The Support Driven Guide to Outsourcing

Every few months we gather experienced CX leaders from the Support Driven Community and get their insights on outsourcing. Here’s their latest advice.

Updated October 11, 2021

What is Outsourcing?

Outsourcing is a method of scaling your business processes quickly and effectively. Typically, outsourcing is done through a partnership with a BusinessProcess Outsourcing (BPO) company who provide a variety of services on your behalf. BPOs will work with you to understand your business, the goals you are trying to achieve, and the requirements for each of the services you want to provide and then recruit to meet all of those needs.

Outsourcing can be achieved in a variety of ways. Some companies specialize in one region and use shifts to provide the needed coverage, others use afollow-the-sun model, and others use freelancers that can be location specific. There is no one way to outsource. This guide will illustrate some key considerations on how to determine what is right for your needs.

In this guide we will hear from six experts in outsourcing from the SupportDriven community who can help you to decide if outsourcing is right for you and avoid common problems along the way.

Why Outsource?

There are many challenges that can be solved through outsourcing. As your business grows and evolves there are many scaling factors to consider. Here are some of the most common reasons to outsource support:

Cost Reduction

Reducing support costs is often associated with outsourcing. It is true that outsourcing is often a cheaper way to scale a team. The savings can be quite significant at scale. Most of our experts cited this reason as part of their choice to outsource. Jon of Invoice2go also elaborated that specifically reducing the cost on specific tickets, such as repeatable low-value interactions was important to them, as this allowed them to level up their existing team, and to hit Service Level Objectives (SLOs) more easily.

Flexible and Seasonal Staff

Rachio is a highly seasonal business, and they outsource with PartnerHero to help ramp up and down quickly to ensure a consistent level of support even as volume skyrockets in the summer.

Dane Berry, Customer Support Director at Rachio says: “We have our core outsourced team that works with us all year, and we hire seasonal for Spring/Summer. After Summer, some of these folks end up staying with us in the core team and others move on to other roles. We also see that core team members move on, which opens the door for seasonal team members to become part of the core team.”

This flexibility was also important to, Invoice2Go and Sana Benefits. Employees are often moved to other teams after a contract is over which means that there is potentially more stability for the high performers on a team, even if your company no longer requires their services.

Multi-language Support

At, language was a big driver for outsourcing. James Baldwin, Director of User Success and Support at tells us: “At our peak, we supported English, French, German, Japanese, Turkish, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Thai. As a global organization, we made it our mission to ensure all users received the same quality of service regardless of where they were in the world, what language they spoke or who they were dealing with. Going the outsourcing route and using native speakers in various languages ultimately proved to be the best way to accomplish this.” Finding native speakers in one region is hard, and setting up corporate entities in many countries for small teams requires a lot of overhead and knowledge about local laws and regulations. Outsourcers, including OneLink, which uses, are uniquely set up to handle those parts of operations, letting you focus on your business.

Another benefit is that outsourcing can help you with lower volume or part time coverage, as with Automattic. Andrea Badgley, Program Manager, Contract Support at Automattic shares: “Even our highest volume languages were not high enough volume to merit hiring full time Happiness Engineers to support only that language. In our first attempts with localized support, multilingual Happiness Engineers tried to provide support to both their native language and English support. They were continually being torn which created a lack of clarity around the Happiness Engineers’ priorities and a tremendous amount of decision fatigue.” Outsourcers can allow you to hire part-time, native speakers to help you as you scale your language requirements.

24/7 and Holiday Coverage

Outsourcers often operate in many time zones around the world. This coverage means that you can have a 24/7 team where no one is working odd-hour shifts. For many people, shift work can be a demotivator and disrupt work-life balance. Outsourcers help you remove that through hiring people to work their normal work day, and still provide you complete coverage for your customers.  And since most countries have different national holidays and different seasons, you also have more opportunity to cover your time off without having to ask employees to skip their much-needed days off.

Scale Hiring

Even if you don’t want an offshore team, outsourcing can provide local employees through their services. Hilary, Director of Member Support  at Sana Benefits observed that:

“Recruiting and hiring is tough work that can pull managers away for hours a week. The time it takes to do this well could be spent serving the team.”

