Written by Rene Mallari
As an online business owner, providing great customer experience might not be your strong suit. Your specialty might be marketing, sales, or product development but not customer service.
Furthermore, you could be lacking the time, manpower, or skills to keep your customers happy at all times. In this case, you should delegate your call center tasks to a business process outsourcing (BPO) company.
This article discusses outsourcing call center services for online businesses—the types, advantages, potential drawbacks, costs, and best practices.
Read until the end to get some tips for outsourcing customer service.
Types of Outsourced Call Center Services for Online Businesses
Assigning call center processes to a business process outsourcing company helps improve an online retailer’s brand and image in the long run. The third-party provider has the expertise, knowledge, and resources to make your customer service processes more efficient.
Below are the common call center services offered:
- Mobile customer service. Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, are the biggest users of mobile services. The text issues and questions to your business phone numbers using their smartphones. This channel supports fast and efficient problem resolution.
- Social media customer service. This channel primarily serves Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010. This generation proficiently uses mobile phones, the internet, and social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, TikTok). Customers interact with your agents on your social media accounts. They also post comments and feedback.
- Email customer service. Lengthy, complex, and non-urgent concerns are sent through this channel. If customers cannot call or chat, they can send an email detailing their issues with the attached files. A reply from customer support arrives within a day or two.
- Live chat customer service. For this channel, customer-agent interaction occurs on your website. When a visitor browses through your online store, a small panel appears on the bottom right corner of the screen. The panel asks if the customer needs help, and an agent can contact them instantly with this service.
- Phone customer service. This channel consists of two services: inbound and outbound call services. Inbound calls are incoming customer calls about product or service issues and inquiries. Agents use outbound calls for telemarketing, debt collection, and market surveys.
Advantages of Outsourcing Call Center Services
Outsourcing customer support can present new opportunities for your online business. Examine the advantages of outsourcing this business function to a BPO provider:
- Cost-effective and skilled workforce. Many service providers operate in countries with sizable populations of English-speaking, educated, trainable, young, and affordable workers. Lower compensation costs mean BPO providers can offer you reasonable service rates. You also reduce your operating expenses accordingly.
- Higher customer retention and loyalty. Attracting new customers is costlier than keeping current ones due to increasing acquisition expenses. These costs include advertising and marketing expenditures to convince potential consumers to purchase your products or services.
- First-rate services. Call center agents specialize in crucial activities such as answering inquiries, resolving issues, processing product or service orders, tracking shipments, and upselling or cross-selling. Their expert communication and interpersonal abilities give your customers an excellent experience.
- Improved buyer satisfaction. Third-party vendors are skilled in helping you achieve customer success via engagement. Their specialty is turning a “good” consumer experience into an “awesome” experience. Happy customers share memorable service encounters with others and post them on social media.
- Advanced and accessible communication technologies. A reputable and established call center company harnesses the power of the latest platforms, tools, and applications to boost customer service. Data analytics, data warehousing, virtual private networks, and customer relations management software are examples of these new technologies.
- Scalable operations. A BPO provider can help you manage costs by increasing or decreasing its operations and capabilities based on your needs. It can reduce your BPO team’s size and processes when business is slow and expand the size during busy days. It can provide scalability without interrupting your online activities.
Disadvantages of Outsourcing Call Center Services
Outsourcing call center processes poses some challenges. Below are potential risks related to this strategy:
- Less control over customer service processes. You probably have less control over the processes your service provider handles. Your internal customer-support-related policies might be put aside or applied minimally. In their place, the BPO company uses its methods to handle and monitor outsourced processes.
- Compromised data. When you outsource data entry services and customer support, data privacy and security should be among your top concerns. After all, your online business shares consumer data (e.g., passwords, home addresses, insurance details, and bank account numbers) with a non-affiliated group.
- Shared services. A BPO provider might assign its team to serve two or more clients. Not all BPO companies provide a dedicated team to attend to your outsourced operations. Confirm the arrangement with your BPO partner. Agents will be more productive and efficient if they focus solely on your processes.
- Hidden costs. Outsourcing customer service might entail hidden fees, unforeseen expenses, and undisclosed costs that will catch you by surprise. A service provider might send you invoices for unexpected incidents such as sudden employee termination and unanticipated work disruptions (e.g., the pandemic).
- Less knowledge of products and services. A third-party customer service team might not be as informed as your in-house team regarding your products and services. Delegating tasks to agents with less expertise and knowledge might affect your service quality.
