Call Center Services for Small Business: The Ultimate Guide

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Find the Best Customer Care Services for Your Business

You’ve got a lot to do to run your business every day, but sometimes customer service issues arise needing more attention than you’re able to give. If handling customer service often seems like it takes up more of your time than anything else, or you simply don’t have the resources to handle it in house, there is a solution. Outsourcing your customer service to a call center can be both a time-saving and cost saving solution with the right provider – but how do you find the right provider? That’s where Insight Quote steps in. We can help you vet and locate outsourced call center-based customer service providers that fit your business needs. We do the research to find only the best providers, and pass that information along to you, free of charge, saving you time, money and frustration.

Simply fill out our easy form, hit submit, and we’ll give you a list of qualified call centers that will meet your businesses customer support needs.

What are Outsourced Call Center Services? Everything You Need to Know!

Outsourced call center services are telephone-based customer service contractors who work to resolve your customer service issues on your business’s behalf. From placing orders to helping with returns and order issues, your call center team works diligently on your behalf to provide the customer service your business would if you had the time and resources.

When is it Best to Outsource?

Outsourcing your customer service is a big decision for any business to make. But how do you know when it’s time to outsource? While you can opt to outsource from the beginning, if your business is experiencing the growing pains of not being able to handle the volume of customer support calls and inquiries, it may be time to outsource your customer support to an outsourced call center.

The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

The first benefit to outsourcing your customer support is the time it frees up for you to run your business. Outsourcing enables you to treat each customer with the urgency their communication deserves, but without having to sacrifice your own valuable time that is already spread thin running your business. It also saves you the costly investment of hiring your own customer service team and providing them with the right equipment and space to get the job done in-house.

As with any outsourced service there are downsides, too. For starters, some business owners have trouble giving up control to a contracted service and trusting that their contracted representatives are acting in their businesses best interest. Another negative is that outsourcing isn’t free, and depending on how little or much support you need, you may end up paying more.

How Do Call Center Companies Integrate with Your Business?

How can a call center possibly help your business if they are at a remote location far from your warehouse? The answer is customer relation management or CRM software. This industry specific software allows your business to seamlessly integrate with your outsourced customer support provider, so you can monitor the calls they take, and they can access your inventory to answer customer inquiries.

Differences Between Inbound and Outbound Customer Support Services

Wondering if you need inbound or outbound customer support but not sure exactly what they are? Outbound customer support is usually a sales-driven customer support division which focuses on cold-calling or generating sales over the phone. An inbound customer support center is where your customer calls in for customer support, whether it be to place an order or to get help with an existing order.

What Services Do Call Centers Offer?

A major question you may be asking when considering outsourcing your customer support is what does your customer support center offer? While some customer support centers only offer inbound calling, there is a growing trend towards email and even chat-based support. If you are interested in offering any of these additional services for your customers, speak to your customer support provider to make sure these are services they offer.

Call Center Specializations

In addition to just taking orders, inbound and outbound customer support centers can offer myriad types of customer support services to your customers. Everything from returns handling, call center for ecommerce, product inquiries, appointment setting, order volume and even answering services can be handled through an outsourced customer service provider, so be sure to ask what your provider offers when you discuss your options.

How Much Do Call Centers Cost?

While InsightQuote’s customer support outsourcing service is free to businesses searching for a customer support quote, call center support services are not free. Prices will vary based on location, call volume, agents used, services used, and even hours of operation. Insightquote’s quote generator can answer many of the questions you may have about pricing.

Expect a per minute price of around $1.20 per minute unless you have high volumes of calls. Monthly fees for account management and reports can range from $50-$500+, and other potential charges include fees for toll free numbers, email accounts, training and other special projects. Furthermore, there are oftentimes setup fees that can easily add up to $500 or more to get started.

Type of Call Center FeeCall Center Pricing
Set up FeeRanges from $250-$500
Call Center Price Per Minute$1.10-$1.25 per Minute
Monthly Account Management Fees$35-$500 Per Month

While most call center companies use a fee per minute approach, some call centers are charging per seat pricing. What this means is that you have to do enough volume to afford paying for a part-time or full-time staff member to be available for your calls. Under this approach, the call center will then charge you an hourly fee for the number of hours needed for calls. This approach easily costs thousands per month – and for companies that utilize a lot of hours, it can be a workable approach. But for companies that only need a small amount of call time per month and would not need a full-time staff, the cost per minute model is much more reasonable and affordable.

What Times Do Call Centers Cover?

Much like any answering service, your outsourced customer support operates only when you need it to. From 24/7, 365 days-a-year service to business hours you specify, your customer support team will only work the hours you request. Pricing may vary depending on how much or how little your team is open for business.

What Agreements / Contracts to Expect?

Call center contracts and agreements will vary based on what your call center offers, your budget, and what your business needs for support. Most call centers will have minimum requirements your business needs to meet, including a minimum number of calling hours (for example, 200 per month) and a minimum time frame (for example, one year) for the contract. Others will work on a month-to-month basis.

