“Fully established as an industry, the call center industry is a billion-dollar industry that employs almost 300,000 people in Texas alone. Indian-based Tata Consulting Services is the world’s leading call center company with annual revenue of $21 billion as of March 2019.”

Insurance, paid time-off, a retirement plan, childcare … all make up the list of what employers pay after wages to employees. Business equipment and facilities don’t even come up on this list. Yet, the employer pays for all. All these costs force employers to outsource aspects of their businesses.

One of the features of the late 20th century businesses was that they had special customer service departments. Some companies provided 24/7 customer support while others could only operate within business hours. However, there was not much that could be done about the cost spent on the employees and other essentials that kept the call centers functional.

Business culture, however, started to evolve in the 21st century. Companies were looking for ways to cut costs and outsource some aspects of their businesses. After comparing costs, companies started to outsource their customer support centers.

Research revealed that from 2001 to 2003, about 250,000 call center jobs were outsourced to India and the Philippines alone.

The high-cost and standard of living and tax policies have greatly influenced the decisions of businesses to outsource their call center needs.

However, there is a cost and quality debate. It has been overwhelmingly suggested that most companies outsourced their customer support to call centers to cut costs. A few respondents to a survey agreed that professionalism is the reason why companies outsource customer support to professional call centers.

After one negative experience, 51% of customers never do business with that company again!

Moreover, customers are 65% more likely to spread negative feedback because of a single poor service interaction. – timedoctor.com

With the above statistics, it is in full glare that as much as businesses have to cut costs, they have to ensure quality in their customer support services. This is why businesses have to have a list of requirements to check when considering a list of call centers.

Familiarity with Customer Base

Societies are different as well as cultures. However, communication draws largely from society. If your product offerings are tailored for the American audience and your customer support centers are in India, there may be a cultural gap. Your customers may use some colloquial languages or metaphoric statements the person on the other line does not understand.

It is preferable to outsource customer support services to call centers within the geographical location as your customers. If your customers are largely based in the United Kingdom, or other English speaking parts of Western Europe, you can outsource to Ireland.

You can achieve a reduction in cost and quality if you don’t compromise on any of the two. As much as you want to cut, you want to give your customers the best customer support experiences you can.

Complementary Time zones

In the United States, paying employees to work overnight can be very expensive. Yet, 24/7 customer support is the best for your business. You can look for call centers with time zones that complement the hours you can offer. If you can offer customer support from 8 am to 6 pm, you should get a call center that can work the night shift. This is one of the reasons many companies outsource to call centers in other continents as the time zones complement each other.

Owning about 20% of the global call center market share, the Philippines has overtaken India to emerge as the world’s largest BPO destination and industry leader in contact center outsourcing. 60% of all US companies that use BPO services do so with Philippine-based offshore contact centers. – enterprenuer.com

Industry Reputation

According to Forbes, $75 billion are lost by businesses annually due to poor customer service.

As much as the talk about quality, some call centers are pulling it off quite efficiently. Clients would easily know if a drop in customers result from poor customer support. Thus, a reputable company would put in work to enhance its public image and reputation as trust is the basis of the business.

More, it goes without saying that some private data and information may have to be shared with the call center. You don’t want to do business with a call center that has nothing to lose.

However, one gets a clearer picture from Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat. A leading call center in India was mentioned in the book and how particular they are about the client’s data is very reassuring. These companies put in structures to ensure the protection of the client’s data.

Familiarity with Industry

There are industry jargon and culture. For instance, there is a very high rate of customer support outsourcing in the health and banking industry. A customer support center must be familiar with your industry niche and be able to simplify terms and concepts to customers. Since your customers would be calling to make inquiries and complaints, there must be a substantial knowledge of your services.

When they have a service question, 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important. 60% of them define “immediate” as 10 minutes or less. (HubSpot Research)

You may need to have a long list of call centers and check those who have experience working in your field and have been reputable for excellent work.

Cloud-based Call Centers

No call center wants to deliver poor service but with antiquated technology, it is inevitable. Cloud-based call center technology enhances the call center’s work. Instead of replacing or changing hardware systems to use a service, solutions are provided as a network service. All you do is add new channels to accommodate what you want to do. Customers don’t always want to make calls; a survey revealed that 9 out of 10 customers would prefer to send texts to a customer support center. Cloud-based systems basically give the customer the omnichannel engagement.

According to Investopedia, 89% of customers are retained by companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement.

Outsourcing to a call center with a cloud-based system reduces the chances of your customers having an experience that would send them to your competitors.

Multi-Communication Channels

According to research by Microsoft, 66% of consumers on average use three different communication channels to contact customer service. With the fast pace of digitalization, this is expected to increase. Customers want businesses to keep up with the times. Some would actually prefer to send a complaint via Twitter and get a response as fast as possible. It was back in the days that customer support was always contacted through phones – people don’t carry the contact addresses of customer support centers around.

Seven social media channels are used by customers on average to reach brands, and 54% of customers prefer social media messaging channels than phone or email when it comes to customer care matters. – Sprinklr

It is however expected that a standard call center would have a social media department. However, as needed with IVR (Interactive Voice Response), a prompt response is also valued. Not getting prompt responses can cause the loss of a customer.

Live Video Chat

The world is fast moving towards video saturation. The call center industry is not left out. Customer support at times may require some visual technical assistance.

According to research by Zappix, given the option, 55% of customers are likely to use visual IVR for service inquiries.

Live video chat can be very effective in getting to more than one person at a time. Since call center agents work in a network, they can essentially refer customers to different lines.

More, there is improved customer service with live chat and this paves way for customer satisfaction. Answers and solutions are provided on the spot.

The eDigital Customer Service Benchmark survey of 2000 consumers found that live chat had the highest customer satisfaction levels at 73%, as compared to 61% for email support and only 44% for traditional phone support. – Comm100

Live chat allows for multitasking between both parties. The call center agent can professionally and with adequate training be live with more than one customer. On the other end, the customer can be at work but be ordering a product online and would like to find out more about the product. A live chat helps the customer get the needed information fast.

According to a report by Econsultancy, 51% of customers prefer live chat for multitasking purposes, with another 21% preferring live chat so they can shop while they work.

This list isn’t exhaustive of all the things you need to look for in an outsourced call center/customer support. However, it covers the basic things you need to take note of.

The provided statistics can be very helpful in making decisions about outsourcing the customer support department of your business.

The industry is moving fast and newer technology is in place to make customer support better and cheaper. More, it is helpful to have professionals do the job.

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