Call Center Services Explained
Call Center Services
Call Centers can provide answering services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They can also offer customer and technical support, help customers order your products, schedule appointments, and can update purchasing and database information. Many businesses outsource their customer service needs to call centers. Other large companies will set up their own call center. If you opt to go with a company which provides this service, the call center you select will be representing your company to your customers, so it's important to research carefully before making your choice. One decision you may have to consider is whether to use an offshore call center. While this may save your company money, in the long run you may lose due to the negative reactions of your customers. For this reason alone, do your homework before making your final selection.
Things To Consider As You Make Your Decision
As you get ready to make this important decision for your business, here are some points to consider and questions to ask before deciding on the company to do business with.
- What Services Will You Need?
Answering services, customer support and/or order-taking? Technical support, appointment scheduling? Generating sales leads, debt collection, processing applications?
- Call Volume
How many inbound or outbound calls do you expect to be processed?
- Monthly Budget
- Hours of Service
Will you need 24 hour/7 day a week service, or service during weekdays and business hours only?
- Do you need product fulfillment services?
Selecting the Right Call Center
Once you have determined what you need in the way of customer service from your call center, you are ready to look for that center. You should select several potential call center partners based on what they can offer you and if they can meet the needs of your company. TMCnet.com recommends anywhere from 6-10 potential centers. You can find these through word of mouth from other business colleagues, Internet searches, and other Industry associations. Work up a "Request for Proposal," which should include hours of coverage needed, languages you wish to provide support for, the type of services you require (customer service, technical support, order processing, etc), and other information about your needs. At the same time, feel free to query them about their own company. How long have they been in business, how many clients do they provide services for, how many centers do they operate, questions on staffing, training of staff, turnover rate, etc. Set a reasonable time for them to respond by (and be sure to let them know what that is), and ask for an approximate price quote. When you have gotten the responses back, you should narrow down the choices to two or three.
Pricing for your call center services can get a little complicated, depending on your call volume, script complexity, and other needs. The bulk of the cost is per minute or per call fees for each agent or call. Call centers which employ agents who are highly skilled or experienced will also result in higher charges. If you use "shared agents," which handle calls for many companies, the average rate is between $.50 and $1.00 per minute. Dedicated agents will work for you exclusively, and rates are hourly, ranging anywhere from $10 or less for offshore centers, to $25 an hour for U.S. based centers. The advantage of using dedicated agents is that they will be more knowledgeable about your company's products and services, but you will have to decide if this exclusiveness is worth it to your company's budget. Be sure that all costs are included in your contract before signing. Most companies will include the additional fees for training and reporting in your cost per minute or hour, but some will not. Additionally, some companies will enforce a monthly minimum, which could be costly if your call volume drops unexpectedly. And expect to pay extra set-up fees, which could come to several thousand dollars.
A few parting thoughts to consider include owning your own phone number, so that if you need to change call centers, your phone number doesn't have to change; communicate with the call center so that you can each adjust as your business grows; asking them to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that they cannot take your company secrets to competitors. It would also be a good idea to know exactly where they are. Many call center companies have multiple locations. Find out where your calls are going to: one location or multiple.