Before outsourcing processes, ask each prospective BPO partner about these possible issues and how they will address them. Fixing these problems immediately can increase your chances of having a successful, long-term business relationship.
Costs of Outsourcing Call Centers for Online Businesses
You should be able to reduce your costs when outsourcing email support, call center services, and other processes. Service providers offer various pricing models, catering to clients’ requirements and business conditions.
Before discussing prices, here are some call center services you can outsource:
- Inbound. Third-party agents receive calls from customers and address various concerns. Agents can answer questions, resolve issues, process and track online orders, and guide customers through product or service use.
- Outbound. Customer service representatives call potential clients to market, promote, and pitch your products and services. They also perform client and market surveys and update your databases.
- Technical support. Agents take calls from end users to provide technical assistance and resolve information-technology-related concerns. Technical support services include troubleshooting, reinstalling software, and monitoring computer systems.
- Telemarketing. Instead of conducting in-person visits, specialists can call customers to build and strengthen relationships with them for better sales.
- Lead generation. Agents call potential customers to attract their interest in your company, products, or services. They nurture and follow up on leads, converting them into buyers and users.
- Virtual assistants. A BPO company provides a contractor to help with daily administrative tasks. A virtual assistant makes phone calls, organizes emails, schedules appointments, and summarizes reports.
The costs of outsourced services depend on the location. Western Europe, the U.S., and Canada charge higher rates. Meanwhile, India, the Philippines, and Latin America offer the lowest prices. Here are the average outsourced call center rates:
|Region||Cost per Hour of Outsourced Call Center Services|
|Africa / Middle East||$15 to $20|
|Asia (Philippines)||$8 to $14|
|Australia||$35 to $55|
|Eastern Europe||$12 to $25|
|India||$6 to $10|
|Latin America||$8 to $18|
|North America (U.S. and Canada)||$20 to $30|
|Western Europe||At least $40|
Outsourcing Call Centers for Online Businesses: Best Practices
Consider these best practices to maximize your outsourced call center operations.
Treat the Team as a Sales Generator
View the call center team as a front-end operation contributing to your company’s revenue growth. The team assists with product or service concerns and queries. More importantly, it helps retain a loyal and highly satisfied customer base.
Top-notch service results in high customer satisfaction. Agents are more likely to convince customers to buy more goods or services from your online store if they are happy with their first purchase.
Agents can also persuade customers to purchase more via upselling and cross-selling. A strong customer relationship means more repeat sales and free word-of-mouth promotion.
Increase Agent Availability Using Self-service Options
Provide self-service features so that your support agents can concentrate on more urgent and complicated consumer issues.
Self-service options are used:
- During busy periods, so live agents can direct customers to these technologies
- For common and tedious customer-related processes
- To make your website visitors aware of your products and services
A good self-service portal must have the following features:
- Video tutorials
- Automated chat and messaging system
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Product or service tutorials
- Chatbots and virtual assistants
- Online knowledge base
- Online support forum
Provide convenient self-service options. Ensure they answer your customers’ most frequently asked questions. Populate them with simple, direct, up-to-date, and clear information and resources to urge repeat customer visits.
Deliver Customer Service as Quickly as Possible
Your call center can strengthen customer loyalty and revenue if it has a fast response time.
Here are some tips to achieve a quick turnaround time:
- Emphasize chatbots and live chat. These communication channels allow customer service representatives to deal with various chats at once. Agents can then attend to more customers and reduce their wait time.
- Update the team’s knowledge base. Supply agents with the latest information about important products or services so that they can reply to customer questions correctly and swiftly.
- Identify and improve key performance indicators (KPIs) linked to response time. Determine the metrics that reduce the time agents spend addressing customer issues. Track these KPIs and train the team to overcome the hurdles keeping them from delivering quick customer service.
Utilize Customer Service Data
Harnessing customer data using analytics and similar software can:
- Uncover repetitive problems. Data helps you remove recurring challenges in the customer journey. For instance, if analytics show several online buyers complaining about the same product breaking easily, an inherent defect is likely the issue.
- Track agent performance. With analytics, you can identify top-performing agents and award them with incentives. You can also find underperformers to motivate and train more.
- Analyze consumer behavior. Gather and evaluate consumer dislikes, suggestions, feedback, and preferences. You can better control situations or issues by gaining broad insights from buyers’ viewpoints.
