Decide Whether to Outsource Management of a Real-Time Communication Tool
BY Jennifer LeClaire
Before implementing any new communication tool, compare the development, training, and staffing costs against the costs of outsourcing. Don't forget to include your research time (which is time you could spend doing other things to run your business). Here's a simple checklist for evaluating your resources and needs:
What is your time frame for launching the new tool? If it is important to get your communication tools up and running quickly -- say, in less than two months -- you may be more inclined to outsource them to a third party that offers a proven business model and quick ramp-up time. If, on the other hand, you have no real time constraints, either approach would work equally well for you.
Do you have adequate staff in place? If you or your current staff cannot handle the likely increase in customer interaction, you can either hire more people or outsource management of the tool. You will have to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine which option makes the most sense for your site.
Are you familiar with communication tools? Do you have the time and means to learn what you need to in the given period? Some business owners would rather forgo the substantial learning curve and take advantage of an established communication provider, reasoning that the time lost on the learning process is profit lost for their company. Your philosophy on this matter will sway your decision to outsource.
Is cost a determining factor? Outsourcing is more expensive in the long term, and you don't gain the knowledge in-house to run the tool yourself. But in the short term, you avoid the costs of purchasing technology and hiring staff. Weigh short-term and long-term costs against your budget to determine how much and how long you'll want to invest in this tool.
How often do you plan to upgrade your site's customer service tools? If you plan to keep up with the latest and greatest in communication technology, outsourcing is probably the way to go, as it will minimize your investment risks. However, if you plan to stick with standardized tools, such as e-mail and 800 numbers, you may not feel the need to make continuous investments in communication and, therefore, may be better off keeping these operations in-house.
Do you want to maintain control of every aspect of incoming and outgoing communication, or do you feel comfortable outsourcing to a trusted third party? If you generally prefer to keep all business operations in-house, you will obviously want to choose a solo approach. However, if yours is a virtual company with many functions outsourced, a third-party provider may be the ticket for you.