Is the peaceful environment of your office interrupted by phones that are constantly ringing?
Are your employees overextended from handling a high volume of incoming sales and service calls? Would you like a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage your inbound calls?
If so, an inbound calling center might be just the solution you are looking for. These call centers employ experts to handle your sales and service calls while leaving your office free to focus on other aspects of growing your business.
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What are your inbound call center needs?
Most inbound call centers are customer service focused which translates to customers calling YOU rather than the other way around.
As could (and should) be expected, inbound call centers are adept at handling a high volume of calls that would, most likely sink an in-house call center. You want an inbound call center whose telephone agents are trained properly in customer relationship management (CRM) strategies.
Many inbound call centers specialize in one type of inbound calling, but some inbound call centers, known as consolidated call centers, can handle several different types of inbound calls. If you are looking for more than one of the services listed above, it may be a good idea to consider consolidated inbound call centers so you can have all of your needs met at a single destination. However, if the types of calls your business receives are rather complex and require a very thorough understanding of your industry, consider a specialized inbound call center. Learn more about call center terminology so you can ask the right questions and find the best call center service provider for your business.
If your needs lean more toward outbound calls that are more sales/lead focused you require the services of a telemarketing call center. Telemarketers handle both B2B and B2C sales and cover a broad range of industries.
If your business receives a small number of calls per month, the argument could be made for an in-house call center.
An in-house call center can be more cost-efficient than outsourcing if you have a relatively low call volume, but keep in mind that there is a cost for the equipment, experience, and knowledge of trained professionals backing your in-house call operations. If your business receives a lot of calls, then the decision is hands-down in favor of an inbound call center.
Why? Once your call volume reaches a certain point, in order to be effective, you would have to upgrade your in-house phone equipment and software, reconfigure your office and hire new employees. You would also have to cope with any unexpected changes without the benefit of call center expertise. An inbound call center is specifically designed to deal with fluctuations, difficulties, and challenges. Let a qualified call center service do their job so that you can get back to doing yours.
low call volume = in-house call center
high call volume = outsourced call center
However, when you speak to someone from a high-quality call center, even at an offshore location, they are SO good at their job that you don’t even realize you’re talking to someone overseas! Providing seamless service means that the call center reps consider themselves the face of your company. They want to represent you in the best possible light to potential customers. THIS is the kind of call center service you want to find! And believe it or not, they are out there!
There are several benefits to outsourcing your inbound calls to a high-quality call center service provider.
Some of these include:
And, inbound call centers are tailor-made for these situations:
Cost – The rates for offshore call centers can be as little as 25% of what a call center based in the US would charge for the same service. More and more businesses are offshoring their needs primarily because of cost.
Language – Most offshore agents are bilingual or multilingual, so they are able to meet the needs of a wide range of customers. If you are in need of a bi- or multilingual call center service, offshoring your needs may be a wise choice.
Quality – There is often a competitive demand for employment in offshore call centers. Many of these companies offer the best pay and benefits in the entire city and surrounding area. Therefore, call centers get to pick from the cream of the crop when it comes to smart, dedicated and extremely motivated individuals. This is in contrast to the US, where there is less desire to work in a call center with so many other options for employment, and therefore, a lower quality base to hire from.
Image – Choosing a call center outside of the United States may reflect negatively on your business. Our times are marked by intense patriotism in the media and on the streets, and anything that “takes business away” from hard-working Americans can be vilified.
Communication – When you are speaking with individuals from other countries, accents and cultural differences can make communication difficult. The communication barrier can affect not only the customer/agent relationship but also the interaction between the call center and your US-based office. If you are worried about accents diminishing the efficacy of your offshore call center, seek out call centers in Canada or the Caribbean, where English is commonly spoken. You can also alleviate some difficulty by writing a simple and structured sales script that is easy for telephone sales representatives to follow.
Location – If you wish to be highly involved, face-to-face, with your call center service provider, offshore providers may not be the most cost-effective choice for you. Offshore call centers work best if you take a more distant approach to involvement, such as conducting meetings over the telephone and using email and fax for written communications. However, with the availability of social media and chat forums communication across time zones and countries is much easier.
Finding a call center that’s right for your business, that won’t scare off your customers, and will provide excellent and consistent service is not an easy task. Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid headaches down the road.
