What does outsourcing have in common with kale and tofu?
All three have somewhat of a bad reputation—but one that’s not warranted. In all three cases, a bit of the right preparation can make all the difference between a good experience and a bad one.
But enough metaphors—if you’re thinking about outsourcing your call center, you’re here for the straight insights. As a call center provider with 40+ years of experience, we’ve seen plenty across the decades: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of outsourcing, and how to reap the benefits without hurting your operations.
Understanding Outsourced Call Centers
Before we dive into the pros and cons, it’s a good idea to get a clear picture of exactly what an outsourced call center is (and what it isn’t). After all, there’s a lot of misconceptions out there about what call centers do, who they’re for, and when they’re a good idea.
So, first things first: what exactly is an outsourced call center?
An outsourced call center is an external team that manages call center operations to respond to customer communications and inquiries. Call centers may focus on simply inbound or outbound customer calling (or both), or they may serve as a contact center and manage multiple types of customer communications.
Since call centers are a broad category, there are a wide variety of use cases. For example, a company might use a call center to:
- manage overflow customer calls during peak-volume periods
- perform outbound customer calling for marketing and sales support
- improve customer support by managing all inbound customer calls
- operate as a full-scale contact center, managing inbound and outbound customer communications through calls, emails, social media and more
- support sales through upselling and crossing on outbound calls
- work through backlogs of emails or customer support requests for a limited time
And these are just some of the instances where a call center can be useful! With this variety in mind, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using an outsourced call center. Once we do, it will become clear whether or not an outsourced call center makes sense for your needs and circumstances.
Pros of Using an Outsourced Call Center
Regardless of your use case for an outsourced call center, many of the common benefits remain the same: increased cost-effectiveness, more specialized resources, scalability, flexibility and more.
Increased cost-effectiveness. A common misconception about call centers is that you have to pay exorbitant fees for them, or that they’re not worth the price you pay—or worse, both. Realistically, though, finding a good call center partner is worth its weight in gold.
Even better, an outsourced call center typically lowers your call center costs overall compared to managing things in-house. Whereas in-house call centers have significant overhead costs, higher staff salaries, and more expensive equipment and technology fees, outsourced call centers spread the costs of overhead, technology, software and so on across all of their clients, making fees much lower. In addition, working with international call centers can lower the costs for staffing and hiring, stretching your budget further.
Access to more specialized expertise and technology. Similarly, working with an outsourced call center gives you access to experts in CX and focused staff to improve your call center, customer communications and overall customer experience. In addition, call centers often have access to higher-quality and more state-of-the-art technology, software and services that may be difficult to purchase, run or maintain in-house, improving CX for your customers and enhancing your productivity and cost-effectiveness further.
Top-notch call centers will also maintain high-quality security and privacy compliance, such as being PCI and HIPAA compliant. For example, at Global Response, customer privacy and security is a major concern for us—and in many cases, it’s easier for an outsourced team to focus on and implement security measures than an in-house team.
Scalability and flexibility. One of the biggest benefits of working with an outsourced team is the increased flexibility and scalability compared with an in-house team. At Global Response, we’ve helped scale teams’ coverage by 110% in just four weeks—a task that would be almost impossible when managing hiring, training and staffing in-house. With flexible scalability, you can ensure longer coverage hours, access additional expertise, or simply scale up and back easily in response to seasonal demand.
In addition, when working with call centers abroad, whether you’re working with a nearshore team in Mexico or offshoring to the Philippines or Tunisia, you gain the additional flexibility of varied time zones, easier 24/7 coverage, increased multilingual support, and more. All of this contributes to more support for your customers and a better customer experience.
Cons of Using an Outsourced Call Center
All of that said, using an outsourced call center can sometimes have drawbacks as well. Here’s a look at four of the top concerns when outsourcing your call center—and how you can avoid them if you decide to outsource.
Reduced quality and service levels. Of all the concerns with outsourcing your call center, quality and service concerns are one of the biggest. Anytime you pass off something that you used to manage yourself, in-house, this is a concern—but as outsourced call centers have gotten a negative reputation, this concern has only grown.
Ready to perfect your CX?