Contracts may incur a fee if broken, so make sure you get a breakdown of costs and contract requirement before you agree to sign anything.

United States vs. Offshore Call Centers

A dilemma many business owners face is whether or not to host their call center offshore or here in the United States. Often, offshore call centers are much less expensive, but language barriers and dialect can cause frustration for some customers. It can also be hard to tell if your representatives are being paid a fair wage, so ethical issues may arise from hosting overseas.

On the other hand, domestic call centers may be more expensive, but less likely to violate labor laws. Dialect is usually not an issue with domestic call centers, something that some of your customers may appreciate. It may also be easier to get answers and understand your contract when dealing with a US-based company, and there is likely more recourse if something goes wrong because it is easier to reach someone in charge at a domestic operation.

Keeping Call Center Services In House

There are many pros and cons to keeping your customer service in-house. A major benefit to choosing to host your own customer support in-house is that it is easier to control and keep tabs on how your customer service representatives are representing your business. It also allows you more control of the hours as well as the equipment and software used. It also allows you to choose who is handling your customer support, because you do the hiring. Another benefit is that once you’ve invested in the equipment to host your support (multi-line phones, CRM software, computers, furniture, space for offices) you no longer have to pay a premium to use those items from an outsourced provider.

There are downsides to hosting your customer service in house, too. For starters, all that equipment and software (and overhead!) are a major investment – an investment that you may end up making again and again when software updates and licenses expire. Anyone who uses technology knows that what’s cutting edge today could be obsolete tomorrow, so even investing in equipment isn’t a one-time thing. Another downside to hosting your own in-house customer support is that you are in charge of staffing, so if someone quits or calls in sick it is your problem to find a replacement, even with little to no notice. Furthermore, hosting your customer support can be time consuming, taking you away from other urgent matters and daily activities that need your attention.

In House Call Software

There are many different in-house call center software programs that can be customized to suit your individual business needs. Unfortunately, it’s not free, and you will most likely need a license for each user. These licenses may need to be renewed annually, and as technology changes the software may need to be updated. Updated software may not run efficiently on your current computers, meaning you will also need to upgrade your call center computers each time this happens.

The Best Call Center Services – What to Expect?

Call center services vary from call center to call center, and while you may not need every service they offer it’s good to go with a center that allows your business the ability to grow and add services as you expand.
A good call center offers myriad services including professional live customer support agents, including agents who are bi-lingual to help address the concerns of non-native speakers. Call centers will also allow you to customize a script for their agents to deliver when answering customer calls, so you are in control of what your agents are saying and the image you portray to your customers.

Agents should be trained to answer calls specifically tailored to your business, and continuous training should be provided to make sure agents are aware of any changes and to be sure they are handling your calls with professionalism.
Another key to a great customer call center is detailed reporting. If you are not there to answer the call yourself, you likely want to know what your customers are saying, as well as how your agents are resolving any issues that arise. You also want to know data like calls taken, average time it took to get a resolution, and more.

A great call center offers cutting edge software that allows them to handle your business calls quickly and efficiently. Some software programs even allow you to monitor calls and reports from your location without having to request them from the call center, so you can always keep tabs on your customer support when it’s convenient for you.

The Pros and Cons to Fulfillment and Call Center Services Under One Roof

More small businesses that sell product online are using outsourced services of fulfillment companies and call centers to handle much of the back end processing, freeing up valuable time to devote to revenue producing activities. Traditionally, online merchants would procure separate fulfillment houses and call center providers to handle these distinctive service offerings. But as the business services landscape is evolving, an increasing number of fulfillment companies are beginning to offer call center services as a packaged solution, and vice versa. So with more options, retailers are left with determining which course of action is best suited for their unique situation. And the decision can be quite difficult based upon the varying pros and cons.

How Can “All-Under-One-Roof” Solutions Be Beneficial?

The thought process behind creating a one stop shop for both fulfillment services and call center services is to create one point of contact and leverage the synergies of these ancillary services. After all, the link between handling inbound order taking and shipping the respective packages is obvious. Furthermore, customer service representatives answering questions about product shipping related issues require all of the information at the fingertips of fulfillment staff. And because software systems in these respective industries have grown leaps and bounds, integration between these seemingly varying systems is much easier than in the past. All of this makes managing the entire fulfillment and customer service processes more simple than handling two separate providers.

