Customer service outsourcing: why, when, and how to do it?

Mediocre customer service isn’t an option in today’s business landscape. Customer expectations are higher than ever, and it’s up to business owners to ensure the right people, processes, and technology are in place to meet (and often exceed) those expectations. 

However, building and maintaining a customer service operation takes a lot of time and effort. Competing priorities or budget restrictions might limit you from building a world-class customer service team in-house. 

If you can’t hire a team in-house to manage customer support, customer service outsourcing is a great way to ensure your customers are taken care of.

In this guide, we’ll share what customer service outsourcing is, when it’s appropriate to consider outsourcing customer service, and provide several tips for making your outsourcing experience a success for both your customers and your business.

Defining customer service outsourcing

Customer service outsourcing refers to the action of hiring a 3rd party vendor to take care of a company’s incoming support inquiries. 

Traditionally, customer service outsourcing involved hiring external agents to handle call center volume. Today, it involves handling multichannel support including tickets, calls, emails, social media, and any other channel a company needs to provide support.

Businesses can find outsourced agents individually through tools like UpWork and Fiverr, or through engaging with a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) company that specializes in customer service outsourcing.

Outsourced support is usually provided by humans, but a good outsourced support team will know when to leverage AI/Automation to take care of the simplest inquiries, like starting a conversation via chatbots. 

In simple terms, customer service outsourcing is hiring a third-party service provider to deal with customer-facing issues.

When is the right time to consider outsourcing the company’s customer service?

Companies often start out trying to handle customer support on their own. An early-stage startup might share customer support responsibilities because they don’t have the budget to hire a dedicated team. 

But as the business grows, so will customer support inquiries, and if you don’t have the team, processes, and tools in place to scale with your increasing support volume, you might not be able to keep up with the increasing number of inquiries.

Here are some scenarios when you might want to consider bringing in a customer service outsourcing team.

High agent turnover

Employee turnover is costly, as it means you have to hire and train someone else to do the job. 

If in-house customer support agents aren’t sticking around very long, it might be a sign of burnout or dissatisfaction due to a demanding workload, few benefits, or little to no career development opportunities. 

Tracking turnover rates is important, as it can often be a sign that the support team needs extra help.

Long wait times

Metrics like Average Handle Time and Average Resolution Time can indicate the need for more support agents if you see them trending in the wrong direction. 

This means your current team is unable to answer customer inquiries in the expected time, which can result in poor customer satisfaction ratings. This happens when you don’t have enough personnel to support your customers.

Seasonal spikes

Many companies see an increase or decrease in sales and customer support volume depending on the time of year. Seasonality depends on the company—for example, you might historically receive an influx of support tickets during the holiday shopping season. 

This means the demand for support agents will be much higher this time of year than it is the rest of the year. 

Being able to anticipate these increases and decreases is important as it enables companies to scale up or scale down their support team. Customer service outsourcing companies are equipped to scale up or down depending on the company’s needs.

Employees performing multiple roles

It’s not uncommon for employees at early-stage startups to wear multiple hats. This usually happens due to the lack of budget for specialized roles, so management continues to delegate additional tasks. 

But humans can only handle so much, and eventually, the increasing workload will be too much and potentially end in employee turnover. Companies should be aware of this risk and consider outsourcing customer support instead of increasing the workload and responsibility of others.

Struggling to keep up with demand

Support demand might be increasing due to a new product or service you launched, expanding into a new market, or opening a new location. Whatever the case, your business is growing and you’re having a hard time keeping up with the increasing number of tickets. 

Handing off customer support to an outsourced team can be a great way to keep up with the pace while allowing you to focus on other projects.

Benefits of customer service outsourcing

Customer service outsourcing can bring your business a lot of advantages. Here are some of the main benefits of outsourcing customer support.

Access to better technology/resources 

Outsourcing customer support can provide businesses with access to advanced technology and resources that might otherwise be cost-prohibitive. 

BPO companies invest in the latest customer service technologies, including AI-powered solutions, CRM systems, and comprehensive analytics tools, enabling more efficient and effective customer interactions.

