Your Ultimate Guide to Contact Center Outsourcing
If your business has customers, they need a way to contact you. And someone definitely needs to answer those calls, emails, and messages. However, finding and training staff to handle your customer service isn’t the easiest (or cheapest) task.
This is when contact center outsourcing comes into play.
Contact center outsourcing can take the weight of customer management off your shoulders. It saves you the money, time, and effort you need to make your business scale.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
If you decide to outsource your contact center needs, you need to do it right.
This ultimate guide can help you figure out what contact center outsourcing is, what its benefits are, and how you can find the customer service right partner.
In this guide, we’ll give you tips and advice on how to manage the relationship with your outsourcing partner. Plus, we’ll point out what red flags you need to look out for before and after you outsource your customer engagement.
Keep reading to find out how to navigate the pitfalls of contact center outsourcing and find the right partner for your organization.
What Is Contact Center Outsourcing?
Outsourcing your contact center means that you entrust a third-party business to handle customer service on your behalf.
An outsourced contact center completes specific tasks according to your business needs to make your operations more efficient. This can mean both receiving inbound calls and placing outbound calls for marketing, answering chat, email, SMS, and even digital and social interactions.
By trusting an outsourced call center to handle customer service, you lower your overhead and make your company’s operations leaner.
How Does Contact Center Outsourcing Work
Trusting an outside provider to handle your customer service is a big step. And if you’re wondering how to hire an outsourced contact center, here are five steps you should follow:
- Know Your Needs: Before you can reach out to a partner, you need to know what you need. Map out the needs of your business and how you think a contact center can support those needs.
- Find the Right Fit: Choose a call center that matches your organization’s values and goals. And look for partners that get along with your team while striving to exceed your customer expectations.
- Establish and Track KPIs: You need a partner that has the right technology for monitoring and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), so you can evaluate performance at any time.
- Prioritize Transparency: You need to focus on running your business, not double-checking your call center to ensure they’re delivering on your expectations. (At Expivia, we use blind monitoring to increase transparency while giving our partners freedom.)
- Collaborate and Calibrate Regularly: Any long-term partnership requires work and communication. Work with a call center that doesn’t keep you in the dark, one that provides regular check-ins and recalibrations. This way you know what you’re getting.
10 Reasons Why You Should Outsource Your Call Center
For some, hiring a contact center to handle customers is an obvious choice. For others, breaking away from in-house solutions is a bigger step.
These are 10 reasons why outsourced contact centers benefit your business. Review this list to put your mind at ease and discover the benefits of choosing a third-party contact center.
1. Save Time and Money
Offloading non-essential tasks to outsourced companies can lower your overhead costs significantly. Think of all the revenue you’ll save on office space, equipment, software, and payroll.
However, it’s important to note that price shouldn’t be the main driver for outsourcing your contact center.
If you want quality customer service (and you should), it may not be the cheapest option, Although you’ll save money on overhead costs and labor costs, the contact center you choose should still be seen as an investment in your business growth.
The team you choose will be working with your organization’s most valuable asset: your customers. And you want to be certain that the team you choose has the skills and technology to exceed their expectations.
Still, if your company’s based in a big city like New York or Chicago, the price of office rent is likely very high. Rural outsourcing (outsourcing to a call center located in a mid-sized city like Erie, PA) can effectively save you a lot of money without sacrificing the quality of service.
If you’re wondering how much money you’ll save by outsourcing your contact center needs, use this calculator.
2. Improve Customer Experience
Leave it to the professionals! Hiring an outsourced call center doesn’t just benefit you directly. Your customers will also thank you for the “white-gloved” support they receive.
Every good call center lives and breathes world-class customer service. It’s not just about being polite. It’s about finding the right answer and solution in a timely manner to keep your customers happy.
Effective conflict resolution, emotion management, and universal kindness are some of the core skills of every good associate.
3. Lower Turnover and Training
There’s no denying that working with customers is a stressful job. If not properly engaged, call center employees often leave after short periods of employment. And that means more training, fluctuating levels of service, and higher costs for you.
