What is a call center?
A call center is a department that is responsible for handling incoming as well as outgoing customer calls. A company may have its own call center within its premises and under the direct control of its management or it may also choose to hire the services of a professional call center company that has the infrastructure to support the delivery of world-class services.
The staffs working in the department commonly referred to as call center agents, who have strong communication and problem-solving skills and can appropriately address the diverse requirements of diverse businesses.
What does the call center do?
The chief function of a call center is to establish and maintain high level of communication between a business and its prospects as well as existing customers. Call center agents provide customer service support to their clients’ customers and are specially-trained to address customer-queries in an efficient manner.
Businesses can also hire call center services to carry out telemarketing so as to enter new markets and establish their presence. Call center agents also deliver market research services that allow businesses to gain an insight into new markets and devise appropriate market-penetration strategies based on demographics.
What is customer service outsourcing?
Customer service outsourcing refers to the process of delegating responsibilities with regard to customer service to a third party service provider, commonly termed as a call center, which has world-class capabilities in place to assure high-quality service outcomes that may manifest as a loyal and satisfied customer base, enhanced reputation, renewals, and increased sales.
Are call center services the same as answering services?
Call center services and answering services are fundamentally different though some services are common to both. You must understand the difference to make the correct outsourcing decision. You can also ally with a company that offers both these services.
Call center services are comprehensive and generic in nature. Such companies have large number of dedicated employees on their rolls who attend to large volumes of calls daily. Any industry type can be served by them. Employees compile orders, extend assistance to customers and send feedback or reports to clients for needful action. The call center agent gather basic info about your company and function based on the responsibility script provided by you. All interactions with customers are archived and are sent to you in the form of an actionable report.
Answering services excel in handling complex tasks of specialized nature. Particular ‘vertical markets’ are served the wherein deep understanding of client’s organization and internal processes are required. Critical though process and quick decision making, as relevant to the specific business, is expected out of answering services’ staff. Personalized actions which are time restricted are also carried out by answering services sometimes. If calls are sensitive, they are relayed to the client instantly. Companies in healthcare domain often avail of answering services.
A Brief Overview of Key Call Center Terminologies and Concepts
1) Types of Call Centers: International Vs. Domestic
Though the services related to call center might appear similar, it is not so. Different agencies may offer more personalized and specialized services to win clients’ favor. You can differentiate among the various niche call center companies by asking them domain specific questions. To understand the type of call center services that you must leverage to scale newer heights of success, you must learn about the various features offered.
- International Call Centers: Before deciding on outsourcing, you must enquire about the location from which call center would operate and the nativity of its agents. You can save on charges by outsourcing to offshore call centers with robust infrastructure. However, the volume of services provided is usually lesser. If foreign agents man the center, then your local customers would find it difficult to understand their tones and accent.
- Domestic Call Centers: You can enjoy higher number of services from domestic call centers. They can help you out with lead mobilization and can create a loyal customer base for your business. Such centers often employ software driven modules manned by English speaking staff. For these, onshore call centers charge higher prices. Companies operating on large scale and budget may opt for international call centers but if your business turnover is low, domestic centers are optimally suited for you. But if you are ok with foreign accents and just want to avail of basic services, you can go for cost-efficient offshore centers.
2) Inbound Call Support Vs. Outbound Call Support: Which is a better option for you?
- Inbound Customer Support: Your customers would ring up to your help desk support to learn more about your business’s offerings or to get a satisfactory solution to problems troubling them. Inbound services can also include providing specialized or technical support to customers, taking orders, and processing payment over the call. If a customer wants to speak with your company’s representative directly, the call center executive can forward the call. These services have been traditionally associated with call centers by businesses which have seen them as essential means to maintain a healthy and sustained relationship with customers.
