Call Center Outsourcing: How To Boost Support Quality and Availability

call center outsourcing

This is a guest post from Derek Gallimore from Outsource Accelerator. Derek’s blend of extensive international business and travel experience means that outsourcing came relatively naturally to him. Derek has been in business for over 20 years, outsourcing for over seven years, and has lived in Manila, Philippines – the world’s outsourcing capital – for over five years. He has worked and lived in five countries and worked and traveled through dozens more.

A great business focuses on building customer relations. They need to reach out to their customers to fulfill their service needs, such as inquiries, service-related concerns, and marketing offers.

Someone needs to follow up on billings and collections. Another person needs to send out newsletters to its clients. When a new product or offer comes out, someone must inform the customers either through calls or emails. In some cases, someone also needs to gather data regarding customer satisfaction and commentaries on what needs to be improved in their products.

It can be tedious, especially for startups and small businesses with a few people on it to man these tasks at once, so strong customer service and sales teams are needed to fulfill these tasks.

Good thing is, businesses can rely on call centers to manage these activities. This article will tackle:

Pros and cons of call center outsourcing

call center employee
(Source by PGBS, image used under license CC BY 4.0)

Outsourcing a call center has its benefits, which include:

  • Larger talent pool. Outsourcing a call center gives businesses access to a larger talent pool in different locations across the globe.
  • Lower costs. Hiring offshore call center companies can help businesses save up to 70% in labor costs, compared to hiring in-house ones.
  • Access to more specialized workers. In most offshore companies, agents have a college degree and have different specializations, many of them have years of expertise in handling customer concerns which gives them a bigger advantage at work.
  • Access to better technology. Aside from labor costs, most outsourced call center companies use state-of-the-art technology that enables them to handle calls and workloads more efficiently.
  • More time, more focus on the business, etc.

However, this also has its own downsides which reflect in:

  • Security risks. Security and confidentiality risks are one of the top concerns in this, particularly with the sharing of information over the two identities.
  • Lack of control. Some businesses are afraid that they don’t have full control over the operations of their team and quality may be sacrificed.
  • Cultural barrier. Especially when hiring offshore companies, teams created at call centers are not under the business’ sole employment.
  • Language and accent barrier. Customers and agents alike may not understand each other at first due to language and accent barriers within different countries.

Other advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing can be read in this article.

Costs of an outsourced call center team

call center computers
(Source, image in the public domain)

One important factor to consider when outsourcing is the cost. Since they’re working on a budget, especially SMEs and startups, they need to get services with the best price and quality.

Hiring a call center varies on different factors such as experience, location, duration, and type of calls. Outsourcing companies may incur additional charges, depending on the service needed. To give an insight, the average cost for a call center in different countries is as follows:

  • The Philippines: $8-$18/hour
  • India: $5-$9/hour
  • US and Canada: up to $35/hour
  • Latin America: $10-$18/hour
  • Western Europe: more than $40/hour
  • Eastern Europe: $12-$15/hour

Another factor to consider is the type of calls the team will make.

Inbound call center

Pricing for inbound calls can be classified in three ways:

  • Shared services. Shared Inbound services are call centers with agents catering up to three dozen clients. This type of inbound call center is perfect for businesses that expect a low volume of calls. Each client pays on a per-minute basis and is usually at $0.35-$0.45/minute for low-cost countries and around $0.75-$0.90/minute in the US and Canada.
  • Dedicated staffing. Here, call centers build a dedicated team for a client. They cater to businesses that normally expect a moderate-to-high volume of calls, with each call rated on a per hour basis. Billing of each call in this service may be compiled into a monthly rate, which is usually offered in low-cost countries such as India and the Philippines.
  • Part-time. Part-time staffing applies to after office hours, seasonal accounts, and the likes. Businesses that need 24/7 staffing avail this service and are charged either on a per-hour, per-call, or commission-based rate.

Outbound call center

Outbound call centers, meanwhile, have various ways of pricing their calls:

  • Hourly. The ideal pricing for lead generation, sales, and appointment setting, outbound calls are rated on a per-hour basis, depending on the location of the agency. Hourly outbound call centers in the Philippines and India usually range from $6-$10/hour, while $25-$35/hour in the US and Canada.
  • Commission. Typically for seasonal accounts and other sales and lead generation applications, a full commission is agreed upon by both the call center and the business. However, call centers’ amount earned per hour should be at least an average of 10-20% on top of the normal hourly rates.
  • Hourly + Commission. This is a more favorable structure for call centers, either inbound or outbound. A commissioned rate is added on top of the hourly charge to maximize the performance of the whole call center team as well.

How to find and hire a call center

Call centers are essential to a business. Whatever its size, whether in the field of manufacturing, telecommunications, or real estate, customers must have a convenient way to reach out to a business without putting the core management into hassles of sending and receiving calls. One must consider which call center should be suitable for their business.

To successfully hire a call center, businesses must think of a few considerations…

In-house vs. outsourced

Businesses either hire in-house agents or outsource it to a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company. With the help of technology, outsourcing call centers became accessible not only to big companies but to small businesses and startups, too. BPO companies have expanded their operations to help these small businesses ease their workload and focus on growing their operations.

Aside from call centers, back-entry tasks such as data entry, accounting, recruitment, and payroll can be outsourced as well. This article gives more insight into what can be outsourced and the fields that they cover.