Luckily, good-quality outsourced call centers have the managerial skills to keep employees happy and engaged. Be sure to choose a call center that cares about their agents as much as their clients’ happiness.
Look for contact centers that have low turnover and employees who are happy to work there (you can check out review sites like GlassDoor.com for more information.)
4. Focus Improvements on Other Areas
When you start an in-house call center, you need the right tools to accept and handle calls and emails. Computers, headsets, and contact center software all cost money.
Not to mention the headache of mapping out the customer journey, agent workflows, and analytics systems…
If you outsource your call center, you won’t need to worry about spending the time and resources to build out your own customer service department. (And it can get really expensive trying to do this in-house.)
Instead, you’ll save time and resources while reducing frustration and stress from learning to manage and optimize a customer service center in-house.
5. Scale Easier
If your company is successful and profitable, you’re going to feel “growing pains”. As your customer base expands, your contact center needs will expand, too. And you’ll need more staff to handle more calls.
That means more office space, headsets, and managers to oversee your continued success.
In short, you’ll need to invest more time and resources. Otherwise, you risk damaging your customer relationships, hurting your brand, and weakening your bottom line.
By working with an outsourced call center, you can easily adjust the level of service needed to fit your growing business. And it’s pretty easy to do.
A simple renegotiation with your partner takes care of upgrading or downgrading the level of customer service in your organization.
6. Adjust to Seasonality Faster
Seasonality is especially important for many types of businesses. Certain times of the year call for more or less customer service that a business may normally need during off-peak times.
Having to ramp your call center up from 20 agents to 50 (or 100+) during the holidays and other busy periods can be exceptionally difficult. It places a lot of burden on your infrastructure, training, and hiring of the entire organization. Not to mention how important it is to deliver on customer expectations during these periods.
The best call centers are designed to handle fluctuating volumes of business without any negative impact on your customers. This means, your business can keep up with the increased pace without damaging customer relationships or losing out on revenue.
7. Get 24/7 Support
Providing 24/7 support for your customers is a great reason to outsource. Whether you have international customers or you simply want to be more accessible, always having staff ready to provide support pays off.
However, keeping agents on staff to make that happen can cost a significant amount of money if you try to provide this in-house.
Luckily, most contact centers offer some type of 24/7 or extended hour capabilities. When looking for a call center partner, look for vendors that have teams of agents working manageable hours throughout the day. That way, your customers are always getting the highest level of support no matter what time it is.
You don’t want a call center with a team stretched thin during late hours. That could potentially lead to poor customer service during off-peak hours.
8. Don’t Worry About Upgrades
There’s always a new piece of call center technology that makes interacting with customers easier or more efficient.
Phones, headsets, skills-based routing, omnichannel connections, speech analytics, AI (artificial intelligence), and self-service are some of the many tools of the trade that constantly improve.
But which tools are the best? And which are nice to have versus necessary?
Trying to balance improving your call center against a backdrop of constant innovation while growing your business is extremely challenging.
The best call centers actively search for, test, train and deploy the latest in customer engagement technology.
By outsourcing your customer service to a call center, you’ll stay ahead of the competition with cutting-edge technology and tools without having to juggle the difficulty of vetting them. (Plus, you won’t have to pay for all the trial and error for these new tools.)
9. Experience Better Data Analytics
If you’re a data-driven organization, outsourcing can be a cost-effective way to help you gain deeper insights into your customer base by leveraging the latest in customer engagement technology.
With constant data collection and superior analytics software, you don’t just learn what your customers think of your product or service. You also learn how you can improve your business at every stage in the customer journey.
With contact center outsourcing, you can leverage data to find out where and how you can make the best changes in your business. Changes that will drive customer engagement, increase sales, and help you stay ahead of the competition.
The Best and Worst Contact Center Qualities and Skills
How do you tell a good contact center apart from a bad contact center? Let’s walk through what you should look for (and avoid) in an outsourced call center partner.