Customized solutions

Outsourcing customer support allows for customized solutions tailored to your specific needs. BPO providers can create dedicated teams trained to understand your brand, products, and customer service protocols, ensuring personalized and consistent support. 

This flexibility means your business can offer bespoke customer experiences, adapting quickly to changes and unique demands without the limitations of in-house resources.

Extended time/location/language coverage

Outsourcing customer support extends your service capabilities by providing 24/7 coverage across multiple time zones, locations, and languages.

This global reach ensures that customers can receive assistance in their preferred language and at any time, enhancing their experience and satisfaction while broadening your market reach.

Extended channel coverage

Outsourcing customer support enables you to offer extended coverage across various channels, including phone, email, live chat, and social media. 

This multi-channel approach ensures that customers can reach you through their preferred method, improving accessibility and satisfaction while streamlining support operations.

Cost reduction

Outsourcing customer support is far cheaper than hiring a dedicated in-house team. It gives you the opportunity to have a flexible team at a lower cost. 

For example, an outsourced team means you’re not paying a fixed salary for each agent, and you don’t need to pay for things like health insurance, computer equipment, and office supplies, as these things are already provided by the outsourcing company.

Ability to scale up and down

Hiring an internal support team means you have a fixed number of agents working support no matter what the support demand is throughout the year. This means you could have a shortage of agents or the opposite problem, too many agents. 

Many outsourcing companies give you the flexibility to scale your team up and down as needed. This is great for businesses that know their products or services will see a higher demand depending on the time of year they’re in.

Opportunity to focus on more time-consuming tasks

When support is handled by an outsourced company, you can ensure your existing internal employees are focused on more time-consuming tasks that align with their skill set. 

Delegating your support is a smart choice for those companies whose efforts, including money, will be best spent in other areas.

Best practices for outsourcing customer service

Outsourcing customer support requires some forethought and ongoing work to ensure the relationship remains healthy and that your customers stay happy. Here are some ways you can set up your business and the outsourcing team for success.

Correctly manage customer expectations

Managing and exceeding customer expectations is the core of good customer service. When meeting with a potential outsourcing partner, you should lay out the expectations of your customers so that you can work together to exceed expectations.

The outsourcing company should have a clear understanding of benchmarks to ensure your customers are satisfied with the level of service they provide.

Bring in the right people (and treat them well)

Building a good support team means hiring the right people. Bad fit agents can create a slew of problems for your business and your customers.

Your company’s leadership team should work closely with the outsourcing company to ensure agents have the right hard skills and soft skills to serve your customers effectively.

Offer omnichannel services

Outsourcing companies have agents readily available to handle any support channel. Whether you need to support your customers through email, phone, live chat, or social media, a good outsourcing team will have the tools and skills needed to handle customer inquiries no matter the channel.

Maintain your company’s quality standards

Whatever partner you choose for customer service outsourcing will be on the frontlines for your business, interacting with your customers more than anyone else. This is a big responsibility and it’s important to maintain quality standards after you pass the torch. 

The outsourced support team should understand your company’s tone of voice, standard operating procedures, target response times, and any other areas of the business that you deem critical to maintaining or improving the level of service you were previously providing.

Follow QA basics

Have a plan for leadership at your company to frequently check in with the outsourcing team leads. A good customer service outsourcing company will have regular reports to share showing customer satisfaction, response times, and other key performance indicators. 

Create a rubric for scoring the quality of customer interactions and constantly evaluate support metrics. Conduct audits of support cases so you can stay ahead of any quality issues and correct them before they snowball into much bigger problems. 

These metrics will give your business a high-level understanding of how the outsourced support team is performing, and indicate whether or not you need to make any changes to ensure your customers remain happy and loyal.

Participate in the hiring & onboarding process

Delegate someone at your company to oversee the hiring and onboarding process to ensure the team being built is the best fit possible. No one knows your product or service better than one of your own employees; having them involved will help provide the best training possible for your outsourced support team and make sure critical information is transferred at the right times. 

Actively ask customers for feedback

There’s no better way to measure performance than by surveying your customers directly. This can be done one-to-one or through conducting a quarterly or annual survey. 

Pairing this data with quantitative metrics such as CSAT and other analytics will give you a full picture of how your customers feel about the support they’re receiving. Analyzing this information takes time but it gives you the information you need to continuously improve how you support your customers. 

