Outsourcing a major part of your business is never an easy decision, but operating a contact center requires a significant investment in technology and staffing. For some companies, outsourcing call center services makes sense, while others are better served by keeping call center functions in-house. When it comes to choosing a call center service, that choice becomes even more difficult. There are two main reasons for outsourcing, and two types of call centers that can meet those needs.
- Outbound Call Centers: These services are to make outgoing calls on behalf of your business. Outbound would be a sales and marketing solution to help your business grow. An outbound call center could help book more meetings, bring in leads or even directly sell for your business.
- Inbound Call Centers: An inbound call service handles (either in part or the whole) the incoming phone calls regarding your business. This could be incoming sales enquiries, but usually pertains to customer service and support issues.
Again, the choice of whether you even need to outsource calls is a big change to the culture and operation of your business. If your company is struggling with call center efficiency, outsourcing some or all of your call center operations can help to accommodate growth or free up your in-house agents for certain types of calls, such as those requiring specific expertise. In this case, routing calls to the right agents will be an important component. In order to help you in the process of selecting the best call center services, we’ve searched the top call center and marketing websites to find expert opinions. The following list is full of quotes from leaders and influencers who can help understand:
- The benefits of using a call center service
- What to know about your business before you employ a service
- Exactly which services are necessary for your success
Note: The list is in no particular order and deals with multiple aspects surrounding the topic of employing a call center service for your business.
1. Understand what services are available
“Most call center service providers categorize their offerings into outbound and inbound calling services. Outbound is ideal for businesses that need assistance reaching customers. Inbound services provide customer assistance and technical support for programs and software.
“With any type of marketing campaign, tracking success is a must, and thus, you’ll want a reporting feature. Seek out companies that offer call completion and refusal reports.
“You should also look for campaign success features. If you are U.S. based, consider hiring a center located in the U.S. Often with call centers overseas, English is a second language to representatives and communication barriers can arise. Campaign success features can extend to script development – it’s important that a service provides knowledgeable, professional service to your customers.
“When the reps you hire answer the phone, you need them to be able to provide support and be helpful. Look for quality help and support services.
“Choosing the right call center for your business comes down to what your needs are. Learn as much as you can about the companies in the market, all the features they have to offer, and their pricing (including contract terms).” – How to choose the best call center service for your business, The Business Journals; Twitter: @bizjournals
2. Choose between dedicated or shared agents
“The best call center services offer both dedicated and shared agents. Dedicated agents are assigned only to your account, giving your company their full time and attention. This is best for businesses with specific, detailed needs that demand familiarity and consistency from their agents.
“For companies with more general needs, a shared agent might be more appropriate. These agents handle multiple clients of the call center and don’t necessarily answer your business’s calls 100% of the time. These services are often cheaper and still effective for companies that don’t require specific attention day in and day out.
“Some companies offer a semi-dedicated model, which blends cost-effectiveness with specialized attention. These agents usually handle one or two accounts in addition to yours, instead of a full slate. This means that, while they are not solely focused on your company, their attention is less divided. These agents are often cheaper than dedicated agents but more expensive than shared agents. This model is relatively rare, but it offers a great balance between cost and quality.” – Adam C. Uzialko, How to Choose a Customer Service Call Center for Your Business, Business News Daily; Twitter: @BNDarticles
3. Keep an eye on the AI trend
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly making its way into many familiar systems, often acting as an augmentation to human ability rather than a replacement for it. It’s no different in the world of call centers, where AI is already making a splash.
“Certainly, AI has and continues to be used for contextualizing the massive amounts of data captured by call centers, but it’s starting to go a step further. Predictive analytics, the ability to determine which customers are most likely to buy, for example, is becoming a powerful use case for AI in the call center industry. It can also be used to hold agents accountable for their performance and flag agents that might require additional training or correction.
“The evolving mechanism behind these trends are speech analytics driven by natural language processing (NLP.) NLP allows machine learning algorithms to analyze and understand speech patterns and tonality to make determinations about intent and then predict future actions accordingly.
“What used to require human intuition and weeks of work now takes significantly less time and can largely be automated. The introduction of AI really has one major goal in mind: to make call centers more effective for their clients and drive results.” – The Best Call Center Services of 2019, Business.com; Twitter: @businessdotcom
4. Security is perhaps the most important consideration
“There are many reasons why it may be wise to consider a call center vendor that works within the cloud. Installation over the cloud is much faster and cheaper than in-person installation. With today’s technology, call center vendors offer their services both on-premises and cloud-based. Just be sure to investigate the security measures around disaster recovery and redundancy. An on-premise vendor will serve you well if you have a reasonable amount of agents or if you are skeptical of the security strength that a cloud-based vendor provides. The cloud-based vendor is the best fit for your business if you have a rather large number of agents working from multiple sites. Many senior executives tend to gravitate towards the cloud because it is fairly easy to implement as well.” – Top 10 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Call Center Service, Computer Generated Solutions; Twitter: @CGSinc
5. Get references and speak with other clients
“Speak with current clients and ask them how the partnership is working and whether they would recommend them as someone to do business with,’ says Ken Epstein, Executive Vice President of C3/CustomerContactChannels, a global provider of contact center services.