Signs of an Effective Contact Center
How can you tell if a contact center is a high-quality organization? Look at their numbers. High success rates, effective sales, and low turnover rates suggest a well-organized operation. It also shows a healthy work culture.
In this industry, experience is crucial. Managing employees, handling clients, and integrating new tech all need knowledge. The more experience a call center has the better. They’ll be ready to adapt, adjust, and provide insights into every situation they come up against.
You want a contact center that’s flexible enough to add or subtract employees based on your needs. Whether you want to add a new product line, send a direct mail piece, or need to scale to account for seasonality, you need a partner that can keep up with those demands.
You don’t just need a contact center that completes a list of tasks for you. You need a real partner that helps you grow your business by sharing data-driven insights and recommendations. They should be invested in your success as much as you are.
The value in such a partnership isn’t just monetary. Improving your processes, brand image, and marketing can even influence the reputation of your business.
Hiring a contact center is an investment. The best-outsourced contact centers have reasonable pricing that accounts for all the costs without compromising on quality. They should give you an itemized list of charges without any hidden fees.
Of course, you don’t want to hire a call center with dial phones and computers that still run on Windows 95. You want a contact center that can manage omnichannel support, keep up with current technological trends, and integrate with the most up-to-date software.
Amazing Customer Experience
Fancy new computers and cost-effective budgets don’t mean a thing if your customers don’t receive the best service. Your outsourced contact center should put customer needs ahead of everything else. Don’t let them distract you just the bells and whistles: ensure they have trained staff ready to provide unparalleled customer service.
Call Center Red Flags
High Setup Fees
Setup fees are a fair way to recoup some of the starting costs. New software, new integrations, and training new hires all cost money after all. However, some contact centers use exorbitant setup fees to rip clients off. Some go as far as claiming $87,000 is a fair price.
That’s absolutely not true.
For companies that are already in the cloud, your setup fees could be as low as $7,000. (At Expivia, we have never charged more than $10,000 for setup fees.)
Additional Client Support Costs
If you have an outsource call center telling you it will be $50 an hour (or a monthly package of $2,000) for client support–run away!
Client support should be rolled into the costs.
This is most true with smaller, boutique programs of 500-1000 seats. However, this is not necessarily true for a 30,000 seat, international program.
Unreasonable Per-minute Changes
Be sure you understand the breakdown of your per-minute charges. If a call center is charging you $2 per minute and their reps work 45 minutes each hour, that’s $90 per hour.
Even if you are not a full-time client, be careful of going over $0.75 a minute.
There’s always a hidden agenda behind unreasonably high permanent charges. Perhaps the center doesn’t want your business but is willing to take it for a high fee. Or, the center isn’t running its operations effectively.
Either way, it’s best to stay away. You’re not paying for quality at that point.
Upcharges for Email and Chat
Everything used in your program (such as voice, email, and chat) should be included in your cost.
There should not be an additional setup fee for any of these services. The one exception is if you add on additional services after the initial setup. If you set up your program and six months later you want to add chat services, there could be a minimal setup fee for that.
If your call center wants to charge you $5,000 to set up voice, another $5,000 to set up email, and another $5,000 for chat along with a “base” setup fee when they onboard you, that’s just not right. All of these services should be bundled together at the start.
Licensing for Reporting
Many call centers want you to pay extra for a licensing and reporting dashboard. Some even go as far as adding an additional $1,500 charge every month so you can access your own reports.
Any licensing and reporting costs should be included in your permanent charges.
Charges to Monitor and Have Access to Recordings
Any recording made on-call belongs to your company. If you are being charged per recording, push back against that.
The one exception to this is if you’re storing your recording on their servers. Then, it’s reasonable to ask you to pay for this storage. However, that charge should be very small as cloud storage is very cheap.
Paying by the Minute
While paying by the minute isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you should always check to see what that covers.
Are you paying for handle time? Talk time? A combination? Is after-call work included? If so, for how long?
If you’re being charged for everything, including all after-call work, you’ll end up paying a lot more money than you should.
