July 24, 2020

Evaluate CS Vendors: Choosing the Right Partners

Choose the right partners with Evaluate CS Vendors. Elevate your service standards effectively. Discover more now!

Jon Tucker
CEO HelpFlow
Evaluate CS Vendors: Choosing the Right Partners

Evaluating e-commerce vendors can be challenging, especially when it comes to hiring a customer service team for live chat or tickets. Making the wrong choice in a customer-facing vendor hire like this can not only waste time but also potentially lower your overall conversion rate. Therefore, it's crucial to carefully assess and evaluate CS vendors to ensure they align with your business needs and standards for customer service excellence.

There are a lot of compelling looking customer service vendors out there, but there are really only a few key elements that matter to make this hire successful for you.

At HelpFlow, we provide 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for over 100 stores. We’ve been doing this for nearly 6 years and have worked with hundreds of clients. In this post, I’m going to give you an insiders look at what makes a customer service operation work well and how you can vet vendors correctly if you’re considering hiring one.

Let’s dig in.

Evaluate CS Vendors: Average Agent Turnover is 30%

A few years into HelpFlow, I started getting pretty detailed with competitive industry research. I was curious to benchmark us against competitors across a few different things. One thing that blew my mind was the average turnover rate in the customer service industry.

The typical turnover rate for agents is 30% in the customer service industry. This might be a little high or a little low for different regions and verticals, but 30% is the “norm”. 

To put this in perspective, this means you are replacing people around three times per year. There’s new people coming in almost every quarter, that’s insane.

At HelpFlow, our turnover is about 1% per year. This is a function of our recruiting process, our compensation, and just the basics of getting a really healthy company culture right.

As I started to see this in the industry, we actually took advantage of it by basically poaching experienced people from other firms that tend to burn everyone out including their leadership team.

If you’re considering hiring a customer service team, ask for turnover metrics for the last two years for the frontline agent team and also the management team. Both matter and both should be extremely low.

The Training Should Feel Extremely Methodical

If the answer to “how did the agents get trained?” is something like “ we talk to you about your business and help them be able to process tickets”, this is a red flag.

To evaluate CS vendors effectively, it’s essential to consider their ability to train agents across a variety of businesses. The training process should be exceptionally thorough, going beyond the basics to equip agents with advanced skills that surpass standard in-house training methods.

Here’s a few key things to watch for in the training process:

  • It should be comprehensive and cover a wide range of material at various levels of depth.
  • It should be creative, by basically getting access to everything that you do and making sense of it in a creative way. For example, pulling in thousands of email tickets, analyzing to see patterns and how you handle those tickets and creating processes based on that.
  • It should be owned entirely by the vendor. They should not have to rely on you training their team, but instead should be focused on extracting information from you in an easy way for you.
  • Lastly, it should be efficient for you and be able to have agents start relatively quickly. A week or two at most.

The training process is the most important part of being able to represent your brand well. When you’re considering hiring a customer service vendor, this part should not remain a mystery until after you sign up. It should be clear and compelling.

Are They Vetting You Too?

This is a subtle thing, but companies that are experienced with a lot of clients know precisely what to look for to know if a client is a good fit or a bad fit. They also have enough deal flow to not need to take on clients that they can’t hit a home run for.

In the process of evaluating CS vendors, it’s important to engage clients with a comprehensive set of questions right from the start of the sales process. This ensures a mutual fit. Discussions should cover a range of topics including traffic, revenue levels, profit margins, and existing conversion optimization strategies, especially since our chat teams are sales-oriented.

By understanding the inner workings of your business, a vendor will be able to know and communicate how they’re going to work well with you.

If you get pretty far into the sales process with the vendor and they haven't asked for information that makes you feel a little uncomfortable to disclose, such as revenue, administrative access to your helpdesk, or other things of that nature, this is a red flag.

I hope this helps give you some perspective to get more clarity and confidence when hiring a customer-facing vendor. In short, get granular details about their turnover rates and the training process, and make sure that they are trying to get granular details about you to make sure it’s gonna be a fit. If all of that lines up, you probably got a good vendor here.

If you have any questions, I’m happy to dig into more details in a Strategy Call. At HelpFlow, we provide 24/7 live chat and customer service teams to over 100 stores and can share all of the above and more with you if you think we might be a fit for each other

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