“’One of the first things to look for is a proven track record in your industry or with your type of clientele,’ adds Brandon Knight, vice president, Contact Center Optimization, Corvisa, a provider of call center software and cloud communications. So ‘look for a [contact center] that might be handling a successful competitor of yours,’ he suggests. If they are doing a good job, ‘it proves they have the ability to hire, train and support the type of calls and customer interactions you’re likely to receive,’ he says. ‘However, if they do serve companies similar to yours, be sure to find out if you will have dedicated agents and if they are willing to send agents to your location for training specific to your business.’” – Jennifer Lonoff Schiff, 8 tips for choosing the right contact center for your business, CIO; Twitter: @CIOonline
6. Understand how a call center service integrates into your business
“You can begin integrating a call center with your own business once both parties have made an agreement and are ready to proceed. The integration process can vary wildly, depending on the service that the call center is being hired for and its approach to that service, but many of these companies’ representatives are experienced in integrating with your business. This should make it easier to unite any software, hardware or information-sharing technology as needed. Meeting the personnel with whom you’re working can also be beneficial.” – Ian Coppock, Need Customer Service Help? Time to Consider a Call Center Service, CO—; Twitter: @USChamber
7. Go to a call center conference
“Learn from your peers! Networking and connecting with your industry counterparts and learning about the systems they use can also help set your team’s compass in the right direction. Industry events are a great way to meet new people in the call center industry. Check out this list of some of the best customer service conferences that happen all over the country. Some cities have networking events as well so you can meet with customer service managers in your own city!” – Sally, Your How-To Guide to Breaking Down an Overwhelming Search for the Best Call Center System, Sharpen; Twitter: @sharpentech
8. Call center services do help with flexibility
“Outsourced call center employees work for your company when needed, rather than as full-time employees. Whenever a company has shifting needs, they can quickly and easily assign outsourced call centers to meet those needs, knowing that they don’t need to upcharge for changes or pay overtime. Instead, these employees will just continue to be paid for the hours they spend on the phone.” – Swetha Amaresan, The Straightforward Guide to Call Center Outsourcing, HubSpot; Twitter: @HubSpot
9. Know their volume limits (and the traffic you’ll send)
“Depending on your company and its size you’ll have different needs when it comes to serving your customers. Many call centers will have a minimum volume required of businesses before they’ll be available to work with your company.
“You need to be sure you know how many calls you’ll be expecting to receive each month. Take the time to make your best estimate.
“If you’re a smaller business that is looking into call center services, make sure you find a company that will work with you and a lower amount of calls.” – 5 Questions to Ask to Hire a Quality Call Center Service, Unicom; Twitter: @unicomcorp
10. Location can be important to consider
“One of the biggest misconceptions about outsourcing is that it is synonymous with off-shoring. This is not the case. Outsourcing your call center has several different opportunities that all bring cost effectiveness and resource efficiency. There are three primary options when partnering with an external provider:
- Internal, or inside your own four walls.
- External, or hosted inside a building managed by your partner.
- Virtual, or utilizing “at-home” agents.
“When choosing the best contact center for your business, consider which functions of managing a call center are most important to delegate and which you would like to be more involved in. If your company has available space and strong IT resources, you may consider hosting your external partner in your own location. If you’d like to remove the responsibility of human resources and building management while still guiding strategy and policy, consider an external location. Virtual options are best when weighing the need to plan for large staffing swings or less predictable business forecasts with stable agent retention and independent work.” – 6 Considerations When Choosing an Outsourced Contact Center Partner, Global Response; Twitter: @BrandCarePeople
11. Are the agents friendly and compassionate?
“Compassion should be one of the most important considerations when looking for healthcare call center companies. When patients reach out to their healthcare providers, it is critical that they connect with a compassionate voice who can provide comfort and guidance. Metrics like call length and number of calls processed should fall down the priority ladder behind first call resolution, wait length, abandonment rates and quality of engagement. Customer satisfaction in the health field is based on an agent’s ability to give accurate information and a customer’s ability to easily access important account information, quickly make appointments and get advice about ailments, so tools must be put in place to support these tasks.” – Choosing The Best Healthcare Call Center Company For You, ANSAFONE; Twitter: @AnsafoneContact
