Key considerations for shared vs. dedicated customer support

You’re considering using an outsourced call center to handle customer care. Your next important decision is whether you want shared or dedicated Brand Specialists handling your inbound calls. Here’s our perspective on the two models and the key reasons why one may be a better fit for your business than the other.

Dedicated customer service agents
Dedicated customer service Brand Specialists

Defining “shared” and “dedicated”

In the shared model, Brand Specialists working on your call center account are “shared” among several brands, businesses or accounts. They handle inbound calls from customers of all the clients they serve. You typically pay by the minute for shared Brand Specialists, which can make this model less expensive in the short-term than training, building and compensating a dedicated team.

In contrast, with a dedicated model, the Brand Specialists on your account are “dedicated” to your business and serve only your customers. You typically pay by the hour for dedicated customer care, who are like employees of your company and are specialized to “speak your brand” to your customers.

Where to start

Before deciding which model, determine call volume and call type.

  • Call volume – Knowing your call volume will determine how to staff your call center team. Pull reports of historical call data. (Did this company acquire another? Is it a startup? Have you outsourced before? Did you have adequate reporting? What historical data do you have?)  What are the call arrival patterns? What time of the day? Spikes? Downtime?
  • Call type –  What types of inbound calls are your expecting? Order-taking? Customer service calls? What are the system requirements? What is the training time? If your contacts are complex and require a higher level of decision-making and product knowledge, then dedicated customer care makes more sense.  If your calls require less complexity in order taking, tracking, or customer service, shared Brand Specialists are a good option.

Some companies create a structure that blends dedicated and shared Brand Specialists to cost-effectively handle overflow and after-hours calls. This degree of control enables a higher level of service to customers.

Model highlights include:

Customer experience

All good call center Brand Specialists are courteous, friendly and knowledgeable about products and procedures. If you want to offer your customers a high level of customer service and a branded customer experience, dedicated Brand Specialists are the best choice.  They have deeper product knowledge and more authority to make decisions that often resolve customer issues on the first call.  For taking orders and answering straightforward customer service requests, shared Brand Specialists deliver great value.

Dedicated agents receiving training on how to handle call, chats, and emails.
Dedicated Brand Specialists receiving training on how to handle call, chats and emails.

Level of service

Dedicated Brand Specialists receive training on your brand, products and customers that enables them to expertly handle calls, chats and emails.  They are also skilled to complete such back-office processes as refunds, credits, appeasements and reshipments of products that were incorrect. If you don’t need that level of service, you can economize on training and still receive excellent service on calls from shared Brand Specialists.

One benefit of a dedicated team is that you can tailor the way the team is organized, with a hierarchy that includes a first tier, second tier, team leads, floor supervisors, project managers, mentors, and data analysts. In addition, you can use skills-based routing to send specific types of interactions to the Brand Specialists who are best at handling them.

Brand-building

If one of your marketing goals is brand-building, keep in mind that while shared Brand Specialists also do this, dedicated Specialists are trained to speak your brand in every interaction.  It is critical that customers must feel they’re talking to someone who represents the company and values their loyalty.

Metrics

Your call center can report on a number of metrics that enable you to monitor performance, including service level, average speed of answer (ASA), average handle time (AHT) and more. You can manage Brand Specialists to improve metrics with both shared and dedicated models, although a dedicated team gives you more control and makes it easier to identify and optimize these key performance indicators (KPIs).

Cost

When your business has sufficient call volume to keep a team busy, the dedicated model is more cost-effective over the long term.  Reasons include:

  • Training and other start-up costs for dedicated Brand Specialists are amortized over the longer span of time a Specialist works on the account
  • The ability of Brand Specialists to deliver higher first-call resolution rates
  • Brand Specialists’ ability to resolve issues more efficiently based on greater experience with the brand.

For companies embarking on a relationship with a call center for the first time, forecasting call volume may be a challenge.  In these cases, starting out on the shared model may make sense. In the short term, the shared model may be more economical.

In summary – define your needs and choose a model!

The shared model is often the right choice for companies with smaller call volumes, simpler calls, and tighter budgets.  For companies with higher call volumes and more-complex calls, a dedicated team of Brand Specialists offers a wide range of benefits, including a branded, personalized customer experience. Explain your needs to any prospective call center, and they’ll be able to give you good advice on which model is the better choice for you.

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