Meet with them regularly

Meet with your outsourced support team regularly. How often is up to you but it’s important to maintain regular check-ins to discuss feedback, what’s going well, what isn’t going well, and aligning on the best path forward.

You might find you need to meet more often early on, and once the relationship is established, monthly or quarterly meetings might suffice. 

How to choose the right customer service outsourcing company

Once you’ve decided to outsource your customer support operations, you need to find a good outsourcing company to partner with. Here are some tips for choosing a customer service outsourcing company.

Meet with stakeholders

Before committing to anything, it’s important to have conversations with key customers, investors, C-suite folks, and other stakeholders about the idea of outsourcing customer support.

They might have concerns about outsourcing and you’ll want to work through these with them before making any major changes. Explain why you’re considering making the decision to outsource support and talk through the benefits for customers and the business.

Do your homework and be prepared to answer questions. 

Evaluate your options

Just like evaluating any new vendor, you’ll want to do a good amount of research to come up with a list of possible outsourcing companies. Have conversations with them and narrow your search down to a couple of possibilities.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, you’ll want to have deeper discussions with them about your specific needs, their pricing, and ensuring they will be a good culture fit for your company.

Culture fit

Culture fit is critical when bringing on new people. Whether it’s internal hires or an outsourced contract team, you need to make sure the team is a good fit and understands your company’s values and mission. Afterall the customer service outsourcing company should feel like an organic extension of your business.

Team location

Understand whether you need an offshore, nearshore, or onshore team to handle customer support.

Language capabilities, hours of coverage, and the markets your business operates in are all things to consider that will impact the location of the outsourced team. 

Cost-value relation

Every company operates on budgets, so it’s important to understand the cost of any vendor you’re considering as this could be a deal breaker. Weigh the costs with the benefits the outsourcing company provides.

What value are they bringing to your company? Things to consider here are the agents’ level of experience, omnichannel options, 24/7 coverage, ability to scale up and down, the onboarding timeline, etc. 

Services you need

Know exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to the type of support you need from an outsourced customer service team. You might need basic customer service, highly technical support, omnichannel support, or support for a specific industry that requires deep domain knowledge.

You might need a specific number of agents, QA help, or something else. Be as clear as possible with your requirements so you can communicate these to the vendor and they can ensure they can help provide the best solution for your needs.

Determine specific hiring needs

Outline specific hiring needs for your support team. This should include the level of experience needed, technical skills requirements, and any other traits like language capabilities that must be a part of the team you bring on. 

Document the equipment, tools, and data your agents will need

Customer support teams need data and tools to do their jobs. You’ll need to share all of the necessary data with them and make sure they have the required tools on their side to retrieve it.

This might require a change in your existing workflows, which will require training on your side. Knowing the type of data and tools you can share across teams will help you move forward with a vendor confidently.

Service Level Agreements 

You’ll want to review any service level agreements the outsourcing company has, as well as any service level agreements you have with your customers.

Aligning these expectations, responsibilities, and commitments is crucial and will ensure your customers are taken care of in a way that is acceptable to you.

Customer service outsourcing and its impact on ROI

Executives and leadership teams will have questions about the ROI of outsourcing customer support, so it’s important to be prepared to answer these questions. Here are some of the ways the ROI is positively impacted with an outsourced customer service team.

  • Cost reduction: Outsourcing customer support allows you to save money on a critical part of your business, enabling you to reallocate resources and efforts to other parts of the company. 
  • Improve the quality of your support: If you’re considering outsourcing support, it’s likely you have been struggling with handling support internally. Bringing in a top-notch team of support professionals will improve your overall customer experience.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Happy customers will often tell others about your business. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful advertising technique, as people tend to trust when a friend or family member recommends a product or service.
  • Saving time: The same as saving money, saving time will make your efforts go to those tasks that are more time-consuming, which will leave you with peace of mind that your support is well taken care of.

What’s the difference between in-house and outsourced customer service?

While in-house customer support and outsourced customer support are different approaches to serving customers, when outsourcing is done right, your customers won’t be able to tell the difference.