- Outbound Customer Support: Call center executives can help your business in generating leads through cold calling or compiling/ analyzing responses to specific surveys. They can also follow-up with customers who have availed of your services to assess their satisfaction index or to discuss with them about other services offered by your business. If your business is losing loyal customers, the call center staff can get in touch with them to learn about their pain points, feedbacks and communicate the same back to you. Based on the reviews, you can further strategize on ways to win these customers back. With outbound services, you can increase your customer numbers, enter into newer professional relationships, and earn more.
Your business may not require both outbound and inbound services simultaneously. You have to carefully analyze your organizational requirements. After you have narrowed down on the services needed, enter into further discussions with shortlisted service providers.
3) Dedicated Agents vs Shared Agents
Dedicated agents, as the name suggests, are devoted exclusively to cater to your business’s needs. You would get complete attention and time of these agents. If your needs are specific and comprehensively delineated, you can hire dedicated agents and can then familiarize them with the unique aspects of your functioning.
Shared agents are perfect of your needs are generic. From the same call center, the shared agents cater to the needs of different clients through proper time division. The agents may not be engaged full time for your business. If you don’t want exclusive executives for handling your clients’ needs all along the day, you can go for this cheaper alternative.
Some call centers offer you both types of agents under the same roof. If you want specialized services but can’t afford expensive hiring models, you can go for semi-dedicated service model. Such agents are entrusted with 1-2 accounts handling in addition to yours. They don’t cater to wide range of clients all day long. The charges are more than shared agents but lesser than dedicated agents as semi-dedicated agents spare more time for your pursuits compared to shared executives. You can perfectly balance quality and cost with this model. Before selecting the service provider, kindly check the below list of features that they can provide and decide whether they are the right choice for your requirements
- Reporting: Call center executives would be interacting and exchanging conversations with your customers directly. Your business’s image is dependent to a large extent on how efficiently, smartly, and empathically call- center agents deal with customers. With reporting, you can glimpse into the daily operations to analyze if your hiring decision is correct. Reporting is not equal for all companies. Some agencies may offer just a summary of the number of calls received or made within a stipulated time frame. Others would record the calls diligently and present them for your review. Real time analysis of calls may also be provided by some agencies to help you frame more impactful strategies to facilitate better lead conversion. Before outsourcing your requirements, you must review the level of transparency the call center offers. This would be valuable in securing focused, meaningful and actionable reports.
- Availability: You must enquire the number of hours that the call center executives would be available. Reputed companies offer 24X7 services round the year. Disaster recovery services are also offered by certain companies. In the event of an emergency, if your organization’s connectivity suffers a breakdown, the outsourcing company would offer the backup support. You must ally with a company which is known for its reliability and can assure constant availability for the period you desire.
- Call Volume Per Month: You must appreciate the fact that call centers may specify a threshold regarding the minimum number of calls to be handled per month. This is important for their financial survival. If you are not expecting many calls from your customers per month, professionally allying with such a service provider can prove to be a costly proposition. Such a service contract can prove advantageous for companies that need to be in constant touch with customers over the phone. Companies with larger budget outlays can also benefit. Before inking any contract, you should accurately estimate the call volume you anticipate per month and the number of agents that can handle the calls easily. Such a calculation would become the basis for contract cost finalization as certain companies may charge you for number of hours engaged.
- Multilingual Services: If your business is catering to both domestic and offshore customers, you have to outsource your requirements to a company that can offer multilingual support. To engage your customers better, you have to seek services of call center executives who can fluently speak the foreign languages, the speakers of whom you are targeting. You can hire agencies that offer native language support for Spanish, German and other international languages or dialects. Before outsourcing, you should ask the service provider if it offers multilingual support. If so, you must enquire about the supported languages and/ or languages for which translation services are extended.
Why should you outsource call center services and what are the benefits that you can capitalize on?
There are studies done by various reputed organizations worldwide that unanimously indicate that companies save a minimum of 30% by outsourcing their requirements related to call center services. There are even instances when companies save up to 60%. By outsourcing, beyond the increase in profit margins, companies get more time to focus on their main business activities.
