Trying to run your growing business while also manning the phones can be tiresome and demanding, not to mention inefficient. Implementing an in-house customer service branch is an option, but it’s often costly to get started and maintain.
That’s why it’s becoming more and more common for businesses to outsource their customer service department to third-party call centers. These call centers do more than just answer the phone–they help customers with their problems, administer surveys, and get customer feedback to help you figure out the best way to improve your company. Many call centers even provide technical support, offer other industry-specific services, and reach out to potential customers as well as serving existing ones.
Depending on what your company needs, there are a variety of call center options. So whether you’re looking for just a basic answering service, or you need the whole nine yards, this guide will help you find the right one for your business.
1. Determine what you need/want before you start interviewing call centers.
Get a good sense of the kind of support you’re looking for before arranging anything with a call center. Do you need 24-hour service, or will just business hours suffice? Are you wanting live chat representatives? What about email responses or appointment scheduling? Make these decisions prior to any meeting you set up.
In addition to determining the level of service you’ll need, you’ll also want to get references for any call centers you decide to approach. Speak with their other clients and ask how they’ve liked doing business with them, whether they would recommend them. Another thing to look for is a proven track record with other businesses similar to yours. Maybe look for a call center that handles a successful competitor of yours. The fact that they’re doing a good job means that they can handle the types of customer interactions your business receives.
2. Figure out the KPIs.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are established, measurable metrics of success in a business relationship. Determine your KPIs early in the partnership between you and the call center. What do you most want to achieve? Better efficiency? Improved customer satisfaction? Whatever you decide, discuss it with the call center so they can agree to help you reach your goals.
3. Pick the right location.
Whatever type of deal you’re looking to make, location is always an important factor to consider. Depending on what kind of services or products your business provides, you might want a call center within reasonable driving distance. A nearby location would allow you to be there personally if any critical issue arose, but they do tend to be more expensive. Offshore call centers, on the other hand, are usually more affordable and often offer 24-hour service. The downsides to an offshore location are the distance and the possible language barrier. Additionally, if you are looking to expand to South America, for example, it may be more beneficial to find a call center there that can meet the language requirements and help with cultural differences.
4. Look for strength of operations and business tools integration.
You want to make sure that the call center you choose is able to handle the volume of calls, live chat requests, and emails that is typical for your company. You want a call center with reliable uptime, effective backup plans, and well-thought-out emergency protocols. It’s been shown that nearly 50% of customers who experience a wait time longer than 5 minutes will avoid that brand in the future.
Also, try to find a center that has business tools integration. When they use software that can seamlessly integrate with your company’s CRM and social media platforms, productivity and efficiency levels are greatly increased.
5. Think about dedicated vs. shared agents.
Good call centers offer both shared and dedicated agents. It’s best to figure out your needs in this area before you sign any contract. As the name implies, dedicated agents are assigned only to you—you get their full attention and time. Shared agents handle multiple clients, and it won’t always be the same person answering your company’s calls every time.
If your company has specific or demanding needs, or consistency from your agents is key, dedicated agents are usually best. But if your company has more general needs, shared agents might be most effective as they are cheaper, and spending more for dedicated services that your company doesn’t need to run efficiently is unnecessary.