Call Center Services

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?

  • Customer service or tech support?
  • Appointment setting?
  • Answering services?
  • Qualify sales leads?
  • Take sales orders?

The Basics

Inbound Call Centers

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.

In-House vs. Outsource

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


Options

Outsourcing

5 Key Ingredients to a High-Quality Call Center:

  1. Agents
    It doesn’t matter how good your management team is or how sophisticated your technology, the most important ingredient to a good call center is the quality of the person sitting in that chair, receiving the call from your potential customer. We all know from experience – even the most well-written script won’t make a difference if you are talking to an agent who isn’t knowledgeable, courteous or professional. Before you sign a contract with a call center, go in person (if possible) and ask to listen in on some calls. You will be able to get a feel for the ability of the agents after just a couple of hours of listening in. That’s time and money well spent in the long run!
  2. Training
    It’s important to find out how call center agents are trained. Some call centers encourage clients to be involved in the training.This is a great opportunity to educate the TSRs on the ins and outs of your industry and your clientele. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to create buy-in and accountability between you and the agents now that they have had face-time with a company executive.
  3. Service

    A key phrase in the call center world is ‘providing seamless service.’ We all know what it’s like to realize that you are talking to someone in India about an issue that feels very much like it should be handled locally. It can lead to frustration, annoyance and eventually, a request to be transferred to a local rep or just hanging up!

    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!

  4. Experience
    Another primary component to finding the right call center is choosing one with experience in your specific industry. A call center who has mostly handled customer service-related calls is not necessarily going to be good at scheduling medical appointments and handling patient intake. Similarly, a call center who takes calls for a law firm may require a different skill set than a call center that handles product purchases. Research the provider’s years of experience in the industry. Then get references within your industry to see just how well they have been able to handle these types of calls.
  5. Software
    Another primary component to finding the right call center is choosing one with experience in your specific industry. A call center who has mostly handled customer service-related calls is not necessarily going to be good at scheduling medical appointments and handling patient intake. Similarly, a call center who takes calls for a law firm may require a different skill set than a call center that handles product purchases. Research the provider’s years of experience in the industry. Then get references within your industry to see just how well they have been able to handle these types of calls.

Benefits of a Call Center

There are several benefits to outsourcing your inbound calls to a high-quality call center service provider.

Some of these include:

  • Volume. Inbound call centers can employ hundreds of customer service representatives (CSRs) who are well-trained and experienced in effectively handling a high volume of incoming calls.
  • Flexibility. Inbound call centers know that customer call volume can vary widely. They can add or reassign reps as necessary to your account ensuring maximum service for minimum cost. TIP: When shopping around, request a copy of the provider’s service level agreement. The fine print can widely vary from one provider to the next.
  • Effectiveness. Inbound call centers specialize in effective incoming call management. This is the primary job of the CSR – to handle calls with professionalism and efficiency while meeting the needs of the customer. Unlike in-house staff, who are often balancing additional job responsibilities, these representatives are hired to solely focus on serving the customer.
  • Cost. Outsourcing your calls to an inbound call center saves your business the cost of building, hiring, and training your own staff to do the job. By paying a fixed rate to a call center, you can instantly ramp up your money making strategy. Outsourcing means you’re paying for a necessary service, but you aren’t pouring capital into the initial set-up and continual maintenance fees. Note: Call centers have different methods of billing. Ask the provider about their payment policy before signing any paperwork.
  • Timeliness. Setting up your own call center takes time and effort. It could be weeks, if not months before your business sees a return on investment. By contrast, an inbound call center can begin taking calls for you overnight. If time is of the essence, hire a service with trained professionals to handle your call volume instead  trying to ‘wing it’ with your limited resources.

And, inbound call centers are tailor-made for these situations:

  • Rapid Growth: Project launches or expansions into new territories can generate a plethora of calls over a very short time period.
  • Unpredictable Call Volume: A dramatic seasonal upswing of inbound calls or unpredictable ebbs and flows of calls throughout the year can quickly overwhelm in-house staff.
  • Testing: If your business is about to be flooded with inbound calls and you have not properly tested your phone system to ensure that it can manage this volume, you are risking the loss of potential sales due to technical issues.
  • 24 Hour Service: If your business needs to provide customers with around the clock service and support, it can be challenging to maintain consistent staffing for these hours.

Offshoring

Before you consider offshoring your call center needs, scan this list of pros and cons to make sure this decision is right for the needs of your company.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.


Tips

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:

  • Did you accomplish your goals while working with this inbound call center?
  • Were you given all the information you needed surrounding your services?
  • What was the best and worst part of working with this inbound call center?
  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of the call center?
  • How, if at all, has the employment of this inbound call center impacted your business?

5 Mistakes to Avoid

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.

1. Poor Estimation of Needs

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.

2. Not Listening in on Calls

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.

3. Not Calling References

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.

4. Not Discussing Special Needs

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.

5. Price Shopping Only

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.


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