Assure Data Protection and Security
Safeguard critical consumer data with the latest cybersecurity technologies. Cybersecurity is important for customer service, technical support, inventory management outsourcing, and other secondary processes.
Your outsourced processes must have high-grade privacy and security measures to protect vital information, such as:
- Passwords and usernames
- Investment accounts
- Payroll, compensation, and salaries
- Residential addresses
- Insurance information
- Credit card details
- Medical records
- Bank account numbers
Secure a non-disclosure agreement from the BPO partner to protect your data. Ensure that agents need authorization to use customer data. Your data security must also comply with federal and industry regulations.
Be Attentive to Important Metrics
Keep an eye on customer service and satisfaction KPIs.
Here are some KPIs to keep an eye on:
- Average handle time (AHT) is the accepted period an agent spends on a call to resolve a customer concern. Less than six minutes is the ideal AHT.
- First-call resolution (FCR) measures an agent’s skill in solving a customer’s issue during the initial interaction. Your FCR rate must be more than 70% to be on par with the industry average.
- Agent schedule adherence tells you whether agents adhere to their assigned schedules. A low rate indicates poor customer service and a need for improvement.
- Average hold time (AHLDT) gauges the time agents put callers on hold. This metric must not be more than two minutes per call.
The Best Time To Outsource Call Center Services
Below are indications, situations, and signs that it is time to outsource call center services for your online business.
- Gaining a business edge is your endgame. The e-commerce industry has fierce market competition. Delegating processes can improve your competitive advantage. A BPO provider specializes in delivering excellent customer satisfaction and experience.
- Your communication channels are overwhelmed with customer interactions. You have multiple communication systems but still struggle due to growing call and contact volume. Outsourcing is an effective remedy since your BPO partner has several qualified agents ready to deal with your situation.
- Core competencies are a top priority. Running an online business is complicated and time-consuming. You need more time and resources to grow and develop the core business. Outsourcing frees up your valuable time; your BPO partner oversees the secondary processes.
- Market expansion is your primary plan. Outsourcing call center services is ideal when expanding your market reach or customer base and opening new offices overseas. In that case, you need agents who can communicate with customers using their first language. A BPO provider offers multilingual customer service.
- The holidays provide you with higher sales. Many online businesses cash in on major holidays (e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Black Friday). E-commerce customer traffic increases as more online shoppers visit your websites. A BPO provider can staff you with enough agents to serve numerous customers.
How To Start Outsourcing Call Centers for Your Online Business
Consider these six steps when outsourcing call center services:
- Identify outsourcing requirements. You should determine your needs first. List why you need to outsource processes instead of running them in-house. Increasing call volume? Growing customer demand? Expanding your market reach or customer base? Improving your competitive advantage? Specify your needs to get a clear picture.
- Seek potential BPO partners. Conduct online research for call center companies using different web search engines to get better results. Request referrals from your existing contacts, networks, suppliers, and partners. Contact BPO industry associations to provide you with names. The more sources you have, the better.
- Check for necessary technologies. Examine the technologies of each candidate. They must match your systems for smooth and continuous customer communication. To enhance customer service, each prospect must also be equipped with the latest applications, such as a cloud computing platform.
- Choose the right qualification and skills. Recruit a BPO provider with experienced call center agents and specialists. They must have above-average communication, analytical, creative, problem-solving, and listening skills. Agents with customer support accreditations from industry groups are preferable.
- Select a BPO partner. After screening and short-listing your candidates, send them your outsourcing requirements. Set an in-person or online meeting for each prospect and evaluate each proposal. You can finalize your decision and pick the best one this way. Don’t forget to discuss the service-level agreement that contains the services your new partner should deliver.
- Strengthen the partnership. Authorize a manager or a representative to monitor outsourced call center operations if you are not available. Conduct regular online meetings to check progress and performance. If things are within expectations, foster a long-term partnership with the service provider to help meet your goals.
The Bottom Line
Learning more about outsourcing call centers for online businesses helps you maximize this strategy. Outsourced processes can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, reduce operating costs, and optimize expenses. It also enables you to access the latest customer service applications.
Using these best practices here can also help you reach your goals of reducing costs, increasing productivity, growing your market, and making more money. Meanwhile, this article’s tips for outsourcing customer service can supplement your outsourcing strategy.
Contact a reputable company such as Unity Communications to help you move further in your outsourcing journey.