Especially at scale, hiring can seem to never end. Dane added: “Not only is there a lot of work in interviewing and hiring a large number of people, but there is also the time managing daily work and providing professional development to individual team members.” Outsourcers have talented people ready to go and are always recruiting for different talents. Working with them to rapidly increase your team can save you hours of effort, while still maintaining the same benefit of getting the right people for you and your customers. They are also well-placed to professionally develop the team. It is in an outsourcers best interest to make sure their employees are strengthening their skills and developing new ones. This development helps the employees to transition to other teams if there is a downsizing or be promoted to leadership roles as the outsourcers expands.

Key Considerations

Like any business decision, there are some main factors you need to consider that vary based on your desired outcomes.  Different outsourcers offer different services and specialize in specific areas. Your business needs should be clearly defined before starting your search.  Jon summarizes the process succinctly:

1. Understand stakeholder positioning

2. Research vendors and outline the plan

3. Get stakeholder feedback

4. Make recommendation with conviction”

To understand all stakeholder needs, here are a few things to think about:

  • Privacy  and compliance needs (HIPAA, GDPR, SOC2 etc.)
  • Language and Time coverage requirements
  • Required Services
  • Hiring profiles and skill sets
  • Mandatory equipment
  • Service Level Agreements your customers want
  • Tools and data access you can and cannot provide

Having these items clearly understood before starting the search process will allow for more thorough conversations with your potential outsource partners.  Once these are understood here are some topics you should address in your search:


The culture of the company should be a main focus for your discussions. The vendor you select will be working directly with your customers, so you need to be confident that your values align and the people they hire will work well with your existing teams.

James focused on culture a lot in his search:

“Culture is very much an imprecise science. In essence, I try to get a sense of not only the working culture among agents at the site (meaning site visits are critical) but also how the management team works and operates, how they try to improve morale and the general workplace, etc. [for example] I noticed some excellent on-site services such as a doctor’s office, a game room, a movie theatre, fresh coffee stalls and more. That was really important as you could see how much that made a difference with staff (and subsequently hinted at other important factors like attrition rates and so on). Look at the culture you have in your home office and what elements are most important to you to try and replicate at your new vendor. How open is the vendor to implementing your culture-related ideas too?”

Hilary’s focus was on a “collaborative mindset. While we are hiring the vendor, the internal and external teams need to work together in harmony. I want a vendor who views this as a partnership and is willing to receive and give feedback on what is working and what isn't.” Automattic struggled with BPO’s because their expectations did not align: “with a BPO we were not involved in the selection process for who filled the role, and despite continual encouragement for the agents to engage with us and our in-house team, they went to their managers for help instead of coming to us.” Whatever is important to your company needs to also be important to the outsourcer you ultimately choose. Outsourcing works best when there is a cultural alignment and shared values.


While you don’t necessarily need to know the exact location, it’s valuable to understand your needs in this area. Location can be important for time coverage, expanding markets, and language. So have a list of these requirements ready as you enter your search for an outsourcer.  They will be the experts on how to best address your needs and should suggest potential locations they can use. You also may want to consider future needs, as Hilary, whose team is currently all US-based, puts it “I want the vendor to support wonderful agents across any and all time zones, including offshore.”


Experience includes everything from industry experience of the partner, to the experience of the people they hire. It’s important that you find a partner that has the experience you need to make your business successful. Not all hiring profiles for support roles are the same. Some support agents need to have troubleshooting and diagnostic skills for deeply technical, unique questions and others will be more focused on repeatable, almost scripted, calls. Different outsourcers will have different recruitment techniques to find the right fit for you.


Even with cost reduction being a key catalyst to seek out a BPO, it doesn’t mean that you are searching for the cheapest option. Cost, in most cases, is tied to the salary the BPO’s employees are paid. And lower salaries could lead to attrition. James prefers to think about this in terms of trust. He believes that trust should be your main goal: “Finding and selecting your outsourced partner is WAY more important than just finding the cheapest solution or the one who can stand up the quickest.” Dane had a similar observation that ethical business practices and employee care are important when selecting a vendor, and those sometimes cost a bit more, but you can have peace of mind that your team is being treated well and paid appropriately.