Even worse, that inadvertently incentivizes your call center to be lazy on calls. Most companies will hold everyone up to an efficiency standard and not do this. Either way, be sure your partner provides reporting to justify their billing.
Generally, clients pay for their outsourced contact center by the hour. This excludes lunch breaks for reps.
Attrition Training Costs
Even if there’s a high turnover rate, you shouldn’t be charged for it. Never pay for attrition training.
If you started with 25 reps and several months later three reps have left the company, the call center is responsible for covering the training needed to replace those agents.
If your center knows that they will have to pay for training to maintain a number of seats, they are going to think twice about the type of person they bring on for your program.
They’ll look for higher-quality candidates, instead. Plus, they’ll treat their employees better, so they stick around longer.
Equipment and Workflows Every Outsourced Call Center NEEDS
Of course, you’re looking for the highest quality call center. But, how do you know you’re truly getting all your money’s worth?
Your outsourced contact center is well-equipped if they have:
- Omnichannel Support: Multichannel support is a must. You need a contact center that can receive calls, emails, and chatbox messages for wide customer accessibility. This empowers the customer to seek out support through the platform that works best for them.
- Fully Integrated CRM Platform: Equipping a call center isn’t just about hardware. Your outsourced customer service needs to have customer relationship management (CRM) software to truly provide the best quality help.
- Advanced Speech Analytics: Speaking of software, speech analytics is a must. Sentiment scoring and AI-based analysis ensure that the customers are well-cared for, happy, and the service you get is monitored for quality.
- 100% USA-based Associates: If your business and customers are in the USA, provide them a point of contact in the same country as them to lower their potential frustration.
- Advanced Routing Techniques: Making sure a call reaches the right associate as fast as possible is crucial in keeping customers happy.
- Forecasting and Workforce Optimization Software: Your outsourced contact should seek out ways to get you the most value for your money using workforce optimization.
- Expert Call Center Personnel: Trained, educated, and experienced agents in quality customer service is an absolute must.
- Chatbot, Texting, AI Support: Calls and emails are basic. Nowadays, customers want the newest and easiest form of communication to get their issues resolved.
- Cost-Effective Operations: You don’t want the contact center with inefficient systems that drive waste. Instead, you want a partner that has the bottom line to invest in growing their own business while keeping your costs low.
How Much Should an Outsourced Contact Center Cost?
While cheaper doesn’t mean better, you need to find an outsourced contact center with reasonable pricing.
This is how much you should expect to pay for a high-quality and reasonably priced contact center around the world:
Dedicated Inbound Contact Center Costs Worldwide
- USA-based – $23-28/hour: While the price is higher, the quality of customer service tends to be higher.
- Nearshore – $12-17/hour: Outsourcing your contact center to Mexico, Eastern Europe, or Latin America can be slightly cheaper. However, you lose the advantage of native or near-native English speakers on staff, real-time monitoring (if there’s a time difference), and ease of communicating.
- Offshore – varies: The price of an outsourced contact center depends on the country you’re hiring from. For example, offshore outsourcing in India and Pakistan can range anywhere between $4-10/hour. While more affordable, you’ll many of the features and benefits of on- or near-shore outsourcing.
It’s important to mention that these estimates are simply the base rate for inbound customer service. If you need agents with advanced skills (such as tier 2 tech licensed insurance agents, or registered nurses) then the per hour costs will be higher.
Outbound Contact Center Outsourcing Costs:
- USA-based – $22-28/hour: Pricing for inbound and outbound in the United States is very similar to make the process more efficient for multi-skilled agents.
- Nearshore – $9-16/hour: Just like in the US, outsourcing outbound contact centers in Mexico is comparable to inbound prices.
- Offshore – $5-10/hour: Although it depends on the country, India and the Philippines charge a little less for offshore outsourcing than Eastern Europe or the Middle East.
While hiring nearshore or offshore contact centers is be financially better, you may pay for cheap customer service in lower customer loyalty and retention.
It’s important to note that USA-based outsourcing doesn’t just mean that agents speak English as a first language. Coming from the same culture and hearing the same accent ensures a more efficient and positive customer experience.