Know your call volume. The most important thing to know before shopping around for an inbound call center is the volume of calls you expect to receive. Businesses often overestimate or underestimate their call volume. Additionally they often forget to inform the call center of expected call volume changes–any of which can result in extra fees. Discuss every aspect of your expected call volume patterns with the potential call center, including the volume of calls you think you will receive and any expect hikes in call volume. If you aren’t sure about your call volume, talk to several different service providers and ask for their input on how to estimate volume. They will usually be able to give you some basic metrics to help you get an idea of trends in call volume based on your industry industry. It’s also helpful to document your seasonal call volume or any unexpected fluctuations so the call center can recommend the right type of service plan to mee the needs of your business. Many inbound call centers are willing to accommodate fluctuations with their pricing plans as long as call volume stays within a ballpark range of your estimated number.
Start with their website. Once you’re ready to start shopping, spend some time on their website. Web presence says a lot about a company. Carefully read over their policies, rules, values, areas of expertise, and general service. From there, you can decide if you want to take the next step and contact them directly.
Schedule an onsite visit. This requires a little time and effort to plan, but a personal visit is the BEST way to get a feel for the company. You get to see how customer service representatives (the people who are speaking to your clientele!) handle calls, meet the management team and learn about their training process. All of these are key factors for evaluating the quality of a call center.
When you visit, be sure to:
Listen to Calls – Request to sit in and listen to live calls (at least 1 hour of different types of calls from different agents is recommended). That way, you get a big picture of the how the agents are trained and the type of needs they can handle. Ask yourself: are they knowledgeable, courteous and professional? Do they seem capable of handling the type of needs your customers have?
Make Test Calls – If you are curious to know how agents are coached to handle certain questions, ask the inbound call center supervisor if you can make test calls. When you call, ask the CSRs questions that range from easy to difficult to answer, and see if you like the way they answer them. This test technique, in combination with listening to calls, is probably the easiest and best way to gauge the performance of any given inbound call center.
Check References – Request references of former and current clients to get a FULL perspective on how the company has maintained relationships, served its clients and kept service agreements. Try to get references for companies that have had a similar goals and similar time frame so you can get an accurate idea of the services provided.
Here are some potential questions to ask references:
When you hire a call center, you are asking them to be the face of your company. The customer service representative who takes the call is often a potential customer’s first interaction with your business. And as we all know first impressions matter. Not every call center is equal, so don’t rush the process. Don’t make these five common mistakes when choosing a call center.
Businesses often overestimate or underestimate their call volume. Additionally, they often forget to inform the call center of expected call volume changes—any of which can result in extra fees. Discuss every aspect of your expected call volume patterns with the potential call center, including the volume of calls you think you will receive and any expected hikes in call volume. Although it is impossible to plan for every fluctuation, do your best to accurately estimate your call volume so that you can avoid unnecessary fines and fees.
Most call centers will offer you the option of listening in on one of their customer service representatives while a customer call is in progress. Not only will listening in on these calls provide you with useful information about the quality of the script, but it will also give you a feel for the personality and enthusiasm of call center employees. Most of us know this from experience: even the most well-written sales script cannot overcome an unhappy, unenthusiastic customer service representative. Insider Tip: Ask the call center manager for the opportunity to listen to several different types of calls from multiple reps. Yes, this is time-consuming, but it will give you an accurate gauge of the level of service provided. Trust us, it will be worth your time.
When deciding between potential call centers, it is important to contact the references they provide. This will give you the inside scoop on how the call center rates with regards to customer satisfaction, service level, and professionalism. You will often get quite honest and accurate opinions of a call center’s abilities from their other clients. Use these references as a chance to make sure your first impressions about a company are true.
Do you require special services like multilingual telemarketing, 24-hour service, or flexible representative coverage? Don’t forget to discuss these needs upfront with your potential call center service provider. Many call centers have the resources to comply with a plethora of special demands. Make sure the services provided fit within your budget.
Every business wants to save money when it comes to paying for outside resources like call center services. Remember: quality usually costs more. But it doesn’t necessarily mean a LOT more. Many call centers offer packaged deals on their services and certain discounts at different times of the year. You definitely want to take advantage of these. Do your homework. Ask questions. Don’t sacrifice quality for a good deal. If you lose customers due to poor quality reps, it won’t be worth the extra money saved on the front end.