Get the best call center service for your business
What is a call center service?
A call center is a centralized department designed to handle phone calls from current and potential customers. Call centers can be inbound call centers and/or outbound call centers and be located either within a company or be run by hiring another company specializing in handling call centers or customer service outsourcing.
When it comes down to it, the main difference between call centers and contact centers is in the name. A call center generally takes or makes calls, while a contact center keeps in contact through any customer service channel.
Q: How do call centers work?
Call centers provide services that are used by businesses of all sizes to increase sales, such as:
- Financial Institutions
- Insurance companies
- Online merchants
- Telemarketing companies
- Computer software
- Product help desks
- Mail-order organizations
- Polling services, charities
- Law firms
- Medical practices
- Real estate companies
- Property managers
- Any large organization that uses the telephone to improve customer service
What services are provided by call centers?
A great call center should do more than just answer inbound calls. In addition to ensuring customers can talk with a live receptionist, call centers can help resolve issues, give information, and provide new sales opportunities for organizations. It is the critical component of your customer service strategy. It can be a significant factor in the success or failure of your company.
What are the two types of call center?
Whether you are considering operating your call center or looking to contract an outsourcing service, you should start by considering the types of services available.
Today, managers are very well aware that customer service and customer support are an essential part of business success. Call centers are one of the tools that companies use to provide clients with a support system. The primary types of call centers include inbound or outbound.
Inbound Call Centers
An inbound call center employs agents who receive calls from customers. These call centers tend to focus on assistance for customers who need to solve their problems or need instructions. For example, suppose your internet connection stops working or is too slow. In that case, you can call your internet provider's customer service center to report the issue and fix it. Apart from on-call support, inbound contact center agents often provide contact information, email response, or chat support.
The main goal of inbound call centers is to resolve as many customer issues as possible. The number of calls handled by agents largely depends on the number of people contacting the call center. On some days, the call center may be bustling, on other days, the inflow of calls may be much lower.
Inbound Call Center Services benefits include:
- Handle seasonal call volumes
- Spend more time on your core business
- Reduction of fixed costs, maintenance
- Easily scalability to add agents
- Support customers after hours
Outbound Call Center
In an outbound call center, agents call potential or existing customers rather than receiving calls from them. This type of call center is mainly used for sales and cold calls, promotions, and customer surveys, but it's not always the case. Some business owners choose to welcome their new clients with the so-called welcome call, during which agents provide further information on the company’s products or policies.
Outbound Call Center benefits include:
- Provide lead generation opportunities
- Gather intelligence for market research
- Identify, engage and convert new leads
- Obtain actionable feedback via surveys
- Set appointments, confirm dates
Inbound and outboard call centers are effectively opposites. Inbound call centers are answering services and call centers that receive calls, while outbound centers make strategic sales calls. The objectives of the two call centers differ. Inbound centers are typically addressing customer concerns in an attempt to build loyalty and retain clientele. Meanwhile, outbound centers are seeking to build interest among potential buyers.
- In-house call centers are owned and operated by your company. Your company's team takes care of in-house software development or software procurement and the installation, configuration, and hardware maintenance. Employees are tasked with answering the phone.
- Outsourced call centers are generally a less expensive option favored by companies that can't or don't want to hire agents and spend money on training, offices, and technologies. They use the services of a third party company, a BPO (Business Process Outsourcer), that will provide the agents and sometimes the infrastructure to deliver the Call Center services on behalf of the primary company.
The technology itself can be deployed on premise (Premise-based Contact Center), whereby the software is deployed and operated on the company premises, or the technology can be delivered as a service by a Service Provider who hosts the software and the technology in the Cloud (Cloud Contact Center).
Inbound Call Center Services
Although customer service is the primary function of an inbound call center, they can offer many other services, including generating revenue with cross-sells and upsells.
Outbound call center services
At outbound call centers, sales reps primarily make calls to reach and attract prospective customers. Companies also use outbound call centers to conduct market research. Agents can call shoppers who match their target customer to learn more about their needs and interests.
Which call center service is right for your business: in-house or outsourced?
Here are some of the benefits for companies looking for inbound centers and the advantages of having a call center in your organization.
- Improve productivity - For small businesses looking to make a mark in their market, an inbound call center provides low volume businesses with skilled agents. They are trained to manage increasing call volume as you grow your business.
- Cost Savings - Not only does an outsourced inbound call center team come with experience, but it also negates the need to worry about the fluctuating nature of many businesses. It's challenging to predict call volume for companies that are still in their growth phase.