12. Will this service help accomplish your business goals?
“Different businesses have different types of needs. You have your own set of needs that you want from your customer service center. You need to be very sure of your needs and present them to the services. Before you start interviewing, make a list of your needs and tally with what they can provide. Only if they can fulfill all your needs and requirements, you can shortlist them. Special needs can be 24 hours service, answering via email, calls and even online chat representatives to attain customers etc.” – Kmonton, Tips For Choosing the Right Call Center For Your Business, HitRate; Twitter: @hitratesolution
13. Decide whether a domestic center would be best
“Top call centers in expensive, developed countries like the US, UK, Australia, & Germany are often great choices for the following applications:
- Outbound Sales or Lead Generation with a finite database
- High Value Inbound Support
- Low Volume Inbound or Outbound
- Functions that involve high margin products/services
14. Understand how well a call center communicates with your business
“The best business relationships start with open and honest communication. When you are transparent from the very beginning, both parties can start to align their expectations realistically and begin to build trust as those expectations are fulfilled.
“Your outsourcer should be clear about the issues they identify in meeting your contact center program requirements. Likewise, you need to be open about the causes of any frustrations and any contributing factors. Your relationship, and the solution will be stronger as a result.” – George Simons, Call Center Outsourcing Services: How to Choose the Right Contact Center Vendor, GCS; Twitter: @GCSagents
15. Understand the difference between inbound and outbound call center services
“Inbound Call Center Services:
“Inbound services are a must for every business. Whenever a customer calls into your customer care center, they are looking for a solution. This solution can take a number of forms. They may have a question that they need you to answer or they may be encountering a problem with a product or service they purchased from you and need a solution. In any case, it is the responsibility of your call center representatives to provide them with an immediate response or solution. Some other responsibilities of your customer care reps include providing information about your products and services to anyone who calls in and is interested in knowing more, taking orders, and making sales among many other things. Here are some of the inbound services you can opt for:
- Customer Service
- Help Desk
- Order Taking
- Inbound Sales
- Email and Chat Services
- Order Processing
- Disaster Response
- And many more
“Outbound Call Center Services:
“These services include all the instances when the call center employees make calls to your consumers or potential customers to achieve an important goal of the company. They can, for example, call existing customers to tell them about a new product or service that you are launching. They can also call members of the target market with an introduction of the company and an overview of its services. Similarly, they can indulge in market research by asking existing and potential customers questions that can aid the business in improving its operations. Some outbound services include:
- Lead Generation
- Market Research
- Product Promotion
- Appointment setting
- Any many more.” – Types of Call Center Services and How to Choose the One for You, Complete Bridge Solutions; Twitter: @GrowBusinessUSA
16. Determine if the call center fits into your business culture
“Most call centers would offer a tour before signing a contract with a business. It is an important opportunity for businesses to understand the culture of the call center and gauge how well it will blend with the business’s vision and mission. A few observations, like how engaged are the people while dealing with a call, the executives’ body language, and how the project manager is managing the team, should be good indicators of the outsourcing company’s culture.” – Anupa Rongala, How to Choose a Call Center Outsourcing Partner, Invensis; Twitter: @Invensis
17. If you’re hiring an outbound center — know your numbers
“The primary reason for outsourcing will always remain the same — the reduction of costs. However, companies find it hard to compare the expenses of an in-house employee and paid services. First of all, it’s because they have troubles in setting the right criteria.
“In reality, it’s not that difficult, if you estimate the costs, according to your goals. For outbound prospecting, it is (depending on your model):
- To set an appointment
- To pass a qualified opportunity to AE
“How much money does your company spend to attain this goal? We suggest that you take this parameter to estimate the difference between in-house and outsource. As a result, you will find out if an outbound call center fits you or you should look for other opportunities in the market.
“How will you calculate the cost of one opportunity passed or one set appointment? You simply divide the monthly expenses for your SDR by the number of achieved goals.” – How to Choose the Best Outbound Call Center, Cience; Twitter: @ciencecom
18. Understand that outsourcing calls can make you more competitive
“If your competition has a phone number customers can call, and you don’t, many customers will go to the competition instead. If your competitors have certain office hours, and you provide 24/7 call center coverage, it will make your company a more attractive option.