Communicating with
Your Vendor

In all aspects of business decisions and change, communication is vital. With outsourcing, communication, or lack thereof, can make or break the partnership. There will always be questions about this type of arrangement internally as well as a requirement to communicate with the external partner. James highlights “virtually all problems are created and subsequently solved by communication in one form or another. Talk to your management team, talk to your agents, address problems quickly and be transparent with your needs. These are all things that'll go so far in ensuring a partnership works.” All of our experts mentioned communication as a key to a successful partnership.

Proposing Outsourcing Internally

When you start investigating outsourcing as an option for your business, there may be concerns from all levels of employees.  Your senior leadership may be worried about data security, quality, trusting a third party, or retention and your individual contributors might be worried about their job security or changes to their role. Outsourcing is a big change and needs to be communicated clearly, and transparently. James believes that ”ultimately, it comes down to alignment with company goals and helping communicate how this change allows your team and the company to continue to grow together.”  Exactly correct! Outsourcing should be seen as an opportunity for your company. As an example, Jon mentions that it is a chance to level up your current team such as adding in a tiered support model.

Alleviating concerns about a BPO partnership is about listening to the feedback and addressing it honestly and with the best information available. Will there be job cuts or recruitment slowdowns? Who is responsible for security and privacy concerns? Are there product or permissions changes you need to make to ensure success? How do we integrate the teams together? Think carefully about these types of questions and you will be better prepared to propose outsourcing internally.

Keeping Teams Aligned

Almost all of our experts mentioned using Slack as a way to keep communication flowing between in-house and outsourced teams. A shared asynchronous communication tool is a great way to put all of your associates together. But Slack can often be difficult to use a great alignment tool, especially across multiple shifts, or time zones. Dane has a great process to capture knowledge from Slack and other places: “We have a knowledge/content intake loop which starts through support team interactions with customers, and questions in Slack or team meetings. The knowledge gap is identified and added to an Asana board where the content is created and then rolled out to the team via a Guru knowledge article and a Lessonly lesson.”  Processes like this one can greatly reduce mistakes and repetitive work from your team members.

Jon specifically practices proactive communication, which is absolutely critical for teams working remotely or over different shifts. Announcing changes early allows for everyone to read, understand, and train as needed. This also allows you to gather feedback or answer questions. Hilary notes that she “strives for an environment where all feedback is heard, opinions are valued, and the best idea wins, no matter whose idea it is.” Listening to feedback can help bring teams together and make your outsourced team feel part of the company and like they can help drive meaningful change within your organization.

Another way to align teams is using shared goals. “Starts from the top with goals. We tend to go through quarterly planning cycles internally with our support leadership team to figure out how we want to accomplish these goals. This is critical to getting buy-in and ensuring those leaders can then sell this direction to the agents. It'll also help with ensuring retention is there since these leaders feel invested in the process.” Goals ensure that all of your team members, in office, remote, or outsourced work toward the same outcomes.


Common structure seen with outsourcing is that the partner team covers tier 1 tickets, and escalates to an in-house tier 2 team. Managing this process can be difficult. Among our experts, tools such as Slack popped up as a way to communicate across teams. Another common answer was using your ticket management tool to move tickets between queues and automate repeatable steps into a few clicks. This automation is really important, especially at high volume. Having to copy and paste data between systems or fill in forms etc. is a significant waste of effort in most cases. Zendesk macros, Zapier, integrations, and other automation tools will save time, provide more consistent escalations, and significantly reduce errors or missing information.

Another consideration is what should your outsourced team handle or immediately hand off. Dane from Rachio makes sure that is very clear to all stakeholders: “We have identified and documented the customer situations that need to be handled by higher tiers and other teams. If discussion is needed it can take place inside of the ticket as a note or engaged in Slack.”

