The Shared-Agent Solution:
Selecting An Outsourced Call Center
For Your Growing Business
If your small to mid-sized business (SMB) is getting too many inbound calls — at all hours — to handle internally, it’s time to shop for an outsourced call center. If your call volume is not high enough to justify a team of dedicated call center agents, consider a shared customer support model. This pool of agents can handle your inbound calls on an as-needed basis, 24-7-365, and you pay only for the minutes of the calls that are handled. Here’s what you need to know about outsourcing your calls to a shared call center.
Live representatives are shared across accounts
In the shared model, the call center agents that are working on your account are “shared” among several other brands, businesses or accounts. They will handle inbound calls from your customers as well as the other clients 24/7/365. The shared option is best suited for companies that are generating orders by web promotions, print, email or direct mail. The shared option enables you to take orders from your customers any time they call.
Use your website
The shared call center will also have the agents enter the orders directly into your website, so you get the orders in real time. Additionally the orders to be filled, will be going through one uniform process. This eliminates the need to merge two or more order management and reporting systems into your in-house system.
Pay only for the calls that are handled
With regard to cost, you should expect to pay a fixed by the minute price for shared services. As an example, if the average call duration to take an order for your product is 4 minutes and your cost per minute is $00.80, then it becomes relatively easy to forecast your cost for your call center. You cost per order will be $3.20.
Keep it simple
The shared option can often be less expensive than taking orders in-house and having your agents waiting for the phone to ring while getting paid hourly. Companies that can best contain their costs usually have customers who know what they want when they call in, are somewhat familiar with the ordering process, are ordering one or two lines of product and are offered a limited number of products, colors or sizes so the decision making process is more efficient. Additionally for the shared model to work for both the client and the call center calls should range for a maximum of three to six minutes. If this describes your call center needs then the shared group could be the best option.
Where to start
Start by determining your call volume and call type.
Call volume – Knowing your call volume will be the first step in helping your call center determine if the shared option is best for your situation. To start, pull reports of historical call data. To prepare yourself, the key questions will be
- On average how many inbound calls are you receiving per month?
- What are the call arrival patterns? What part of the day or week generates the most volume?
- Are there any spikes due to seasonality, new product introductions or promotions?
Call type – When analyzing your call type and feasibility, the key questions will be;
- What type of inbound calls are you expecting? Will your calls be for order-taking, lead generation, request for information, survey, registrations or customer service?
- Can the call center use your website to handle the call?
- How many hours will be required to adequately train the agents to understand your brand, be knowledgeable about your products and be able to take an order and navigate your website?
As a rule, if your calls are less complex such as taking orders and entering them into your website, then shared agents will be the best option. 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 agents 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.