Small businesses turn to virtual solutions for handling human resources, data analytics and call-center customers.
By Brittany Shoot
Running a company entails handling many different responsibilities concurrently. But a small-business owner can’t be all things to all people. More importantly, you shouldn’t be. In recent years, there’s been a trend toward outsourcing tasks and even entire departments that don’t require hiring an in-house expert or team to oversee the job.
Ryan Hulland, the director of business development and co-owner of Netfloor USA, a manufacturer in Charlotte, N.C., says there’s a reason that other companies specialize in the services you may want to outsource.
“Small businesses have enough pressures on them as it is,” he says. “Hopefully, your small business already specializes in something that is your core competency. By outsourcing other functions of running the business, you can stay committed to delivering outstanding products and services.”
Here are three areas where small-business owners can save time and money by outsourcing:
- Outsourcing human resources
It’s now cost-effective to hire a virtual payroll and HR team rather than growing your own staff.
“You’d never catch me doing payroll or routine HR tasks, simply because I could spend my time in a more productive manner, in an area in which I specialize,” Hulland says. “When it comes to payroll, we use a third-party company to handle it all.”
But, he adds, “When it comes to things like paid time off, flex time, maternity or paternity leave, savings plans, health plans, and the overall welfare and happiness of your employees, there shouldn’t be anyone out there who cares more than you do.”
He suggests determining which parts of your human-resources tasks you should outsource based on how many employees you have and how closely you work together.
And while this might seem obvious, understand exactly what the company you choose offers in terms of privacy policies.
For example, if you hire an external HR firm to handle health-related benefits, make sure they comply with HIPPA standards and have a proven track record. As of 2013, thanks to the HIPPA Omnibus Rule, third-party administrators can be held liable for civil or criminal penalties if they fail to properly comply with HIPPA guidelines. This updated guideline helps protects small-business owners who rely on external companies to handle their sensitive data.
- Outsourcing data labeling and analytics
Companies that handle large data sets don’t need to rely on experts they’ve hired on staff to do menial tasks such as sorting and labeling when companies exist that specialize in just that role.
For example, a salaried data scientist shouldn’t be dealing with mountains of unfiltered data when someone much more junior can handle that task, leaving the critical analysis to a highly trained specialist.
Much like outsourcing HR, you’ll need to consider whether you’ll be turning over sensitive data to a data company, and what policies they have in place to protect you, your employees, and your clients. For instance, you’ll want a company that adheres to basic security practices, such as keeping sensitive data behind the corporate firewall and running regular database backups.
- A call-center solution
You no longer need to invest in a phone system and workstation for employees handling call volume. With browser-based call centers, contractors can work from anywhere and send you valuable data, such as call recordings and metrics, to streamline how you analyze customer interactions.
You’ll want to be sure the solution you choose integrates with your business tools. You may also have the opportunity to use a solution that allows you to listen in on calls, so you understand how virtual-call-center employees are handling your business.
John Walko, the sales manager at Charlotte, N.C.-based web design consultancy Web Design 59, says his business would be crippled without a low-cost call-center solution to offer basic tech support and sales and to address customer questions.
“We are a small business of four full-time employees and as our business was growing, we were spending most of our time answering calls,” he says. “We thought of hiring a person to be dedicated to the phone, but for the time [spent] training, the hourly rate, and the fact that calls were coming all hours day and night, it would not be practical.”
However, outsourcing customer-service tasks is not for everyone. Hulland says that’s one aspect of his business he would never outsource.
“I believe there is no one who understands our products more than we do, and no one cares about our customers more than we do,” he says. “In addition to designing and selling outstanding products and services, truly caring about our customers and solving their problems is our entire business. Handing customer service over to a call center would be like handing half of your business over to someone else.”
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