To outsource or not to outsource live chat support? Pros and cons of different options

By Päivi Harju, on 20 September, 2017

Live chat has several business benefits,  for example, it has proved to be more cost-efficient than other service channels (like the phone). Still, none of this is possible without the necessary human resources to provide customers with personal, timely and accurate support. That is why one of the most critical considerations when implementing live chat is resourcing.

When trying to make sure they can utilise the full potential of live chat as a service channel, companies usually have at least three alternatives. The 1) is to use the same customer support and sales resources they use with phone and email. The 2) is to outsource the chat personnel to a resource company, and the 3) is to adopt an model that combines internal and outsourced resources.

Different alternatives have all their advantages and disadvantages which is why it is good to take time to review each option carefully before making a move.


The answer to the question whether you should or shouldn't outsource your chat personnel depends on several factors like where you are planning to use live chat and what level of product and service knowledge chat agents should have.

Your support team - The superheroes of customer experience

If you are planning to implement live chat to your public website, in most cases, you can start by simply integrating live chat as an additional tool for your support team. In the beginning, this, of course, means that people taking care of phone and email support also need to be trained, and you need to allocate the necessary resources for the live chat. However, in the long run, having a live chat on a website usually reduces both phone calls and emails which means that you can put less emphasis on those channels.

Internal chat agents also have the advantage of an excellent knowledge base and easy access to customer data and other teams. When the people taking care of the different type of support requests are the same, it is also easier to maintain the same service quality no matter what the channel of interaction is.

Internal Chat Agents - Pros and ConsIn some situations, like when the product or service you are selling is highly specialised and/or you are handling sensitive customer information, using own customer support resources for handling the chat conversations is also undeniably the best (if not the only) option.

For example, to be able to give precise answers to questions related to pharmaceutical drugs you usually need to be a pharmacist or at least have a deep understanding of the topic. Also, you also need to make sure that these chat conversations are handled with care as they contain highly sensitive personal information.

Outsourced chat agents - The customer engagement professionals

Sometimes outsourcing chat personnel can be a better option than using elsewhere needed internal resources. That is especially true when the customer support volumes are relatively high and the product or service sold is not especially complicated. In a situation like this outsourcing, chat personnel can be a cheaper and a more efficient option than increasing the number of company’s customer support employees.

Outsourced Chat Agents - Pros and ConsOutsourced chat personnel can typically answer to approx. 80% of visitor questions with a couple of day’s training which means that only the remaining 20% is left to handle by internal resources. Experienced live chat operators can also manage approximately five chat conversations at the same time which means that they can take care high volumes of incoming live chat requests.

As outsourced chat operators don’t have to take care of any other support channels, they also have the advantage of being able to focus on one task only. That is why many companies already use outsourced resources as the first line of chat agents whose role is to start a conversation with a customer and gently steer the customer forward. Then, and only if and when needed, chats can be directed to internal customer support and sales specialists for additional information and help.

A hybrid model - Getting the most of both worlds

Adopting a model that allows combining different type of resources also has its advantages. For example, if the business requires 24/7 chat service, your support team can take care of the chat service during regular working hours and outsourced chat agents can continue when it is time for your customer support to leave for home. 

One great way to use the different type of resources is to give internal and external live chat teams different responsibilities, e.g. based on product and service categories. Like our customer, VV-Auto has done. You can learn more by downloading the case study





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Topics: Live Chat, Customer Service, Best practice, Resourcing