Onshore vs. offshore

Call centers can be outsourced domestically (onshore), within nearby countries (nearshore), or overseas (offshore). According to Business Daily Report, most businesses choose to outsource call center operations offshore with the advantage of having lower rates, usually from 70-90% savings, since most of these countries have a low cost of labor. India and the Philippines are the most prominent locations of offshore call center companies.

Call center reviews

Researching for the right call center company can easily be done over the internet. Each company has its own website where one can check and do a comparison of its services, terms, and prices. Different review sites such as Outsource Accelerator, TrustPilot, and even job sites such as Glassdoor gives an insight into a company’s ratings, employee reviews, and valuable insights they can consider before making a decision.

call center outsourcing service
(Source by Marcin Monko, image used under license CC BY 2.0)

Top countries for an offshore call center

As per the latest report of Tholons Services Globalization Index 2019, these countries are among the top 50 digital nations in terms of scale and cost of skilled talent. The leading nations still being India and the Philippines, while Poland places ninth. These are also the countries most considered by Western businesses for outsourcing. Each has its own specializations and unique offering of services to businesses looking for call center companies for outsourcing.

  • India. Like similar countries in Asia such as the Philippines and Bangladesh, India offers low-cost, high-quality services to its clients. The country also boasts a wide range of expertise of its agents, mostly in tech support and customer service, and its twelve-hour time zone advantage that enables them to give 24/7 service overseas.
  • The Philippines. Call centers in the Philippines, rapidly growing alongside India, specializes in financial solutions and voice support. Aside from low labor cost and government support, the country boasts its cultural affinity to the West and the adaptability of the companies to fit their schedule according to the client’s time zone.
  • Poland. The country boasts its growing workforce, thinner cultural barrier, high English proficiency, and nine-hour time zone difference to the US, which makes it easier to outsource to other Western countries. Most of its companies specialize in IT-related services.

Best practices in hiring a call center

Proper management is important in any aspect of a business. Lack of proper handling of finances, human resources, or project management results in poor performance of a company, which may, all of a sudden, lead to its downfall.

This is the case as well with call centers. With strategic planning, training, and management processes, hiring a call center can cause a huge impact on the business. The following are some of the best practices in hiring a call center:

Having a clear objective

A business must clear out its objectives before it considers hiring a call center company. Which tasks need to be outsourced? Will they only handle inbound customer service? Does the business need assistance in telemarketing? Do they have to deal with IT support, handle follow-ups, etc?

Clearing out objectives in outsourcing makes it easier for call center companies to provide the best solutions for the business’s outsourcing needs.

Hiring an operations manager

An Operations Manager in a call center oversees and manages the whole production of the team and typically handles about 20-25 agents. A good Operations Manager must have the following qualities:

  • Time management skills. Every second counts in the call center industry. Not only do customers need immediate solutions to their concerns, but agents also need to handle different calls, emails, and chat messages on schedule.
  • Good organizational skills. An Operations Manager must also be organized in assigning tasks, handling concerns, and following work goals to ensure a smooth production flow.
  • Expertise. An Operations Manager must know the core processes of the work. These are usually former agents who went up to the ranks through showing excellent performance and adept knowledge of their work.

How to optimize your call center outsourcing operations

To ensure high-quality services for customers, businesses must invest in the latest technology and equipment to ease the workload of their outsourced team. Some call center companies provide the latest equipment and technology in their service offerings, along with the premier work environment and competitive benefits to their agents.

Using reliable BPM to ensure production workflow

The business’s responsibility must not end with hiring a call center company to handle its customer service. They must monitor the regular production flow, too, to ensure the operation is going well.

Businesses and call center companies may agree to make use of business process management applications. One of the best on the market is Process Street.

With Process Street, you can streamline and automate different processes to supercharge your workflows. Signing up is free and can be used for different tasks such as new client setup, employee onboarding, Git workflow, and general office inspection.

Ensuring a business partner agreement

When managing an outsourced call center operation, businesses must forge a good partnership with their call center companies to ensure a successful business operation. This includes:

  • Regular training updates for agents. Agents must be updated with the new processes and industry updates seasonally, for them to keep up with their workload.
  • Constant communication with the company. Businesses must update the company management of the goals they want to achieve in outsourcing their call centers.
  • Commitment to accurate forecasts. Businesses may predict call volumes during their business hours, especially peak hours, and inform their call centers about this, so that call centers can staff properly.

Quality over budget

Outsourcing call center companies may be cost-efficient, but businesses must remember that it is not always about the budget. Some companies may have lower costs than any others, but some aspects may be sacrificed along with this. They might have poor service quality, sub-par technology, or even worse management of their agents.

With this, businesses should always do a basic background check of the companies they’re getting. Client and employee reviews, as mentioned above, are important not just for value for money, but for the sake of the business’ reputation.

Just as Business Daily Report mentioned in this article, the main point of a customer service department is to make sure customers are taken care of and satisfied. The more delighted the customers are, both with the products and the customer service, the more they will patronize the business in the long run. So having strong customer service is important.

However, not every aspect of a business can be taken care of by the company at once, especially with the case of small and medium businesses and startups. Some companies operate with a few people and need to assure their operations are cost-efficient. That’s why business process outsourcing companies are there to help ease these tasks and save costs for companies.

How does your team manage their call center? Let us know in the comments below!

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Ben Mulholland

Ben Mulholland is an Editor at Process Street, and winds down with a casual article or two on Mulholland Writing. Find him on Twitter here.

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