Outsourcing phone-based sales and telemarketing has long been a popular route, and it continues to grow. In fact, based on an in-depth analysis of call center trends, the remote contact center market is projected to increase by $14.05 billion from 2021 to 2025.
And what’s driving the growth? Well, likely cost savings, customer demand for highly-skilled customer service teams, and small business staff support. Partnering with an outsourcing business, especially one with agents trained in specific industries, empowers companies to position themselves for growth and higher profit margins while reducing operating costs.
One of the primary advantages for businesses that choose to outsource routine administrative tasks is the ability to implement cost-effective solutions that reduce work for the in-house team. When work can be done remotely, internal staff have more time to focus on building relationships that generate more revenue. But of course, there are multiple positives of bringing in third-party help—along with a handful of possible negatives, if not handled correctly.
Weighing the pros and cons of outsourcing a call center is all part of the process. Here are a few points for your consideration:
If you do decide that call center outsourcing is right for your business, you’ll need to begin the next step of finding the right partner. Of course, finding a best-fit outsourcing partner starts with asking the right questions. Let’s dive a bit deeper...
Before you can ask the right questions, you must thoughtfully consider what you want to gain by this new partnership. Is improving customer experience a primary goal? Do you need an outsourcing company capable of scaling quickly because your call volume fluctuates based on seasonal demand? Medical providers may put accuracy at the top of their must-have lists, while other companies may value customer support and security measures over other benefits.
Once you have a list of priorities, it is critical to do some research to find the correct outsourcing company to meet your needs. Fortunately, the internet provides a great research channel. While comparing companies, you may find other topics you want to discuss with potential call center service providers.
The following questions will help you narrow down your search to businesses that can be seamlessly woven into your existing business model.
An ideal call center partner has agents specializing in your industry. This is important for all businesses but especially vital for businesses in the healthcare industry. Ask what type of education or specialized training agents have. Specializations within the healthcare industry may be general, such as scheduling appointments and answering questions about operational hours, location, etc. Healthcare call center specialists should also be trained in medical terminology and HIPAA guidelines.
Whatever type of company you run, choosing an outsourcing company that understands the unique language and processes that drive your business is imperative.
One way to ensure that an off-site call center is a good fit is to ask for references or a list of clients the outsourcing firm currently works with. A company that does not provide verifiable references is a hard stop.
Your reputation in the marketplace either drives growth and prosperity or prevents you from gaining market share and maintaining an excellent reputation among your peers and clients. Ask potential partners what quality assurance procedures and policies are in place. While discussing their policies, be sure to request a standard contract for you to review. This step is necessary because having a policy is not the same as consistently enforcing Q&A standards within the remote call center.
Other topics to discuss during this part of your interview include:
While it is true that every business had an opening date that made them the new kid on the block, many find that companies with at least five years of experience have begun to hit their stride in their own business processes, and in hiring and training the agents that will represent your company.
As they grow, it’s also important that outsourcing companies stay in touch with modern technology. A 2018 call center study found that approximately two-thirds of call centers surveyed were slow to adopt innovative technology, continuing to use more traditional equipment and processes. A good question to ask to determine the call center's position is “When was the last time you updated hardware and/or software?” Use the answer to this question as guidance when evaluating the length of business operations.
There are planned and unplanned call volume surges. The first may be an anticipated uptick in calls when a new product is launched or if call volume escalates based on the time of day or season. However, many call volume surges are unplanned. Knowing a contact center is well-staffed and agile provides peace of mind that callers always receive prompt service, irrespective of call volume levels.
Call centers offer a variety of customized service plans. Most centers offer on-demand and scheduled services. For example, a doctor's office may only need coverage during lunch periods and after-hours. Large enterprises may require 24/7 live answering services with staff that can screen calls, take messages, and field general inquiries. More specialized centers may provide:
Today, two-thirds of contract call centers are located within the United States boundaries. And, while there are many benefits of onshore outsourcing, prices may be higher due to higher wages. Compare well-qualified outsourcing companies to determine which payment terms and costs complement your financial goals.
For some companies, an ideal outsourcing candidate will have working hours that are the same or close to their headquarters time zone. Meanwhile, other organizations may prefer to have call center agents on standby in various time zones around the world to provide around-the-clock phone answering. Compare each outsourcing company’s working hours against your support timing needs.
Back office data security should be a priority for the off-site partners you choose. While no company can 100% guarantee safety in our cloud-based world, a well-qualified contact center will use encryption tools, multi-factor authentication protocols, and have strict agent training on confidentiality requirements for client information.
Often, reputable call center operations will offer a free demonstration or low-cost trial for companies who are considering their offerings. It’s common for large companies to start with a trial period of only a handful of agents, and if all goes well, increase to hundreds of them.
In addition, listening to a real call center engagement provides clues about the voice and intonation call center agents use. Simply ask your contact person for a demo or call sample to get a feel for the service they provide.
Another way to get a good idea of what customers will experience is to make a couple of anonymous calls to potential service providers.
There are dozens of call center key performance metrics (KPIs). Performance metrics show details such as where a call originated and when it was complete, the time a call comes in, and which agent completed the call. Other metrics include:
Depending on your own analytics goals, you may need this data from your call center company. Make sure to ask if they track KPIs when searching for your ideal partner company.
The ultimate goal of outsourcing is to develop a seamless workflow without increasing costs. Many outsourcing centers are able to integrate their software systems with your own or will allow their agents to use any software that you give access to. A fully integrated system that is compatible with existing systems is the optimal call center solution for most companies.
Some companies may allow clients to get involved in their hiring process. For example, if you prefer not to have work-from-home agents fielding calls, the off-site firm may take this into consideration. As a rule of thumb, it is more cost-effective to let off-site partners screen, recruit, train, and monitor employee performance. You can always talk to a manager about replacing agents with less than stellar KPIs and numerous customer complaints.
The above list of questions to ask when outsourcing a call center provides a road map to finding outsourcing partners that offer all the benefits of using a remote call center service. Asking the correct questions means you understand the impact of using an off-site call center within your own time zone compared to offshore and nearshore solutions.
During your call center interviews, you gain valuable information about policies that enhance data security, protecting all stakeholders. You may also discover benefits you have not considered. For example, your company implementing an omnichannel cloud-based contact center policy may bolster employee morale, resulting in higher in-house staff retention rates. While creating your own list of questions to ask, remember that prioritizing your goals usually delivers the best outcomes.
Today is a great day to start thinking about how an outsourced call center team could help you streamline operations, gain tighter control of the budget, and support your staff and customers. Start thinking about which KPIs are most valuable to you. Then, create your own list of questions to ask. And, don't forget to request a free demo and client references!
TDS Global Solutions can handle the heavy lifting, guiding you through the process of finding the best-fit contact center for your needs, at no extra cost to you. Schedule a call with us today to get started.