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Call Center Services Buyer's Guide - Factors To Consider

Call Center Services Buyer's Guide - Factors To Consider

Published: 03/27/2011

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Factors To Consider

There are many factors to evaluate when choosing between potential call centers. Some may be more or less important to your business, but they should all be weighed during your purchasing process.






Overall pricing is the first item many companies use to choose their call center provider. Unfortunately, for some companies, it is the only item. As we stated in the introduction, choosing an external service provider to interact directly with hundreds or thousands of your customers and prospects should be treated as a partnership building, not a bargain‐shopping, expedition. Even if price savings are your primary goal in outsourcing, you must consider the overall service that will be provided – otherwise those cost savings can quickly disappear.



Do your best to get apples‐to‐apples price quotes from the companies you are considering: all per‐minute, or per dedicated rep, etc. Remember that training and setup costs can be substantial, especially if they involve international travel. Since pricing is usually based on actual usage, you may want to present a few different scenarios to your potential vendors: ask for quotes for a slow month, an average month, and a busy month to get a better sense of the real costs you will be paying.






Look for a company with significant experience providing outsourced call center services. Startups can be fine if their management has a good background in the industry, but it is likely safer for you to choose a company that has existing customers and a solid reputation. Industry veterans know the importance of good infrastructure – phone systems, computers, and software – as well as how to adapt with the times.



You may want to look for providers with experience in your exact industry. This can reduce the amount of training needed and help launch your program more quickly – but of course is no guarantee of success.




Customer service reps


Whether they are called agents, phone staff, or customer service representatives (CSRs), the employees who actually answer the phones for the vendor are absolutely essential to your bottom line. The call centers of the 1970s and 1980s earned reputations as unforgiving sweatshops – agents then were generally unhappy, unmotivated, and only stayed in their jobs for as long as they had to. That situation has changed dramatically over the years as providers learned how important a top‐notch staff was to the quality of their service. However the environment for employees still varies considerably from employer to employer.



One good indicator is how long the average employee stays with the company. An average of less than a year can be a warning sign. The percentage of CSRs with a long tenure, over three years, can also be a tip‐off: 35 to 50% is a good threshold to seek. Ask about the provider’s commitment to staff training and promoting from within; employees who have growth opportunities are more likely to stay with their current job.




Additional services


You should make sure you choose a provider who can provide an overall level of support sufficient to your needs. Make sure the account manager who handles your case understands your industry and your business, since they will be your day‐to‐day point of contact. If you need script development help, investigate the vendor’s process and ask to see sample scripts the firm has developed for other customers.



Reporting is another important aspect of the provider’s services. Without detailed, accurate reporting, judging results becomes next to impossible. Before discussing reporting in detail with potential vendors, gather input from your staff regarding the statistics that are important to them and how often they will be needed. You should also decide if getting finished reports is sufficient for your needs, or if you want the provider to provide data in a common format (comma separated, Excel format, etc.) so you can run your own analyses.




Some metrics you may want to track:


• call duration


• average speed of answer


• handling time


• calls per time


• revenue


• upsell results




The ability to monitor calls is another area where providers differ. Some require that you call one of their managers, who will then “piggyback” you onto an agent’s call so you can hear how effective they are. Others let you dial in to their phone system directly and listen in without any assistance or even notification.