of year to support your operation.
Our Head of Customer Care, Gary Llyod said this about agencies and outsourcers:
Using an outsourcer gives you access to a high quality and flexible resource that is easily and quickly scalable to suit individual business needs as and when they happen. When you use an outsourcer, you will receive consistency from the workforce as they all follow the same business principles that are already instilled within them through working for one organisation as a team.
At FM Outsource, we take on the ownership of training, resource planning, and management of staff along with the responsibility for delivering and improving on the key metrics that are fundamental to the success of the client’s business. In short, with an outsourcer, you are getting a comprehensive and professional business solution that provides you with a bespoke service that is fluid enough to match ever-changing demands.
- Gary Llyod, Head of Customer Care.
Agency Staff Aren't Invested in Your Brand; Outsourcers Are
An agency hires staff to fill a gap – a role that may or may not last – for a short period of time. Agency staff are at best temporary workers, at worst an employee number on a screen. This means they never have time to settle into your brand. They won’t learn the ins and outs of your company, understand nuances like when to use an emoji or when to offer a refund no questions asked.
And, because of that lack of time within your brand, they have little to no incentive to care about the success of your business. When they’re only working for you for twelve weeks over Christmas, it doesn’t matter if some of their customers are unhappy with their service. It doesn’t matter if they’re not wowing on each interaction. And it doesn’t matter if they’ve used the wrong tagline on an email. It’s all transient for the agency worker.
That’s not to say that there is no vetting process or that the agency won’t remove staff that aren’t up to scratch. It’s that a recruitment agency doesn’t provide training before an agent walks through your door, and they won’t provide quality assessments for you. It’s simply that it’s easier for underperformance to fall through the cracks with several clients before it’s noticed and fixed.
This is where outsourcers can excel. Outsourcers hire for growth. Outsourcers have permanent, year-round employees that work both for the outsourcer and for your brand. They consider themselves part of your team and do not switch between specialities. They have time to go through the same training your own staff would go through and to love and appreciate your brand as you would want them to.
An outsourcer will provide quality assessments and want to prove the success of their team to their clients. That translates into bonuses and prizes to increase motivation, re-training and upskilling opportunities, and a tried-and-tested recruitment process.
This, ultimately, leads to employees who are more motivated to succeed, who care about providing a fantastic service, and who act as ambassadors for your brand both in work and outside of it.
Agency Turnover is High
Customer service is an industry with a higher-than-average turnover rate. And agencies are no different. With call centres experiencing a turnover rate of 30-45% each year, it’s important that you get the right staff with the drive to succeed.
However, there is little consistency in a recruitment agency. Since their job is to get people through the door as quickly as possible, they often hire for numbers, not talent. A stressful environment coupled with last-minute hires for busy times often sets their turnover rates soaring. With staff bouncing between brands, feeling overwhelmed, or using outdated systems, it’s easy to see why motivation might be low and turnover high.
So how are outsourcers any different? As we said in the previous section, outsourcers hire for growth. They’re looking for employees that can stay with them for the long-haul, meaning they can afford to be picky in their recruitment process and find someone who fits into their work culture.
The best outsourcers also work alongside their clients to improve their customer care, rather than just providing a service. For this, outsourcers need the best tech, great internal communication
systems, expert industry knowledge, and internal processes that encourage employee success. All this leads to a healthier company structure that empowers employees to do better, progress their careers, and generally be more satisfied in their role. And the proof is in the pudding as FM Outsource can boast a turnover rate of 10%, not only below industry standard but also below the UK average.
Is the Cost Worth It?
The reason companies often turn to an agency is the need for immediate staff to cover rising contact volumes. Agencies can be in place quickly and help boost your numbers. It’s understandable when your team are struggling, and you’re worried about the hit on your customer experience.
But is it worth it? Well, firstly, there’s the cost of using the agency. Recruitment agencies are more expensive than any outsourcer simply because it’s their job to get agents through the door and onto your team as quickly as possible. Whilst that speed can be beneficial, it also comes at a premium.
But the ultimate cost from hiring an agency doesn’t come from the initial invoice, it comes from the hit to your bottom line. Whilst you don’t want to let customer interactions fall to the wayside, you also don’t want inexperienced or uninformed agents handling those interactions for you.
Using a team that doesn’t have an invested interest in your brand and that may even have little interest in their role will cause all kinds of problems in your operation. From off-brand
interaction handling to clunky and slow service, to confused and unhelpful advisors, all these problems snowball. They can lead to a drop in your customer satisfaction, a reduction of your review scores, and even lead to customers no longer shopping with you. With 96.1% of customers considering switching due to poor customer service, you can’t afford to get it wrong.
This is why using an outsourcer makes sense. Outsourcers can slot into your current team – or get a whole new team up and running – efficiently and with full training on your brand, your processes, and your expectations. Since outsourcers hire for longevity, they have teams of experienced professionals who can provide a fantastic service to your customers using the systems that you prefer.
But outsourcers can go further than that. They have the best tech and can recommend systems that are proven to improve your team’s productivity and solve your employees’ pain points. They can suggest processes and escalation routes to boost your customer experience. And they can even help expand your current team into areas you lack experience in, such as new channels, automation, or even just new languages.
Outsourcers can help you during your busy times and continue to be your partners beyond. And you’ll be surprised what all that can do for your costs. If you’re struggling with volume at the moment, or just want to chat about a partnership for the future, get in contact with us today.