Measuring Success

Team Success

Our experts agreed that you need to apply the same measurements to your outsourced team as you would to your in-house team. Alignment helps everyone speak the same language and understand the goals as a shared direction. Hilary highlighted that “we've spent quite a bit of time and effort collaborating on a Quality Assurance Rubric to ensure we are holding everyone on the teams to the same, consistent high standards.” Gaining agreement from your vendor on what is possible, and then holding them accountable to it is a great way to make sure your teams are aligned. Aligning is even more important in situations like Andrea’s at automatic. Their outsource strategy is with part-time freelancers. “Given our freelancers are part-time, it’s unlikely that they’ll get to the same level of proficiency as a full-time agent, so the interaction rate we look for is slightly lower from what we expect from our in-house engineers. But otherwise, yes, we look for the same things.” Metrics that our experts specifically called out to align on where:

  • Quality metrics like CSAT, Ticket Quality Score, Average handle Time, First Contact Time
  • Efficiency metrics such as Tickets per hour, # of missed calls/chats

Andrea called out a different type of metric as well: “We gauge qualitative behaviors as well, like receptivity to feedback, improvement over time, engagement, and communication.”

This alignment extends to celebrations, shout-outs, or other ceremonies that you use internally. For example, you could provide your team with swag or offer them similar rewards as your in-house team when milestones are achieved. Hilary’s team does this really well: “We host shared holiday parties, post frequently in a meant-for-fun Slack channel, and also give each other public shoutouts every Friday or randomly during the week.“

Partnership Success

James summarized partnership success the best: “I cannot think of something more important than being able to fully trust a vendor and as such, I can't think of a better way to summarize how successful I feel a vendor is at any given time than being able to go back to that.” Trust is vital between you and your chosen vendor. Hilary agrees and noted that having fun together also builds trust. Jon reiterated that two-way, transparent communication is absolutely vital as well as ensuring first-class employee treatment and setting a high-bar for quality all make sure your partnership remains strong.  Cultural immersion can be a game changer. The agents should feel like they work for you, not the BPO.

To monitor overall partners success, it’s important to keep an eye on workload fluctuations, team morale and partner communication. After an experimental partnership with a vendor didn’t work out, Andrea also highlighted that being willing to learn yourselves makes a big difference: “There’s a lot we needed to do on our end as well to make partnering with a vendor work better. We basically worked with the vendor the same way we work with all of our internal employees and we didn’t get the same results. So we either didn’t have the right vendor for the way we work, or we needed to reset our expectations for the way we work with vendors.”  Jon also notes that “above aligning with your goals, ensure that the contract is flexible right at the start. For example, avoid high agent commitment  or long term commitments.”

Handling Failure

Sometimes success eludes us. If you start to see consistent signs that your partner isn’t working out, that is not often a symptom of outsourcing as a concept, but that your partnership may not be a good fit.  Hilary suggests “presenting clear, objective feedback to the outsourcer. Understand if there are things they can change, or changes that either team can make, to turn it around. If not, they at least have clear reasons as to why the partnership isn't working. We can both walk away having learned and grown from the experience.”  All of our experts agree that communication is once again the key. Set clear goals up front and talk about them with the partner if those are not being achieved.

Meet the Crew
Dane Berry

Dane is the Senior Manager of Contact Center and CS for Rachio, Inc. Rachio helps customers save water with smart irrigation controllers. Rachio uses PartnerHero for their outsourced support.

Andrea Badgley

Andrea is the program manager for the contractor support program at Automattic. Automattic makes, WooCommerce, and Tumblr, among other products. Automattic uses Upwork to hire freelancers to round out their support team.

Hilary Dudek

Hilary is the Director of Member Support for Sana Benefits, an Austin-based health insurance startup that delivers affordable, accessible and understandable healthcare to small-medium sized businesses. Sana Benefits uses PartnerHero to scale their support team.

James Baldwin

James Baldwin is the Director of User Support at, the world's largest social platform for change. Every day, millions of people around the world use our platform to try and either make or support a change they want to see in the world. works with the BPO OneLink to scale support.

Jon Coon

Jon is the Director of Customer Success at invoice2go. Invoice2go's mission is to amplify the independent spirit of small businesses. Invoice2go works with two outsourcers, ECE Consulting Group and Service Response Partners.

Craig Stoss

Craig Stoss is a Senior Program Manager at PartnerHero. PartnerHero is an outsourcing company that specializes in building high quality support teams to help brand-forward companies grow. Craig has experience starting and managing outsourced teams for PTC, Vidyard, and Shopify, and has led international teams for 10 years. He is also a writer and podcaster on Customer Experience thought leadership. His portfolio can be found at