Choosing a call center to handle customer interactions is a decision that you should take very seriously. You wouldn’t hire just anyone to answer calls from customers in your office. So you should use a similar vetting process when outsourcing call center operations.
Erik O’Borsky, owner of Customer Contact Services offered some tips and best practices for outsourcing call center operations. Read on for some helpful insights.
Consider the Scope of Your Needs
Outsourcing call center operations means different things to different businesses. O’Borsky explains:
“You can basically open a phone book and throw a dart at any business and they probably have a use for a call center or answering service. It could be a small plumber who just needs someone to answer calls while he’s on a job so that customers don’t just hang up and call someone else. Or it could be a larger company that wants to outsource their entire order taking services.”
So before you start the process of looking for a call center, you should figure out exactly what it is you need from them.
Only Use the Services You Really Need
Since there’s a huge range of different call center services, there’s no use in paying for what you don’t really need. So if you just need someone to answer calls while you’re on jobs or on weekends, don’t look for call centers that just offer full-service solutions.
Look for a Local Company
According to O’Borsky, one thing that many clients look for in a call center is proximity. Having agents located in the U.S. is often priority number one. But especially for local centric businesses, having agents that have certain regional dialects can also be a benefit. So if you want your callers to feel like they’re speaking with someone in their own neighborhood, look for companies located nearby.
Ask Specifically About the Location of Agents
However, even companies based in the U.S. can have some agents in other parts of the world. So when doing your research, make sure you ask about the location of all the company’s agents, if proximity is something that’s important to you.
Find Out How Long the Company has Been in Business
Reputation is also something that’s important when choosing a call center. Companies that don’t provide friendly, timely service don’t tend to stick around very long. So if you find a company that meets your other requirements and has been in business for a long time, you’ve probably found a decent solution.
Seek Out Reviews and References
As with any other type of service, reviews and references can help you flush out some of the better options from the bad ones. You can do some of your own research online or by asking around. But don’t be afraid to also ask the companies you’re considering for references.
Consider Your Own Calling Experience
During the research process, be on the lookout for red flags that could mean a company isn’t as reliable as they claim to be. For instance, if it takes a long time for you to get through to a real person, if representatives aren’t very friendly, or if you’re put on hold constantly, you can likely expect those same things for your customers who would call in.
Ask About Average Wait and Hold Times
But you should also go a bit further and ask companies outright about their average wait and hold times. Good ones should have all of that information already. And then you can compare your best options.
Be Wary of Prices Too Good to be True
While price is always a consideration when hiring a service provider for your business, it shouldn’t be the only one. If you find a company that offers the same services for much less money than the rest, consider that a red flag.
Look at the Company’s Web Presence
Another warning sign could lie in the company’s website. O’Borsky says:
“If it looks like they actually invest time and money into their website, they probably do the same for the rest of their business. But if it looks like the website was made quickly ten years ago, they’re probably not investing in new technology or running a profitable business.”
Ask About Their Technology
You can also dig a little deeper into the technology each of your top choices uses. Ask them about their communication systems and how they relay messages. Then compare the responses.
Do More Research When Dealing with Small Companies
While many call centers are larger operations, O’Borsky says there are still some mom and pop operations or even people who run answering services from their homes. While these options may be appealing to fellow small businesses, you still have to be sure they’ll offer you the same quality service. It can be difficult for smaller call centers to keep up, technology-wise.
Think About How You Want Messages Relayed
Another factor to consider is how each provider relays messages. In past years, O’Borsky says that most call centers just took messages and then sent them to companies via text. But the process is far more customizable now. He says:
“If you can think of a way you want messages delivered, there’s already someone out there doing it.”
So if you want messages delivered to you in a particular way, look for a company that specializes in that method or at least offers it as an option.
Be Specific About What Information You Want Collected
You also have to clearly communicate your needs in terms of what information you need collected. You might just want the basics like name and contact information. But if you have any additional requests, you need to make sure that agents are prepared to relay that information accurately.
Put an Emphasis on Name Pronunciation
One thing that companies might not consider when specifying the information you want collected is name pronunciation. But it shouldn’t be overlooked, because mispronouncing customers’ names when you return their calls can lead to a loss of sales.
Think of it as an Important Investment
Depending on your needs and call volume, outsourcing call center operations can be a significant expense. But you really have to consider that cost against how much missed calls could impact your business. O’Borsky says, “A lot of companies think that no one can deal with their callers better than they can. And that might be true. But when you can’t answer your calls because you’re out on a job or someone calls in sick, how much is that costing you in potential sales or service jobs? You have to look at the couple hundred dollars a month you might spend and compare it to the amount you’d lose if you’re missing calls left and right.”
Call Center Photo via Shutterstock