So what is the difference between in-house and outsourced support? Let’s take a look. 

  • In-house support is more expensive: Hiring a fully dedicated team or even part-time agents is far more costly than outsourcing a support team. With outsourcing, you have access to team members at lower rates and those agents are often already up to speed on the tools and processes required to run a smooth support operation.
  • You may have more control over an in-house team: An outsourced team is going to be controlled by the company that employs them, but you’ll still have a great deal of managerial influence and be able to lay guidelines for how your customers are treated.
  • With an outsourced team, you have access to expertise without training: With an in-house team, you’ll need to invest in regular training. This can be time-consuming, costly, and pull you away from other priorities. With an outsourced team, the heavy lift of training is shared with the company you hired so you don’t have to put all of your efforts into training.

Motivating an outsourced team and encouraging collaboration

One of the perks of in-house support is that there’s less friction between cross-team collaboration. Your teams have likely been introduced to each other already, they might work in the same office, or share the same Slack channels, and that all helps build relationships.

With outsourced support, you need to find creative ways to motivate the support team and encourage them to collaborate with folks outside of the support team. For example, support agents often need to work with engineers to troubleshoot, resolve, and update the customer about bugs. 

Here are some tips for improving collaboration with an outsourced support team.

Use project management and issue tracker tools

Tools like Jira, Trello, and Linear are easy to use and help bring teams together to understand deadlines, priorities, updates, and more.

Many outsourcing companies already use these tools and understand how they work. You’ll of course need to give agents access to any critical tools to ensure collaboration is seamless.

Use communication tools like Slack

Slack and Microsoft Teams are great ways to bring distributed teams together for tighter collaboration and both real-time and asynchronous communication.

You can set your working hours in Slack so people know when you’re available, and when you’re off. You can also create “non-work” channels to encourage “water cooler” discussion about things outside of work.

These types of interactions really help strengthen relationships and encourage collaboration.

Train on in-house processes

It’s important to bring an outsourced team up to speed on the ways your business works. Every company has unique workflows, processes, and standard operating procedures.

Document the most critical workflows the support team will need to be aware of and follow. For example, how should defects be logged? Include these in the onboarding and training process so the outsourced team is set up for success.

Align on KPIs

Teams working towards different goals can be chaotic, unproductive, and frustrating for employees and customers.

Define your KPIs and communicate them with the outsourced team so that both sides are working towards the same goals. Shared goals inherently promote more collaboration, as different roles depend on each other to achieve desired outcomes. 

Provide constant feedback and training

Outsourced support teams want to hear feedback from you and your customers. Feedback helps identify areas for improvement and constant improvement is the only way to ensure the support team is performing the best they can.

Train them on new tools, features, and processes so they’re equipped to handle the broad range of situations they will likely face.

The keys to successful customer service outsourcing

Measuring success is key to any project you embark on, and outsourcing customer service is no different. You need to ensure your team is performing how you expect and that your customers are satisfied with the support they receive.

Here are some ways to help you measure the success of your customer service outsourcing team:

  • Have a QA rubric: It’s impossible to measure “quality” without defining what quality means. Create a rubric, share it with the team so they understand your expectations, and measure QA regularly so you can constantly work to improve. 
  • Use customer support metrics: Similar to QA, measure key metrics like response time, average handle time, CSAT, and any other critical pieces of data to help you build confidence that your outsourced support team is hitting the mark. 
  • Ask them for feedback: Ask your outsourced support team to provide feedback on their experience working with you and your customers. This makes them feel heard and understood, which will help motivate them to continue to improve and do their best work. 


Deciding to hire an outsourced customer service team isn’t easy, but there are compelling reasons to do so. With cost savings, and the ability to tap into experienced technical support experts, outsourcing support is a great way to level up your support organization and build a world-class customer experience. 

Finding the right partner to leverage for support will take some time, and we hope this guide has provided you with the insight you need to help make your decision. 

PartnerHero is a leader in customer service outsourcing. We believe companies can outsource support in a way that feels like an organic extension of their business both internally and externally.

We have built up support teams around the globe, putting in unique and scalable solutions for businesses large and small. Reach out to learn more about how we can help you outsource customer support.