The good news is that modern call centers can often provide you (and your customers!) with exceptional customer service experiences. The best call centers can even help you improve your service levels and quality. For example, at Global Response, we’ve helped teams:
- increase online sales by 25%
- reduce call burden by 28%
- improve service performance by 130%
Lack of control over operations. Any type of outsourcing reduces the amount of control you have over management and execution—whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on who you outsource to. Many companies see the lack of control as a negative because it can lead to a drop in quality, reduce the amount of on-brand communication customers receive, or just make processes muddier.
On the other hand, a great call center partner can take some of the burden of management, execution, strategy and design off your plate, allowing your internal teams to focus more on what really matters for your team right now and tackle high-impact projects, while ensuring that your customers are still well supported.
Cultural and communication barriers. This can be a con both internally and externally. If communication barriers between your agents and customers occur, customers may quickly grow frustrated and your overall customer experience will decline. However, cultural and communication barriers can also cause problems between your internal teams and your outsourced team, slowing down workflows, hampering productivity, or reducing collaboration and innovation.
As a result, it’s crucial to look for an outsourcing partner that has good communication from the start. If you’re struggling to communicate well with a potential provider during the vetting process, that’s definitely a bad sign. In addition, look for call centers—like Global Response—that focus on agent training and quality, providing agents with English tutoring and testing, communication training, and brand training to keep agents in touch with your brand and audience.
Data security and privacy concerns. Introducing more teams and technology into your workflow and processes introduces additional concerns about how to maintain and protect customer privacy and data. This is truly one of the biggest cons of outsourcing, as a data leak or privacy issue can tarnish your reputation for years into the future and cost your company thousands in legal fees, reputation management and more.
As with the other cons on the list, the best way to prevent this from becoming a problem is to work with a trusted provider. Call centers that are PCI compliant or offer increased security for sensitive industries (such as HIPAA compliance for healthcare providers) can reduce security and privacy concerns, and even provide additional security than what you may have in-house.
Deciding if an Outsourced Call Center is Right for You
So, what’s the bottom line: is an outsourced call center right for you? In order to decide, it’s helpful to first understand exactly what your business needs, objectives and goals are—what do you want to get out of outsourcing?
By doing so, you can then weigh the pros and cons and determine if the benefits are sufficient to outweigh any challenges, and ensure that your team has the capability to adequately manage any concerns. As you weigh the pros and cons, you may want to ask your team questions such as:
- Do you need your call center located nearby geographically, or would it be more beneficial to save money with an outsourced team?
- How will you maintain quality and branding with an outsourced team?
- Will an outsourced team provide you with resources, staffing, expertise or technology that you don’t have in-house? And if so, do the benefits of those resources outweigh any potential challenges?
- How will you integrate your call center partner with your internal teams?
Still can’t decide? This chart should help:
|An outsourced call center may be right for you if…||An outsourced call center may not be right for you if…|
|you need increased scalability or flexibility that you can’t manage in-house||you don’t have the call volume necessary to justify the expense|
|you want to increase cost-effectiveness and have growing demand to back it up||you need to maintain complete control over your CX or customer communications|
|you are adept with working with external vendors and partners and can manage communication and quality adequately||you have extremely strict data processing or security regulations|
|you need access to improved expertise or technology that would be expensive to maintain internally||you don’t have the budget for a quality outsourcing partner|
Identifying the Right Call Center Partner
Once you’ve decided to outsource some or all of your call center operations, you need to identify the right call center partner based on your needs, goals and brand. A few key things you should look for:
- expertise or experience within your industry or audience demographic
- general expertise within CX and the customer service landscape
- top-notch technology and systems to support your operations
- expert leadership who are clear and communicative about their processes and strategy
- clear, demonstrable results in the form of case studies or whitepapers
- positive testimonials or reviews from other clients
At Global Response, our clients benefit from our 40+ years of experience in customer service and experience, as well as deep experience within a variety of industries, such as Healthcare, Finance, Education, Retail / e-Commerce and more. In addition, our state-of-the-art technology, consistent results, and varied services ensure that you get all of the benefits—without the downsides.
Considering outsourcing? See how our team can help you gain the most benefit from your outsourcing partnership.