- Increased Sales - Effective inbound call centers can not only ensure your current customers are satisfied, but it can increase product sales as well. Convincing current customers to try new products is much more straightforward than attracting new consumers.
- Customer-Focused - More than ever, businesses must not just be product-focused but also customer-focused if they hope to survive. By effectively engaging with customers, businesses can ensure customer care and customers remain satisfied.
- Customer Satisfaction - There are many aspects to keeping a customer satisfied besides having an excellent service or product. An inbound call center agent can gauge the customers' pulse and understand what they want, need, and expect from the company.
- Win Back Lost Customers - Every business loses at least a few customers along the way. An inbound call center team can be effective in bringing these customers back in the fold. Through surveys and other initiatives, agents can uncover reasons that entice the customer to return.
- Free Up Resources - Inbound call centers come ready with their equipment. They will be up to date with the technology needed for seamless customer communication. Not having to pay out of pocket for these costs means those resources can be used in other parts of your business.
- Managing Higher Call Volumes - Hopefully, your organization is in a constant state of growth, which leads to a higher call volume. Working with inbound call centers means no call goes unanswered. You can feel comfortable with fluctuating growth, or handling calls are something special like event registrations, knowing you have a team of agents on your side.
- Connecting to Global Time Zones - With the global nature of today's business climate, partnering with inbound call centers may allow you to offer global responses across different time zones, different cultural sensitivities, and provide round-the-clock service so customers can call at their convenience.
While outsourcing customer service, sometimes referred to as business process outsourcing (BPO), offers some great benefits, you should understand how it differs from an in-house call center before choosing a provider.
- A Lower Rate of Customer Satisfaction - Many business owners are worried they will lose customers if they outsource to a call center or telephone answering service instead of hosting it in-house. However, to address this concern, business owners can scrutinize the call center's track record or ask the service to provide references.
- Lack of Company Knowledge - Some fear outsourced agents may not be as knowledgeable about products and services for small businesses. To overcome this concern, clear and consistent communication about updates, new product launches, price changes, policies, and more is necessary to keep everyone up to speed.
- Call Center Agents: Shared Agents vs. Dedicated Agents - While you want agents to be passionate and make your customer service calls a priority, it is not a guarantee due to the number of clients they work for (and juggle). Hiring more expensive, dedicated agents could improve the problem if the cost isn't an issue.
- Security Concerns - The very nature of some businesses involves the exchange of personal info, such as a credit card number, names, addresses – information that needs to be secure. However, many call centers have layers of protection in place to ensure that your customers' data remains private and safe, including meeting HIPAA compliance.
Companies need an arsenal of marketing and sales techniques to keep up with fast advancing information technology and shorter customer attention spans. Here are some of the advantages of outbound call services.
- Generating Leads - Unlike other marketing methods, outbound agents help companies get in touch with prospective customers on a real-time basis and turn prospects into leads. As a result, the leads generated are stronger and more authentic than other leads generation methods.
- Lead Qualifications - Most lead generation efforts suffer from a certain percentage of error, relating to duplicity, omission errors, and a lack of genuine information. In such cases, an outbound telemarketing team can help qualify leads and create a more robust list of leads.
- Measure and Test Strategies - Outbound teams are regularly monitored, measured, and tested. Each team has its leader responsible for listening in on the calls and making rectifications in the process as needed. These aspects give companies leverage to fine-tune their marketing efforts and aim for higher customer satisfaction.
- Faster Than Traditional Outbound Sales Teams - Outbound telemarketing teams can get in touch with the target market directly in real-time, bypassing such limitations as door-to-door surveys. And engage in more meaningful conversations with customers versus other more traditional marketing tactics.
- Ability to Satisfy Customers - The opportunity to talk to a human representative is more effective at solving customer problems and addressing grievances. When customers come forward with issues, agents have the chance to rectify the problem and be responsive to customer needs.
- Price vs. Value - A new BPO offering call center solution or IP call center companies will be an additional expense for your customer communication budget. Depending on which contact center you use, you may or may not need a wide range of services. And, you may have to make a significant commitment even before you're sure of the value to your company.
- Quality Control - Will your outsourced contact center do outbound as well as inbound calling? How much control will you have over the quality of experience? Many have replaced the low-cost call centers and answering services with low-cost AI and chatbots. When customers can't make sense of the pre-programmed responses, they’ll reach for the most expensive solution: the phone.