The service quality is matchless and processes are smooth when you do business process outsourcing to a country like India as the industry here is renowned and well established. Companies here are equipped with technical sophistication of international standards and have extensive experience.
It has been revealed by reliable resources that fortune 500 businesses and agencies outsource their contact center related requirements to outside experts so as to save time for focusing on their core areas of expertise. They have considered this strategy very helpful for their growth and success.
There is always an option for you to establish a contact center in-house. Nobody can deny the advantages of having a call center in your organization. However, this is quite expensive. Investing for technologies, equipment, facilities, people and their training is not always the wisest thing to do, especially if you are tight on your budget or are a small business. Also handling multiple channels of communication including calls, emails, text messages and chats etc. is never easy. It requires a high level of expertise and in-depth knowledge of various other things.
If you outsource to the right people, you can make the most out of your investments in terms of:
- Lesser costs: Setting up your own in-house contact center is a major investment which is not recommended in normal cases. A lot of cost in involved in various tangible and intangible elements. A call center service providing company can share the mentioned costs across its several customers and they too benefit immensely as charges are nominal. Payment is on the basis of hours or sometimes transactional. Outsourcers have the provision of sharing their resources with multiple customers. This shared approach helps them to minimize the idle time owing to which they can deliver services at lesser rates. Fully engaged employees are an asset and a good offshore company with enough clients can ensure it.
- Flexibility and Scalability: Volumes of calls may fall or rise rapidly. Dealing with such abrupt fluctuations can be challenging for your in-house team but for an outsourcer, it is easily manageable as they are used to it. Agents are well-trained and such outsourcing companies always have resources in reserve to scale up as and when needed. So, if there are any seasonal activities or advertising campaigns leading to spikes in call volume, you need not worry at all when you contract out the task to experts.
- Industry-specific knowledge: Call center companies may have worked with almost all types of industries and hence they are equipped with specific knowledge of even the most specialized industries. Experts here are capable to frame insightful plans to help your business flourish. They can even provide you tips and tricks that really work well with your business. This is definitely an added advantage and the said virtue assures maximum benefits of a call center to customers.
- Exclusive and exceptional call operators: You in-house agents may be trained and skilled to deal only with a particular service or product. At the same time in an outsourced destination, there are agents having expertise in a multitude of client’s processes. Thus, agents housed in an outsourced company can easily adapt to almost any scenario and serve as perfect call managers. Having dealt with various cultures, languages and communication channels, they can fetch you more business and help in increasing loyal customer base.
- Proficient management and support people: It’s not just the efficiency of agents that creates any impact of call center to business. Professionals who manage them and support them too play crucial role. Outsourcing companies deploy best managers as well as support staff having extensive experience when it comes to operations related to contact centers. As in-house people have limited knowledge confined to certain specific areas, institutional knowledge for exceptional support can’t be expected from them. A typical call center outsourcing company’smain forte is call center support and hence they hire and retain only specialists.
- Cost management tools: Business models of outsourcers are most of the times based on transaction’s cost. For assuring profitability such companies invest considerably in expertise and tool to correctly measure the costs per calls. This is shared normally to the client by which client can evaluate the overall effectiveness of advertising campaigns and all related operations. Such a provision is not available in case of in-house contact centers.
- Collection of data and its analysis: Top call center outsourcing companies are well acquainted with the relevance of capturing and scrutinizing call information for getting insights which can considerably improve the processes of clients. Such contact centers have the experience of working for multiple clients as well as know in detail about information generated by different advertising programs. Outsourcers invest in analysis platforms as well which is helpful in unlocking needed insights from huge volume of raw data.
- Quality monitoring: When you sign service level agreements with a service provider, it is mandated that all the communications, let it be via phone, chat or email should be dealt with in most professional manner. Answer time as well as call resolution of first time are two of the peak priorities. A typical service provider usually has proper monitoring tools plus performance assessment along with improvement plans for ensuring that the SLAs are perfectly met. This type of organized and seamless quality monitoring facility and performance evaluation and improvement plans are not always available with in-house contact centers.
