Do you need to outsource your business customer service? If YES, here is a detailed guide on how to hire a perfect customer call center and how much it cost.

Customers of the new age have changed. They are generally impatient, and expect results to be provided as soon as they ask for it. Because of this newly acquired fast-pace trait, it now behooves on businesses that still want to be relevant to devise ways to meet up those needs.

One way businesses can communicate with their clients on an as-needed basis and solve their queries at an appreciable speed is for them to have a highly effective customer care service call center. Previously, businesses have combined their core services with offering customer care service call center needs.

What this means is that regular employees are mandated to combine making customer relationship calls, and taking and solving queries in addition to their own regular jobs. This strategy can tide a business over if it is just a small startup that is still fighting to get a space in the industry, but if the business has started expanding and getting a lot of customers from many states and even all over the country, an in-house customer service call center would not suffice anymore.

Why Outsource your Customer Service to a Call Center?

What most businesses do in this regard is to outsource their communication needs to professional customer care service call centers that would help them keep up with their business clients in real time, so that they can have the time to run other aspects of their businesses.

Despite their name, call centers do more than just answer calls; these companies will often assist customers, conduct surveys, and obtain feedback to find out how you can better position your company in the future. Call center services vary widely.

While some businesses might only need a basic answering service, others might want the most sophisticated outreach options to help grow their business. You have to first analyse your business’ needs before you can start thinking of outsourcing your call center.

If you think your business in-house call center service is over-whelming your staff and short-changing your business, now maybe the time to start thinking of outsourcing your call center needs. In this article, we would show you how you can choose the best customer service call center that would suit the needs your business, and how much the service will cost you.

What to Look for in a Customer Care Call Center Service Before You Think of Hiring Them

Call center services might seem similar on the surface, but the details of each company’s offerings can vary quite widely. Once you start asking specific questions, the differences among the companies will start to become more apparent. To find out which vendor is right for your business, here are a few things you have to look out for in the call center service.

1. Location of the call center: Location is one important thing you have to look out for in the call center you want to outsource to. Depending on the nature of your business, you may opt to outsource to a contact center that is located near your company or opt for offshore contact centers. Offshore contact centers are call centers that are located in another state or even another country.

Foreign based call centers are typically more cost-effective and they run a 24-hour service, but they offer fewer services and their agents typically have heavy accents that some of your customers might have a hard time understanding.

This means that it may be to your advantage to hire a contact center in a location that best fits your infrastructure and customer needs. For instance, if you are a telecommunications company expecting to expand to Latin America over the next decade, an area in or near [there] may be the most strategic to leverage a contact center because of infrastructure and language requirements.

Domestic call centers tend to offer more complete services (for example, lead generation for building a larger customer base), but their native English-speaking agents and software-centric models often come in with higher prices.

However, if your needs are rather basic and you are not bothered about accents, a foreign call center could be a good way to keep your operational costs down.

2. The type of services they offer: Before you choose a call center to handle your customer care needs, yet another thing you have to look out for is the kind of services the call center provides. Call centers typically provide inbound and outbound service. A major function of call center services is to accept calls to answer customers’ questions about your business’s products or services.

Call centers can often provide information or technical support, as well as take orders and process payments over the phone. Many will also dispatch calls to you in the event a customer needs to speak directly with someone inside the company. All of these services fall under the umbrella of inbound services.

Some call centers also offer outbound services, which include lead generation, such as cold calling and compiling survey data. These services can also include follow-ups with previous customers to ensure their satisfaction or to further encourage a successful conversion.

Some call centers conduct feedback surveys or engage in customer win-back attempts when you’ve lost someone’s business. You have to check if you need call center that would provide you the both services or if you need just one so as to save money.

3. Do they offer Dedicated and/or Shared Agents?: Yet another thing you need to look out for in a call center is if they can give your business a dedicated agent, or if they only offer shared agents. You should however note that 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 and detailed needs that demand familiarity and consistency from their agents.

For companies with more general needs, however, 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 percent of the time. These services are often cheaper and still effective for companies that don’t require specific attention day in and day out.

You should also note that 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. That 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 uncommon, but it offers a great balance between cost and quality. You have to note if this is what your business needs.

4. Feedback rate: A call center will be dealing directly with your customers, meaning it could have great influence over how they perceive your business. Feedback or reporting offers you a window into the day-to-day operations of the call center service you’ve hired.

But you should note that not all companies are big on reporting. Some companies only offer basic summaries of how many calls they made or received in a given time period, while others give you access to real-time data analytics and even record the audio of calls for review when something goes wrong.

Before you sign up with a call center service, it’s important to know how transparent and forthcoming it will be and what you can expect from the company’s self-reporting.

