Miles Hobson
Miles Hobson 7 April 2016

How To Choose A Live Chat Outsourcing Company

So you've decided you want to outsource your live chat and have begun the search for a live chat outsourcing partner to help you along the way. This post from Jonny (Co-Founder of The Chat Shop) will help you understand the differences between various outsourcing partners and how you can pick the best one for you.

But aren't you part of a company that outsources live chat? Why would I take biased advice from you? Good question dear reader. Yes, we do offer live chat outsourcing. Are we right for everyone? Nope. Live chat is awesome and I'd like every site to have it with it being run by the right people - whether that's us, a competitor or an in house team. Hand on heart, pinky promise. Now, onwards!

Outsourcing can be a scary decision. Right now, you're doing your best to make sure you come out on top with the right partner for you. If live chat isn't something you've used or outsourced before, where do you start when deciding how to pick your partner? I'm going to try and distill the thousands of conversations I've had with prospects and clients over the past 3 years to help you make the right choice.

What's your main reason for wanting live chat in the first place?

Before we even get to different options for outsourcing, what you need to think about is why are you getting live chat in the first place?

Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and cash to burn (if you do, feel free to get in touch - always happy to hang out) then you're looking at live chat to solve a real business issue.

So to help you decide what outsourcing partner is right for you, first we need to answer the question - why do you want live chat in the first place?

Why do you want live chat in the first place?

Table with reasons for choosing live chat

Pick the box that aligns most with what you're looking to achieve with live chat as a tool. Now we need to understand why, based on your above answer, you're looking at outsourcing rather than in house.

Why are you looking at live chat outsourcing?

The below table should map to the quadrant that best described your overall goals for live chat:

Table with reasons for live chat outsourcing

note: in all of the above examples, extending existing office hours is considered as part of the core reason

Here we can start to get a picture of what you're looking for when it comes to the kind of live chat outsourcing partner you need.

What you should be looking for in your outsourced partner

For the next stage we're going to look at mapping your selected quadrant to a type of supplier. To keep things simple, I've used two core axis - Value and Cost. Cost is pretty self explanatory, high cost means you'll pay a bit more, low cost a bit less.

Value however is slightly different. Value does not necessarily correlate to quality. Value here refers to the additional value that will be created above and beyond having a person answer the chat. You may only need a little relative value (someone to handle 10 basic FAQs). Recognising what you really want from a value perspective will help you understand what kind of live chat partner is right for you. To help you further, I've outlined some key distinctions between a low value and high value provider:


Based on your answer to the first two 4x4's, it's likely that the below table outlines the types of characteristics you should look for when selecting the perfect partner.

Table showing characteristics you should look for

To give you some more context, the companies in the quadrants above likely have some or all of the following characteristics.

Table of live chat supplier characteristics

So, we now have an idea of the kind of outsourcing partner you're looking for and the kind of characteristics associated with them.

Checking for quality, questions you should ask

Whether you're looking for high cost or low value or any of the other two options, it's always important to check that your preferred partner is right for your expected quality.

As we discussed earlier, you can have low cost / value providers who have good quality to deliver on those requirements. You can have terrible high cost / value requirements and all the rest in between.

Before you get started, I'd suggest you find out the following, no matter which quadrant you're aiming for:

  • Where are your agents based

  • What does your setup process consist of

  • How do you get the knowledge you need

  • What's your agent training process

  • What are your SLA's (look for customer satisfaction, speed of response)

  • Do your agents have KPIs and how are these measured

  • Can you give me an estimate of how many leads / sales you'll generate for me

  • How are your agents monitored

  • What happens if they don't know the answer to a question

  • How do I get the leads / customer service enquiries

  • What reporting do you offer

  • What level of customisation do you offer

  • Do you have experience in my industry

  • What clients do you currently work with

  • Can I test the service on their sites

  • Can I get copies of all the transcripts

  • What happens if an agent goes mental

  • My main sources of traffic are (list top 3) how can you maximise leads/sales from these sources

Wrapping up

Live chat is an incredible tool. Like any tool, it's success or failure depends on the way it's used.

If you're considering live chat outsourcing, be clear on what you need live chat to do for you.

A lot of people I speak to say they are looking to outsource live chat for one main reason - I have no one else to do it.

That's a fair enough reason and of course it makes sense, but that's actually the effect of the problem and not the core issue.

It is the size and scale of the issue you're trying to solve that should determine what live chat outsourcing partner is right for you not the fact you have no one to do it. Outsourcing at its best should be about working with someone who can add the right amount of value whilst doing it in a cost effective way, not just someone that can provide bums on seats.

Chat offers an amazing opportunity to create inspiring conversations that deliver tangible value to your business. Whatever partner you choose to work with, I wish you the best of the luck with your journey - it's a huge step to being a more customer centric business.

This post originally appeared on The Chat Shop blog.

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