- Access to advanced state-of-art technology: Those in the outsourcing industry will definitely carry out the needed research for investing in latest optimal technologies to facilitate customer support via multiple channels. Advanced software tools offering features like VoIP email, social networking websites monitoring, SMS text, web chat and cloud-based platforms are continuously hunted for by outsourcing companies. They can afford it as they have multiple clients to share the cost with.
- All time round the clock support: Customers would like to contact you any time, may be at weekends or even odd hours. You can’t make your in-house people to work and attend the queries during that time. This is not the case with outsourcing companies. They are available 24/7, throughout the year, Outsourcing companies work in shifts and are resourceful enough to stay operational always without any idle time while offering you services at nominal call center outsourcing pricing.
Things to consider before selecting a Customer Service Call Center for Your Business
Constant and superior communication with all stakeholders is a must for any business that aspires to flourish in this digitally interconnected world. The expectations of customers have increased significantly. If quick and focused responses are not provided to customers, they would permanently move away. Having a full-fledged, infrastructure wise modern call center manned by proficient and friendly staff may be out of budgetary reach of numerous small scale businesses. If the same employees are entrusted with taking care of daily activities and also attend customer calls, efficiency and quality of both would be compromised. Outsourcing call center services are the best bet for companies that want to optimize their employees’ productive time and offer exceptional customer services.
Call centers are not exclusively about answering calls only. They have a strategic role to play. Customers’ issues are resolved or communicated to concerned bodies, customers are assured that their problems would be handled with urgency, surveys are conducted to understand the engagement level of customers, and feedbacks are provided to help your organization gain competitive edge in market. The services offered are versatile; it is up to your organization to choose whether answering services are required or a more holistic option is to be exercised. In order to judge the need of call centers from your business’s perspective, you have to gain broad based insights into their functioning.
Benefits of relying on call center services in India
When compared to other developing countries including Russia, China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Malaysia etc., India is far superior in every aspect. The country has been a favorite choice for some of the big names in the industry. Even government departments in the USA rely on Indian outsourcing companies for services like welfare benefit calls. The BPO services industry in India is really strong and efficient. So, when you outsource the requirements to the country like India , better professional service at cost effective pricing is guaranteed.
India is in top list of countries when it comes to population speaking English outside US. The education system focuses significantly on English thus leading to more than a million graduates every year who speak English exceptionally.
Government here too has stayed supportive for call center business. They have allowed capital good import as duty-free and tax exemptions etc. Dollars in billions have been spent for development of infrastructure in regard of communication systems, broadband computing and most importantly, transportation.
Whether it is for inbound or outbound services, Indian call centers have stayed in line with the evolving global trends. Companies have always adapted by upgrading to newer management practices, latest software and advanced technologies etc. Time zone advantage is yet another factor that enables Indian outsourcing hubs to avail support all time round the clock. Also, multilingual support is also provided by experts here. Employees in India can be hired at a far cheaper rate when compared to US and Europe.
Indian expertise- the areas encompassed
The greatest of all benefits assured when you outsource to India is that here you get complete and comprehensive services. So, you can carry out your actual business processes with an absolute peace of mind.
- Inbound support: Customer queries are troubleshot and addressed by technical experts.
- Outbound Support: Calls are initiated for surveys, debt recovery and marketing etc.
- Technical Support: Complaints from customers are attended and resolved.
- Disaster recovery: Huge databases are dealt with for recovering data and providing backup solutions.
- Email Support and Chat Support: Support is provided via email and through live online chats.
- Multilingual Support: Customer support provided in multiple languages.
By taking into perspective the aforesaid considerations, you can make a judicious decision about outsourcing customer care services to a proficient and experienced strategic partner. Right decision would lead to exponential growth in sales and profits for your business.