Choosing the Right Call Center Outsourcing Partner [10 Steps]
Even if you find a great call center, you can’t be sure that it’s the right fit for your business. Consider these 10 points when shopping for call centers to help you choose the best customer service outsourcing partner.
This is the first thing that a company needs to consider before talking to contact centers. What size BPO partner is right for you?
You want a contact center that’s big enough to manage your needs, but small enough to still take your business seriously.
If you’re looking to outsource a major program with 1000+ seats, then you should consider multinational call centers with multiple sites.
However, this isn’t the ideal solution in most cases.
Most customer service programs fall into the under 100 seat range. You don’t want your 20-100 seat program at a site with 1000 seats. Your program will fall through the cracks. Ultimately, you’ll grow frustrated with the lack of support and care..
Instead, you want to look at a company that has around 500 seats or less to give your program the time it deserves.
2. Track Record of Management
What has the management team done? Are they experts in your business type?
There are many different niche call centers out there that “specialize” in everything from financial service to IT to retail.
Make sure you have a comfort level with the management of the call center that they understand your business type.
3. Client Support Method
Client support should match your organization’s needs. Some call centers dedicate a manager to work with you. Others have you call in and create trouble tickets as if you were a customer. Either way, you deserve support from a team member who understands your program and your needs.
4. Associate Match
The call center you choose needs to be an extension of your brand. Matching the demographic and personality of your associates in a call center with your brand is crucial. Remember, they will become the voice of your company.
Make sure you’re happy with how they represent you.
5. Proper Technology
Consider what you need from a call center from a technical standpoint.
Will you need call recording, virtual queues, private client monitoring, speech analytics capability, or chatbots? Are they a multi-channel facility (voice, chat, email, self-service options)?
Do they have onsite programmers or do they outsource programming? Can they handle any screen, CTI, and connectivity issues?
Asking and answering these questions before you shop for an outsourced contact center can save you a lot of time and help you find the best partner.
6. Onshore, Offshore, or Hybrid?
This is a big decision and one that you must not take lightly.
There are some programs that do well offshore. There are many that need a US-based center. The costs obviously are much cheaper offshore. However, the price you may pay in customer loyalty can make it very expensive.
You must understand your customers and the type of program you need before you can make this decision.
7. Company Culture
What is the culture of your prospective call center? This is where site visits become very important.
Is the center paperless? Do they have the right chemistry? Do the associates look like they want to be there? How much are the agents paid? What type of incentives are there? What is the agent turnover? How are supervisors and management chosen?
These are all important questions to get a feel for the company.
You cannot expect agents to go above and beyond the needs of your customers if the center they work for isn’t doing the same for them. If the values of your outsourced contact center line up with yours, then you have yourself a good match.
Agent training (and how your potential call center goes about it) is critical to the success of your relationship.
How are their new associates on-boarded? What training do they receive before they start on the floor? What is the ongoing training like? How do they communicate with agents about program changes? How do they handle internal monitoring?
The answers to these questions can give you valuable insight into what your future brand representatives go through. They also reveal the culture of the contact center.
9. Scalability, Flexibility
Your call center should be ready to scale efficiently based on the needs of your customers. Every contact center does this differently, though. Ask your potential call center how they handle increased volume and whether or not they can scale to meet demands.
Choosing a PCI (payment card industry) compliant contact center isn’t a benefit. It’s a necessity. Data security needs to be a top priority in the contact center you choose.
Only work with paperless companies. They should also have a no cell phone policy. This is important to protect you and your customer’s safety while ensuring your business avoids any potential data security issues.
How to Manage Call Center Outsourcing Partner Relationships
The work doesn’t stop when you find your ideal outsourced call center. And it doesn’t stop when you sign a contract and complete onboarding.
Keeping a positive relationship with your contact center is crucial for your success.
A lot of companies forget that. And even more, companies commit mistakes that damage their partnership with their contact center, potentially damaging productivity.
