Morrisons’ announcement it will be starting online sales (a long time after its rivals) provides a timely reminder of the need to listen to customers and predict trends. The move to online presents a challenge many traditional retailers have struggled with in the past: how to effectively support customers remotely without adding a disproportionate amount of cost into the business.

In an online environment, effectively managing customer contact can be the difference between making a profit or a loss on an order and this can sway a company’s decision as to how best to support its customers.

It is easy to see why businesses view customer support operations as a cost and try to minimise it, but in the long term this will be to their detriment. Customer support operations play a crucial part in gathering information about customer trends and sentiment and identifying failures within the supply chain.

If packaged and used in the right way, this information will be enable businesses improve customer support and problem prevention - which will lead to increased sales and margins as well as happy customers.

Many in-house centres struggle with this value-add as it requires investment and expertise to measure, understand and collate information. This has allowed outsourcers to steal a march by offering their clients access to the latest technology to process customer data. This enables them to become true partners in the evolution of their clients’ business by identifying opportunities to improve the service and to help keep costs down.

Sceptics may disagree, but the reality is that to be successful and a true outsourcing partner, this behaviour must become the norm. Organisations that cannot embrace this will quickly be replaced by those that can, and they will share in their clients’ success. The confidence and trust retailers will have in them will be rewarded with more opportunities and other business beating a path to their doors.

For retailers, it is time to believe it is possible to improve customer service and save costs in the long run.

Graham Brown is director of strategic accounts at Teleperformance