- Lack of Product Knowledge - Inbound and outbound contact centers BPOs work with many different businesses. Consequently, the employees are less likely to be evangelists for your product or service than they would if they were your employees. The outsourced contact center may be providing a service, not fulfilling your brand mission.
- Range of Communication Preferences - On the one hand, many BPO call centers are ahead of the curve and embracing new technology. But they're working with many companies that could be stuck in the 1980’s. Will your BPO contact center be able to handle the communication channels your customers prefer?
- One Size Doesn’t Fit All - Generally, this is a euphemism for “doesn’t fit anybody very well.” Most contact center outsourcing companies do not focus on creating options with different sizes, channels, financial agreements. They are not necessarily nimble, and in today’s fast-paced retail and e-commerce world, that’s a liability.
Additional Benefits of CCaaS: Virtual Call Centers
A cloud contact center is an internet-based facility that handles all inbound and outbound calling for a company. It's a software solution that offers a comprehensive suite of tools, call services, and applications that allow you to deliver outstanding customer service levels across multiple channels, including virtual agents, interactive voice response, virtual receptionists, SMS, email, and social media.
Many businesses have opted for virtual or cloud-based call centers that combine inbound and outbound call centers with various advanced features. Cloud-based call centers operate from anywhere. One significant advantage of a virtual call center is the possibility to integrate them with your existing tools, such as CRM or sales support systems.
These call centers can be divided into domestic and international call centers. Domestic call centers make and receive calls from people within the same country. So if your call center operates in France, your agents will be in touch with customers living in France only. On the other hand, international call centers receive and make calls to people worldwide and often use several local phone numbers or toll-free numbers to minimize fees for their customers.
What’s the Best Outsourced Call Center Service for Your Business?
Outsourced Call center services might seem similar, but the details of each company's offerings can vary quite widely. Once you start asking specific questions, the differences among the companies will become more apparent. To find out which vendor is right for your business, here are a few features to look for in an outsourced call center service.
Each outsourced call center service has pricing plans or models that are likely to be determined by your business's specific features. That might include anything from taking orders over the phone to setting appointments.
Be sure to ask about upfront fees and any incidental, holiday, and overage fees. To get the best possible price, don't be afraid to negotiate. Be prepared to discuss your average monthly sales volume and what services you expect the call center to perform.
Before you decide, ask for quotes from at least three companies and compare the terms and conditions. Be sure to ask what promotions are currently running and find out if free trials are available.
Read reviews from a variety of sources. Take note of what various publications are saying about the companies you are considering and what customers are saying.
Choosing the right outsourced call center for your business comes down to what your needs are. Most call center service providers categorize their offerings into outbound and inbound calling services, and some may offer both.
Since tracking success is a performance benchmark, you'll likely want a reporting feature. Seek out companies that offer customer call completion and refusal reports. You may also want specialty answering services like live agents, live chat, webchat, social media communications, text messaging, the ability to work with mobile apps, and content marketing generation depending on the services pricing.
Not all of these call center features are necessary for every business. However, suppose you find that your staff is spending too much time answering calls and message taking. In that case, you’re losing sales because employees don't have time to follow up on leads, are missing customer calls (or taking 24-plus hours to return them), losing track of appointments, or not able to assist customers due to language barriers, it's time to consider an outsourced call center.
Grow Your Business by Getting a Outsourced Call Center Service
Here are five ways that an outsourced call center can help grow your business.
- Gain and Retain Customers - Missed calls are a leading cause of lost business. If potential customers are on hold for a long time, or if a current customer cannot reach you "after hours," they may hang up and take their business elsewhere.
- Save Costs - Handling your customer service usually isn't inexpensive. You need employees to handle peak periods, as well as all the proper training and technology necessary. The costs add up. An outsourced call center is usually less expensive than an in-house operation.
- Ensure a Professional Reputation - The image your business presents is essential. Outsourced call centers employ trained professionals who know how to conduct proper customer service. However, for smaller businesses, a call center can also make your business appear to be a lot bigger than it is in reality.
- Improve Efficiency - Call centers have advanced technology and efficiency measures, which allow you to deal more effectively with customers and increase sales. Incoming calls can be prioritized based on their level of importance, turnaround times can be improved, and follow-ups and outgoing calls can be organized and executed.
- Broaden Your Customer Base - When your business is growing, you want to provide service to a wide range of customers. Outsourced call center services can include multilingual support in a variety of different languages, broadening your customer base.