Two things every business owner knows: customer relations are everything, and time and money are almost always in short supply.
Savvy business owners are always looking for new ways to save time, money, and effort, while not sacrificing the level of service their customers have come to expect.
But maintaining good communications with your customers in-house isn’t always easy. It’s all too common for companies to inadvertently neglect their customers, or — almost as bad — overdo it when it comes to communication. This can be especially true of smaller businesses, who commonly face the challenge of not having the resources on staff to communicate effectively with their clientele.
Which brings us to the subject of either hiring a specialist to handle customer communications or bringing on third parties from the outside. Plenty of businesses are outsourcing to survive in today’s tough economic environment. But should you outsource or hire a dedicated communications specialist to handle the fine work of customer relations?
Hire Internally or Outsource: What Are the Advantages?
A new hire or a third-party freelancer or agency — which is going to be the right course of action for your company?
Let’s weigh some of the advantages of each.
Hiring a communications specialist means you can take the time to find someone who fits better with your culture, and has a trustworthy reputation, and high level of availability — something you might not always get with outsourcing, especially if you choose to outsource overseas.
A dedicated communications specialist may also have a better grasp of your brand, respond faster in the event of a crisis, and offer you their expertise and strategic input when making business decisions.
Outsourcing your communications needs to a freelancer means you can target contractors with more specialized skills, more easily scale your brand by contracting more freelancers, and free up your time to focus on other business tasks. Outsourcing also saves you money, since having fewer employees means there’s fewer overhead costs and (usually) a lower salary.
Outsourcing is not without its disadvantages, however. Freelance consultants might not always be available when you need them (especially if you contract overseas). Freelancers might also require more time training and briefing on your brand. There’s also the possibility, even if it’s remote, of confidential information leaking out, and you may have to take time to vet their work output. If things don’t work out, you’ll have to start the hiring and training process all over again with a new freelancer or agency — although the same could be said, to some degree, of hiring in-house.
Whichever route you decide to take, make sure the communication specialist is qualified. This would include enough relevant work experience and the right education and background. If you find there’s an internal team member that would be a perfect fit but they lack the experience or education, consider sending them back to school for communication management and sponsoring a part of their education. You don’t always have to hire our outsource. If you’re not in a rush, there’s always the option to promote from within and groom someone for the position over time.
Communications Specialist or Outsource?
So, what’s the answer? As with so many business decisions, the answer is “it depends.” Here are some of the primary questions to ask yourself before taking either course of action:
- Is your business struggling to grow? A failure to connect properly with customers could very well be at the heart of the problem and should guide your decision on whether you need to take on new personnel at all.
- Do you have enough communications skills internally? There’s a big difference between having someone with a communication background on your team and someone who got stuck with the job because there was no one else to do it.
- Are customers complaining about your service and responsiveness? If so, that’s a sign you should move as fast as possible to find a solution, whether it’s hiring someone permanently or putting things in the hands of an agency.
- What’s your budget for marketing and communications? One of the main reasons to outsource is saving money, after all. The financial concerns are one of the first things you should assess and compare when deciding whether to outsource or hire a communications specialist.
- Will you go local or international? As already said above, outsourcing to overseas agencies or freelancers can cause some time zone issues. But also consider that you have access to global talent. That means a remote employee or communications team might even work better than outsourcing, since the world has adapted to a more remote-friendly working environment.
What Should You Consider Outsourcing?
If you do choose to go with outsourcing some of your communications needs, here are some of the functions you might want to consider:
- Customer service support, either to a dedicated outside agency, an AI chatbot, or a combination of both.
- Content marketing / social media marketing
- Media monitoring
- Public relations
This also doesn’t have to be an either / or proposition — it’s perfectly acceptable, maybe even preferable, to do a mix of both outsourcing and hiring on a new person. For example, you could hire an internal communications specialist to oversee an overall communications strategy, while outsourcing things like social media management and customer service to a freelance agency or individual.
Should You Hire a Communications Specialist or Outsource?