Have you ever hung up the phone with a company’s customer service representative and felt so positive about the experience, you were compelled to go online and leave a review, share your experience on social, or make a repeat purchase? Chances are that company now has your loyalty, respect, and possibly even your future business.
That’s what makes a great customer service strategy such an important part of any business. And a freelance customer service representative can be the front line, helping customers to resolve issues or answer questions by phone, email, or online chat. These professionals can be critical to keeping your customers satisfied around the clock. They can also be important barometers to customer sentiments and report back with common questions and concerns you can proactively head off.
So how do you estimate a budget for a customer service rep (CSR)? This article will break down the top four factors that contribute to the cost of customer service.
Note: For a customer service engagement where the project may require more ongoing support, consider Upwork Payroll to help with compliance and classification.
1. The complexity of your product or service offerings
A customer service professional’s goal is to quickly and efficiently provide practical solutions that keep customers happy. But the more complicated it is to arrive at that solution, the more expertise, time, and effort it takes. The steeper the learning curve, the more you should expect to budget for quality customer support.
For example, troubleshooting how to do something in your software may require a firm understanding of how the program works, including menus, options, and shortcuts. They’ll need to be familiar with how different types of users (i.e., personas) use the program and be able to speak knowledgeably to use cases and common behaviors.
Other factors such as complex terminology (such as medical or pharmaceutical terminology) may also require some upfront education so the professional can identify what a customer is asking with less back and forth required to get to the root of the issue. This can help keep calls, chats and other interactions short and effective.
Generally, the hourly rates for CSRs that specialize in a particular field can be 20-50% more than those of general reps, but take into consideration that their specialization may eliminate the need for extensive training on your needs.
2. The scope of the work
What is the scope of your project? Do you have a large backlog of tickets to tackle? Are you tapping flexible support in anticipation of the launch of a new product or announcement of a big change? How many channels will the professional need to monitor and address—in other words, will there be more multitasking involved than usual?
When posting a project on Upwork, provide as much detail as possible so the freelancers know exactly what will be expected of them and can provide a more accurate proposal.
Remember: Using a service like Upwork Payroll to compensate these individuals can ensure that you’re staying compliant with your working relationship.
3. The number of sales involved
For many organizations, inbound marketing strategies are closely integrated with the work that their customer service professionals do. These one-to-one communications and interactions offer prime opportunities for representatives to help with closing sales, upselling, signing renewals, or heading off cancellations or returns.
If a CSR’s primary task is selling, however, you’re going to want to offer some type of incentive to encourage them to close those deals. This could be anything from a set commission structure to a higher hourly rate or fixed price based on performance.
4. The experience and expertise of the professional
Most freelance customer service representatives prefer to work at an hourly rate, although some may consider other structures. Those with extensive experience within your field will likely propose a higher hourly rate to start, but they’re also likely to be more adept when speaking to customers on the phone or over chat and ensuring they leave happy—your ultimate goal.
How much should I expect to pay?
SAMPLE CUSTOMER SERVICE JOBS (Estimated rates charged by intermediate-level, U.S. based specialists)
Project Type Average Price (per hour)
General Customer Service $10-$25
Clerical/Secretarial Duties $10-$30
Sales Assistant $15-$65
Dedicated Customer Support $10-$22