5. At what times is the call center available?: Another important thing to look out for is when the intending call center agents are available. Good services have 24/7/365 availability for your customers. Some call center services even offer disaster recovery services, meaning they can take over completely if your own phone lines go down in an emergency. Selecting a service that is always available and very reliable should be a major focus for your business.

6. Your monthly call volume: Some call center services have minimum volume requirements. These services might not be suitable for a small company that doesn’t expect many customer service calls or intend to make many outbound calls. But if you have a larger company or one that relies heavily on phone contact with customers, these services might make more sense.

Try to estimate your call volume and estimate how many agents you might need before searching for a call center service, so as not to over hire or under hire. This is especially important for pricing, since some call centers charge for a package of minutes rather than by the month.

7. Gauge the frequency of their outages: Call centers are an integral component of many businesses, and as such downtime can seriously harm your business if your customers are unable to get through to the call center. That should tell you that means you need to partner with a call center that is dependable, with reliable redundancy and a solid disaster-recovery plan so that an outage doesn’t cripple your service.

8. Does the Company Offer Multilingual Services?: While this may not concern a lot of businesses, but some businesses certainly do connect with customers that speak foreign languages. If your business falls into this category, then you need to find out if the call center service you want to hire offers multilingual service.

If your business has an international audience, you’ll want to partner with a call center that has fluent speakers of multiple languages on staff.

Many call centers offer Spanish-speaking services, and others even offer a wide array of languages. If you need a multilingual service, be sure to ask upfront which languages or translation services the call center can provide for you, and find out if the service would cost you extra.

9. Size: The size of your business has a direct impact on the size of the call center you should aim for. Choosing a vendor that is too small will drag your business behind, while choosing a vendor that is too large will result in unnecessary costs and a lack of personalized attention. Make sure the size of the call center fits the size of your business.

10. Experience: If your business produces software specializing in supply chain management, but a vendor’s call centers have experience with computer architecture software for university researchers, they probably wouldn’t be the best fit.

There would be a lot of time required to perform the proper training. On the other hand, if you are looking to switch vendors because your current one isn’t getting the job done, it might be best to get a fresh set of eyes from outside your industry to identify problems and optimize performance.

11. Future Expansion: No business plans to be redundant, so if you are looking to hire a call center for your business, you should also gauge if the business can handle your needs when call volumes increase. You have to make sure that the vendor you select can accommodate your expected growth and grow with you.

12. Cost: One other very important thing you have to consider when looking out for a call center service to outsource to is the cost of the service. Many call centers usually quote their prices on a per minute basis.

You also have to keep in mind that live agents can cost more than having automated recordings and voicemail to respond to your customers’ calls. Before signing that contract, make sure to ask the center’s sales representative on the price of each service that they offer: from price per agent to price per call to price of using their software services.

You want your business partnership to be as transparent as possible. Make sure the company you choose does not charge you for your customer’s time on hold, and ask if they charge by rounding up to the next minute or up to the next second.

It is obvious that you will want to select the vendor with the highest performance at the lowest price. However, make sure everything is perfectly clear when estimating costs. Be sure to get all cost estimations from competing vendors for easy comparison and call to get more information if cheaper or more expensive than the others. Be sure to note differences in taxes and currency if negotiating with a multinational vendor.

13. Track Record: Has the vendor had a history of great performance and improving the bottom line? If a vendor has call centers that consistently perform and are able to adapt to high-pressure situations when something goes wrong, you know they are a quality vendor.

Effective customer service eliminates unnecessary steps involved in resolving the customers’ issues. Your call center vendor should be able to demonstrate how effective their agents are through efficiency.

The agents must be able to deliver an experience that is satisfying to your customers. Your existing customers will give you the most accurate guidelines for a satisfactory service. From there, you can make an educated decision on a vendor.

14. Security and the Cloud: Yet another thing to look into is the security measures the call center adopts. It is imperative that the contact center that you choose implements strict security measures that ensure that your proprietary data is safe and secure from data theft, fraud, and other cyber attacks. Physical security must also be ensured. Look around the center and see if they have password-encrypted doors, CCTV cameras, and security guards around the vicinity.

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.

15. Personnel Suitability: At the end of the day, the most important factor to consider is the strength of the vendor’s management, executives, and agents. Do their strengths align with your needs? Do you feel you can form a solid partnership with them? Be sure to get to know a potential call center’s partners and resources before making your decision. This information can throw more light on a lot of issues that you would not have discovered otherwise.

How to Choose the Best Customer Call Center Service for your Business

  1. Determine what your business needs

The first thing to do when trying to pick the best customer call center service for your business is to first of all determine what your business needs at that particular point in time. For example, if you own an online store, do you need people who can answer emails and do a live chat service?

Or are you more in need of voice support and social media representatives? It is vital that you determine first the kind of support that you need. This would let you know the kind of customer care call center service to hire.