Follow these tips to ensure the partnership between your organization and your outsourced contact center remains mutually beneficial. They cover boundaries to set, rules to establish, and the mindset you should adopt to get the most out of your call center.
Don’t Treat Your Outsourcer Like a Vendor
Your relationship with your outsourced contact center is too important to treat like a vendor. Your customer service outsourcer is not just some company that you’re buying a piece of software from. They speak to your customers and represent your business.
Your outsourced service center is like an extension of your company. Treat them like that. You don’t want to come at them with a stick if they mess up or make a mistake. That’s going to damage the relationship in the long run.
Instead, you need to provide a constant cycle of constructive feedback. And you need to treat this relationship like a true partnership.
Visit them. Communicate regularly. You can even go out to dinner with them. In short, it’s best to develop a lasting, close, professional relationship with your outsourcing partner.
Be an Active Part of Training
Whether you are onboarding five or 500 agents, you need to be a part of at least the first three or four classes. Ideally, you should be on-site (or at least on a video call) for the launch.
If you don’t have time later on and you want to be more hands-off, the outsorcerer’s dedicated trainers should be able to continue what you started.
This is important because agents should always place a face on the client. Make sure your outsourcing agents know who you are.
Work with your partner to develop a solid QA platform that you both agree on. This will make sure that you get the most out of your calibration sessions. Plus, you can trust the scores your call center partner should provide weekly.
One Point of Contact
Have a dedicated point of contact within the call center. Someone who can help you with any questions or requests you have. Usually, this position is the Client Services Manager Lead.
Make sure they can respond to you within 15-30 minutes for emails and voicemails. That is the SLA time that we give our client services managers. This is also what most centers offer.
Have Weekly Calibration Sessions
Sit down once a week and listen to either recorded or live calls. Your team and your outsourced call center partner should be on the same page.
Understand your goals and understand when your partner may not be hitting them. Make sure you and your partner’s scoring mentalities are the same. And be consistent in your scoring week after week.
Have an Issue/Escalation Process
If a call gets out of hand, if a customer uses foul language, or if an agent becomes visibly irritated, having a written procedure to report what happened can be extremely helpful.
You need to know about these issues. And your outsourced contact center shouldn’t feel the need to hide problems. With the right procedures in place, solving issues becomes a lot easier.
Have Weekly Status Calls and Quarterly Reviews
Have a weekly catch-up and talk about service levels, handle time, call volume, and/or whether you need to add more agents to your program. Talk about any immediate adjustments you need to make in your weekly call.
In a quarterly review, you should talk about your program at a macro level. Agent sentiment, customer sentiment, speech analytics, or if any big changes that need to be made.
Just like any relationship, communication between you and your contact center outsourcing partner needs to be honest, quick, and easy.
Having some sort of quick messaging tool like Slack can be an easy and quick way to update your outsourced contact center quickly on any changes.
No matter how foolproof you think your plans are, how solid you think your forecast is, things will inevitably change.
Understand that the partner you choose is going to bend over backward to make sure they are working correctly for you. And they’ll do everything in their power to provide the service you deserve.
That’s why it’s useful to have a flexible and patient mindset, especially when you’re starting to work with your contact center.
The Best Outsourced Contact Center in the USA
Outsourcing your contact center can save you the time, money, and effort you need to keep growing your business.
Hiring a company to deal with customer service for you doesn’t just offload a difficult task, it also benefits your customer. That’s because you’re providing your most valuable asset the best treatment by trained professionals. And you’re setting yourself up to go above and beyond the level of service they expect.
However, finding the right contact center to complement your business can be a challenge. You need an efficient, well-equipped, and experienced contact center with a great attitude.
And that is Expivia.
Expivia is a 100% USA-based contact center outsourcing partner that’s designed to mold to your needs. We’re flexible, scalable, and constantly looking to become more efficient.
With 25+ years of experience, we’re one of the leading contact center experts in the country. We use the newest technology, high-quality associates, and our positive work culture to serve our clients and their customers.
Reach out to us to talk about your contact center outsourcing needs