Shared vs. Dedicated: Which Is Right for You?

Dedicated call center agents

Should you use dedicated agents, shared agents, or a combination of both at your outsourced call center? The answer depends on such factors as what your call volume is, what your budget is, and what services you’re asking the agents to provide. For Global Response client Native Remedies, developing a group of dedicated agents has been the key to reaching their ambitious goals for revenue growth, conversions and basket size.

Justifying a Dedicated Group

A Global Response customer since 2009, Native Remedies has over 500,000 customers worldwide and offers more than 250 herbal and homeopathic remedies. Native Remedies started out using only shared agents, who did a great job with customer service.

But Marc Padernacht, Customer Service Manager for Native Remedies, says he soon came to believe that a dedicated group could do a better job selling the company’s many products. After the first six months with Global Response, he began moving his call center team towards an emphasis on dedicated agents, who primarily sell, but also handle some customer service inquiries.

“We struggled to train and develop shared agents, because they were taking minimal call volume on a daily basis from our customers,” says Padernacht. “We reasoned that we could build a core group of agents who would take the majority of calls, and turn them into true representatives of Native Remedies at Global Response. We started with two agents and built to five. As we added agents, and they became more and more familiar with our products, brand personality, and customers, we saw increases in our conversion rate, basket size, and overall revenue. With their ability to listen to the customer and use our website, they can sell our product as if they were sitting here in my office. We found that when you’re represented by agents who really understand who you are and what you offer, and they’re taking 85 to 90 percent of your calls, you get much better sales results than you would with a shared group.”

Balancing Cost vs. Results

With shared agents, clients pay by the minute; with dedicated agents, they pay by the hour. Dedicated agents, for this reason and others, are more like employees of the client company. However, a client needs a certain call volume to justify the added investment in dedicated agents. For that reason, the dedicated group for Native Remedies started out working five days a week from 9 to 5, then, as call volume and sales grew, expanded to add weekends.

But call center experts agree that clients get value for their investment. Dedicated agents typically have deeper brand and product knowledge, which helps make them more effective salespeople for a specific client. The dedicated agents for Native Remedies, for instance, have received extensive training and coaching, and some have been on the account for more than a year and a half. As a result, they know the company and its products well, and excel at selling. Native Remedies still uses shared agents at Global Response, but their primary responsibility is customer service.

Reaching 20 Percent Growth Targets

What results is the dedicated group delivering? “Over the past year, we’ve seen a 20 percent growth in overall revenue, year over year,” says Padernacht. “We attribute that largely to the sales skills of the dedicated group. The constant communication between the dedicated group and our own in-house experts, and the first-call resolution process we put in place also contribute. But the number one factor was building that dedicated group.”

Padernacht adds that the company’s marketing is geared to driving more calls to the call center, “because we know the more we do that, the higher our conversion rate and the bigger our baskets, as long as we have a dedicated team taking those calls. If we were to use a shared group, I’m not sure we’d be getting the same results.”

For Padernacht and Native Remedies, shared and dedicated agents are both valuable; the key to getting the best overall results is to play to the strengths of each. “A shared group is highly cost-effective and can do just as good a job on the customer service side, but for sales, cross-selling and upselling, a dedicated group, in our experience, delivers better results.”

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