“Not all customers can call during business hours, or don’t want to call during business hours. It tells customers that your company will be there for them when they want to speak with someone.” – 5 Reasons That Your Business Needs A Call Center, Accolade Support
19. Can the call center scale with your business?
“Some people talk about scalability of a call center. Can they help you as you grow yet still scale back if needed? I talk more about the flexibility of a center. Do they take the time to understand your specific business cycle and needs. Some centers do a great job with this while some will set minimums. Make sure you have a comfort level here.” – 10 Elements in Choosing a Call Center when Outsourcing, Expivia
20. Find a center that comes highly recommended
“You will need to set up a shortlist of the companies to consider. This should be done based on recommendations and the portfolio that the call center service provider has to offer. Use reviews that are written on the internet by professionals and by clients in order to make the shortlist that you need. Then, focus on recommendations made by people that you actually know since they are always going to be 100% honest.” – Rehan Ijaz, Choosing a Call Center That Is Perfect For Your Company, Tweak Your Biz; Twitter: @TweakYourBiz
21. Decide if you want to create your own call center
“The size of the company is not related to the size of the call center. A lot of small companies do business over the phone, so a large percentage of their work is essentially done through a call center. Ultimately call centers are there to support one or more business objectives, and you have to understand those before deploying a call center. In other words, if your business objective is to increase customer retention through customer service, deploying call center technology makes sense, even if it means asking almost every employee to staff it.” – Howard Baldwin, Do You Need Your Own Call Center or Should You Outsource?, AllBusiness; Twitter: @AllBusiness_com
22. Will the call center reduce your overall operating costs?
“Every business strives to find the right balance between providing great customer service and getting the work done to produce the product or service. However, training your staff to answer and manage customer calls in a professional manner involves a costly and time-consuming process. It also requires dealing with sick days, absences, vacations and other employee issues that increase staffing needs and all the costs that go along with them.
“A reliable 24/7 call center provides a cost-effective communications solution that saves your business time and money by seamlessly executing many of your company’s routine responsibilities, such as sales, customer support, data entry, appointment-setting, after-hours dispatching and more. The call center handles everything from staffing and training call agents to providing, software, technology and an off-site call center – so you don’t have to. As a result, your employees can perform their jobs more efficiently and focus on what they do best.
“That’s just one reason that TeleDirect’s BPO 24/7 contact center platform is the preferred solution for businesses all across the United States, represented through a vast & varied range of industrial sectors.” – Reasons Why A 24/7 Call Center May Be Right For Your Business, TeleDirect; Twitter: @Tele_Direct
23. Know that there could be cons of outsourcing
“The biggest reason that a company would keep its call center in-house is control. Losing control of, arguably, the focal point of your customer service function, means you have a negated ability to reflect your brand promise in the call center.
“Close supervision is difficult and, even with a reliable external party who provides the necessary transparency through technology and metrics, you are still placing a vital business function in the hands of someone else.
“Lack of Industry or Company Knowledge
“The aforementioned cost of hiring and training is usually high because it’s important that customer service reps have the prerequisite knowledge of your company and industry. Outsourced call centers do not typically specialize in any one industry and handle a number of projects for a variety of companies. If your call center agents require special knowledge to serve your customers, it’s important to ensure that anyone who speaks to them is equipped to provide the level of support required of and expected by your customers.
“If you are outsourcing your call center overseas, it is possible that agents in these countries may lack the cultural knowledge and language fluency to communicate effectively. As a result, special consideration is needed when choosing an outsourcing partner to ensure that these agents are trained well and can communicate at the necessary level.
“Businesses are nothing without their customers; so, providing excellent customer service is the key to customer retention. Outsourcing your call center activities could either improve or reduce customer satisfaction. The decision to outsource is not one to be taken lightly. The key takeaway is that it depends on your company’s specifics and once you take those
consideration (and the above pros and cons), it should be clearer whether or not outsourcing is the path forward for you and your business.” – Drew Wilkinson, The 3 Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Your Call Center, Fonolo; Twitter: @Fonolo
24. Use the call center to help your business grow
“Every business owner wants to see their company grow and succeed. So when you are ready to grow, it is important that your call center can grow with you. Out-of-house call centers are more flexible and scalable than those in-house. They already have the size and the staff to easily deal with the lows and highs of changing call volume, or to keep up with a developing company.” – Taylor Edwards, 4 Reasons You Need to Consider Call Center Outsourcing, Squared Thinking; Twitter: @Anomaly_Squared
25. A call center can give your business a professional tone and feel
“If your company is relatively young, or relatively small, it may not have the experience and expertise to provide high levels and volumes of customer service. If you outsource your customer service call center to a company that you’ve researched and trust, then you take that responsibility off of yourself and put it in the hands of professionals, with the ability to scale the team without sacrificing quality.” – Reasons to Outsource Your Call Center, The Office Gurus
What are your top considerations for selecting call center services?