The Argument for Using Separate Call Center Providers

In a perfect world, an outsourced provider that offers both fulfillment and call center services would be able to perform at the highest of levels in both areas. But the cold hard reality is that some dual providers excel at one service and aren’t quite as good at the other. After all, these are diverse businesses which require different capabilities and competencies. This isn’t to say that there are no high quality dual service providers – because there are select groups out there that have mastered both processes. But when performance suffers in one of the two areas, it can lead to more overall work than if separate outsourced providers were used. Furthermore, when one provider is used for both services, if there is ever a problem that requires moving to another partner, the merchant is faced with the decision to “pull” the underperforming service or perhaps to pull the entire account. And in most cases, when there’s a problem with one of the two service areas, the overall relationship degrades. Because of this, some companies choose to use separate providers so that they diversify their risk among two companies and simplifying and potential future issues related to future movement.

The Best Choice Depends Upon Your Priorities

So the question becomes, what is more important – having everything under one roof or diversifying risk and investing in the notion that specialization produces better results in each area? The answer isn’t cut and dry, but knowing what to consider before making this decision can make the difference between a headache and a great success. If you’re a champion of specialization theory, then perhaps finding two separate providers may suite your company best. However, if juggling multiple vendors doesn’t sound like time well spent, there are solid providers that perform both functions competently under one roof.

Tips to Selecting an Outsourced Customer Support Center

Know Your Volume

Know how much time you are dedicating to customer support and estimate how much time you think you will need per month from a call center. Most require a minimum hour agreement, so you don’t want to fall outside of that agreement and risk a fine or dropped contract.

Check their Website

Make sure you are familiar with everything a call center says they offer before entering a contract with them. For example, even if you don’t need live chat support, you may want it someday, so it’s in your best interest to see if they offer it.

Visit if You Can

While this may not be possible if you contract with an overseas call center, it’s in your businesses best interest if you can drop by and pay a visit to the facility. Things to look for include modern equipment (telephones, computers, software) as well as a well-staffed operation with employees that seem to enjoy doing their jobs. Happiness does translate over the phone and you want your representatives to put their best foot forward for your business.

Test Calls

From time to time, it’s a good idea to call your call center and pretend to be a customer, just to see how the agents are doing handling your calls. This can give you a good feel for how much they know about your business and its policies, and what your agent is willing to do to correct any issues.
Some call centers also record calls, and you should be able to request audio clips of these calls to listen to some actual customer service interactions.

Get References

Just like you would do if you were hiring an employee, you should feel empowered to ask your customer support center for client references. This will give you a better idea of how the call center works for real clients and spotlight any red flags or concerns you should be aware of going into your new contract.

Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Call Center Company

Not Reading Your Contract

Be sure that you or your legal counsel go through any contract with a fine-toothed comb before you sign anything. Be completely familiar with what’s in your contract- from minimum hours to fees, violation fines and duration of contract there are many things to look out for when dealing with a call center, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.]

Not Checking References or Reviews

Reviews and references give you someone else’s account of what to expect from a call center. A call center may sound great on paper but unless you talk to other clients it can be hard to tell if they’re as good as they claim.

Not Checking up on Your Account

Even if you only periodically review your customer service calls, either by calling in yourself or listening to recorded audio of some of your actual calls, you should be keeping tabs on your call center team. Your call center representatives could be misrepresenting your business or making costly mistakes without you realizing it.

Not Getting More Than One Quote

As with any contracted business, quotes are your friend. They give you an idea of what to expect for each service on average, and they can help you make an educated decision when choosing which call center to hire, and what to put in your contract.

Not Outsourcing if You Need To

If too much of your time is being spent handling time consuming customer support calls, you owe it to your business and yourself to consider outsourcing your customer service. It can not only free up valuable time and energy, it can improve customer relations with your customers, too.

Call Center FAQ’s

What are Outsourced Call Center Services?

Outsourced call centers are companies that handle your inbound or outbound customer service calls.

How much do call centers cost?

It depends on which services and the amount of hours you contract for. Pricing will vary depending on your individual contract and each individual call center. But call centers generally charge a fee per minute, plus additional monthly charges. Expect a per minute price of around $1 unless you have high volumes of calls. Monthly fees for account management and reports can range from $50-$250+, and other potential charges include fees for toll free numbers, email accounts, training and other special projects.

What should I expect in my contract?

Your contract should cover services offered, amount of hours contracted for, and length of contract, along with a breakdown of fees for each service and fines for violating the contract.

When is it best to outsource?

Outsourcing is a great option to explore when you are devoting too much of your valuable time and resources to handling customer service issues. It can also eliminate the costly investment of hosting your call center operations in-house.
What are the pros and cons of outsourcing?

Pros of outsourcing include time and money savings. Cons may include the lack of immediate control, and the requirement of adhering to a contract.

Should I contract overseas or domestically?

This is a judgment call for each individual business. Overseas call centers may be more affordable than domestic, but many customers struggle with understanding local dialects. Meanwhile, local call centers may cost more, but domestic hosting may make it easier for you to reach someone in charge of your account during business hours.

What are the differences between inbound and outbound customer support?

Inbound customer support is when your customer calls into your customer support department to resolve an issue. Outbound customer support is when your agents reach out to customers or potential customers on your behalf.

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