2. Identify the strength of operations of the contact center

The next thing to do is to identify how the call center operates and what their strengths are. If you’re expected to receive a large volume of calls and inquiries, it is important that you choose a call center that has a reliable uptime & redundancy and a well-crafted disaster recovery plan.

Nearly 50% of customers will avoid a brand in the future if they’ve had to wait for more than 5 minutes because of customer service downtime, and you don’t want that happening to your business.

3. Verify their contract terms

The next thing you have to do is to look at their contract terms. Consider their pricing models and other terms and conditions. Each call center service has its own pricing model that is likely to be determined by the specific features your business needs. That might include anything from taking orders over the phone to setting appointments. You’re unlikely to find prices online, and you will need to contact a company representative to get the details.

4. Choose a center that has business tools integration

Make the most out of your money by choosing a center that has business tools integration. A center that has an available software to integrate with your business’ CRM and social media platforms can save you time and increase productivity.

5. Note their fees for suitability

For a lot of businesses, cost matters a lot, so you have to make sure that you can afford the charges that are being given to you. Be sure to ask about upfront fees and any incidental, holiday and overage fees. Read your quotes and contracts slowly, carefully and in detail.

Another thing you have to note here are hidden charges. To get the best possible price, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Come to the conversation prepared with your average monthly sales volume and details of what you need the call center to do.

6. Shop around before you settle

Before you settle on a final pick, get quotes from at least three companies and compare terms and conditions of each. If you prefer a company that quotes a fee higher than the others, negotiate the cost down using the quotes from the other companies as ammunition. Be sure to ask what promotions are currently running and find out if free trials are available.

7. Read up reviews online

Read customer and professional reviews. Check out a company’s reviews from a variety of sources before making a choice. Take note of what various publications are saying about the companies you are considering, as well as what customers are saying. You may be shocked that the you feel is the best has a lot of unsavory reviews from their clients.

8. Check out their services

Now, you have to check out how their services run. 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.

9. Mode of Operation

The last thing to consider when making your decision of hiring a customer care call center is how call centers operate. Generally speaking, call centers work by taking messages from inbound calls or transferring your calls to you, setting appointments, helping with order processing and even helping with technical issues.

Some centers make outbound calls and take inbound calls. As part of their outbound duties, they may conduct surveys, schedule calls to customers, perform lead generation services or cold calling, and more. As a result, you get the service you need without holding up your in-house staff.

10. Finally, commit

When you are done with making your findings, you are now free to sign a contract with the call center service in question, and outsource your call center services to them. At the initial time, make sure they keep your company abreast of what is happening on a daily basis, or even twice a day.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Customer Care Call Center Service?

When it comes to the cost that call center services would likely charge you for their services, you should know that most companies have two separate pricing models for inbound call center outsourcing campaigns.

  • Call Center Outsourcing with a Per Minute Model

If a client’s incoming calls, emails and chat messages are low volume or inconsistent, their program will most likely be priced on a per minute basis. This is is the average cost you can expect if you are outsourcing in the per minute model.

  • Shared model – Pricing ranges from about $0.70 – $1.25 per minute, domestic.
  • Dedicated Agent model – Pricing ranges from about $25 – $35 per hour, domestic.

Typical pricing for shared services is $.70 to $1.25 per minute. Minutes are calculated by adding the talk time plus the call wrap-up time. And this is typically a loaded cost, including the management staff and support staff.

What Does ‘Shared’ Mean in Call Center Outsourcing?

If an inbound contact call center puts your program into a shared environment, that means that your call center agents are also being used to handle calls for other clients.  Call centers do this because some inbound programs have low volume or inconsistent call volumes and it would be too expensive to staff call center agents on a dedicated basis and have them sit there waiting for incoming calls.

The call center agents are cross trained to work on behalf of multiple programs. This helps keep agent utilization high and also keep costs reasonable for clients that use third party outsourced call center companies.

  • Call Center Outsourcing with an Hourly Model

When a program has enough inbound volume to warrant dedicated contact call center agents, most companies will price the service on an hourly basis. Pricing for dedicated agents that handle inbound interactions typically range from $25 to $35 per hour.

Typically, the more agents required to fulfill the needs of a particular client, the lower the per hour rate. Another X-factor can be if there are specific requirements like needing licensed insurance agents or if a program needs to be staffed 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.

  • Conclusion

The bottom-line here is that if you find that your staff are spending too much time answering calls, losing sales because they don’t have time to follow up on leads, missing customer calls (or taking 24-plus hours to return them), losing track of appointments, or not being able to assist customers due to language barriers, it’s time to consider an outside call center service. The points given up here would help you to better negotiate a suitable call center service for your business.

Ejike Cynthia