Call Center Outsourcing Cost, Contract, Services and Other Vital Details
Introduction: The year is 2019 and call center outsourcing has become a big part of most companies’ business strategy. Call center outsourcing is the business strategy of contracting a company’s call center services to an outsourced firm. This outsourced firm handles all types of customer services, from inbound calls to outbound calls. Today’s call center service providers have branched out to include a whole lot more in the scope of services offered. These services range from software support, email services, telemarketing services, social media engagements, instant messaging services, and live web chats.
Why Are Companies Outsourcing Their Call Center Services?
- Flexibility: The flexibility obtained from outsourcing your call center services is proving too good for most companies to just let it slip off their hands. Any business strategy that allows a company to adapt to changing market needs is a welcome strategy. It can allow for a company to move into a new market, with the difficulty that usually comes with moves – the language barrier, a whole new demographics, different culture and worldview of the intending customers, becoming of little or no consequences. Efficient call center service providers will mitigate these initial challenges by helping you to connect with your new customers, thereby leveraging on your new business environment. They understand the people and the terrain you’re about entering and will ensure your loses are curtailed, and profit maximized.
- Handling Overflow: There are certain periods when companies have spikes in their business. During times like the festive seasons, there is an unusual amount of demand on a company’s products and services, more inquiries on promotions and offers, more orders and technical support requests/aftersales services. A company cannot hire, train and commit new service agents to handle the overflow within this short period. What happens to the customer service agents after the boom season is over? Layoffs? That would call for a series of mass lawsuits against the company in question. Simple solutions companies are adopting is to outsource their customer service departments to outsourcers during the period of customers’ deluge. It saves costs and ensures efficiency.
- Competitiveness: An outsourced call center service provider brings with it the latest technology in customer service relations that few in-house call centers of even top-rated firms can match. They know the ins and the out of the customer service markets and hiring them ensures a level of competitiveness for their clients. Many companies are becoming a part of this revolution in the call center industry. Allowing your competitors and business rivals to engage these service providers without becoming a part of the trend means you are losing your market and customers to rival companies. With an outsourced service provider, a company can focus on innovating new products and services, while leaving the service providers to engage the customers and report back on vital insights.
- Cost-reduction potential: Most western companies are now offshoring their call center operations to countries like India, Indonesia, the Philippines, etc. This strategy has been known to save costs for these companies. Their growing customer base across varied geographies favors this strategy. For these companies, their operational costs are reduced to the barest minimum, as research shows that companies have been able to cut costs by as much as 50% using outsourced service providers. This Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), has also become a part of the global enterprise to make the world a truly global economy in the 21st century.
- Actionable feedback: Call center service providers uses the latest predictive analytics and technologies at their disposal to provide actionable feedback to their clients, which allows these clients to gain enhanced market insights. OSPs appreciate the importance of data and provide these valuable data for their clients to improve on its production processes, thereby taking its service delivery approaches a notch higher.
- Multiple customer engagement: It is the digital age, and social media is playing a much greater role in customer relations. Customers are no longer relying solely on phone calls to get across to companies. There are a whole lot of varied platforms – smartphone applications, live web chats, companies’ social media handles, video chats, email services, IVR touchtone, IVR speech, and others. Customers’ satisfaction is brought to a new level, as prompt response and attention to customers’ needs is the new approach to the game. Studies show that companies who engage customers on multiple digital platforms enjoy twice as much customer loyalty and brand preference.
- Specialized skills: Many professionals with different skill-sets abound in outsourced service call centers – Social media experts, digital marketers, telemarketing experts, language experts, and communication experts. It is literally a talent hub. And these talents are there for companies to harness at a cheaper cost and move their business to the next level.
Services To Expect From Call Center Providers
- Inbound call services – They will handle a large volume of calls coming in. They are able to engage in telesales, customer service, order taking and inquiries, billing inquiries, technical support, and issue resolution. An interactive voice response system is a critical tool for an automatic reply to customer’s queries. It’s services cuts across:
- Customer care
- IT Help desk support
- Sales support
- Lead generation
- Outbound call center services: They handle the business-to-business(B2B) or Business-to-consumers (B2C) campaigns of clients. It can be a part of the marketing unit extension of a client company. They engage the client’s sales customer service. Their services cut across:
- Lead generation
- Customer retention
- Market research/survey.
- Social media engagement: In an age where an online presence is critical to the success of every business, call center service providers will ensure your company uses social media channels as a valuable tool to communicate with its customers in order to build a loyal following. A huge social media presence will help in branding, online campaigns, marketing effectiveness, and overall operational efficiency. Their services cut across:
- Social media analytics
- Social media branding
- Social media presence and engagement.
Current Trends In Call Center Technology
A lot has truly changed since the very first call centers came into existence. It has evolved from a service that had the telephone as its key component, into service with far-reaching innovations which now carries global implications and impacts.
The 60s witnessed the very first call centers which handled operator inquiries only. The 70s and 80s witnessed its widespread adoption by mainstream businesses. The call center for these companies then was primarily a sales tool whereby agents called customers to sell their products or services. The 90s witnessed a severe blow to this emerging industry. Customers’ complaints led to that restricted the activities of call centers and their agents. A lot of restrictions were placed on how these agents could reach out to consumers- the time calls were placed, the number of calls, automated dialers, and messages. These restrictions forced the industry to innovate and give a human touch to how they reached out to customers. This “human connection” has become the standard practice today with more technologies providing even better ways to enhance this “human connection”.
The arrival of the internet played an integral role in the successes the industry enjoys today. That call center industry transitioned from a “call center” to “contact center” was made possible by the internet. Access to internet usage by a large section of the populace enabled this switch. The email service became another avenue for consumers to contact call centers. Over time the email service solidified its place as an integral customer service channel, alongside the telephone channel.
If the internet was the fuel, then the dotcom boom of the mid-90s – early 2000s was the real spark that led to the massive growth of the call center industry. This gave a lot of businesses their online presence. With the increase in the number of businesses operating online, the physical call centers began to fade off. Yet, a lot of businesses still needed a way to reach out to customers. Call centers provided this customer service support needed by various businesses. The bubble burst of 2001 forced many call centers to close shop, but the business trend of call centers has already been set, and a whole lot more call centers sprang up to fill this vacuum and offer their services to the big companies who still needed them.
And now call centers are going offshore, with most of the offshore locations in Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Indonesia, etc. In fact, The Philippines is said to hold a large chunk in the global market shares of outsourced service providers. The call center has witnessed widespread changes for nearly a century, and it is witnessing further changes in trends and innovations. Let’s review the current trends and what the future holds for this industry.
- The Integration of artificial intelligence: Artificial Intelligence is now widely being integrated into call center technology. AI solutions are now used to detect customers’ behavior – how long a customer stays on phone during inbound calls or chats, voice tones (used to detect customers’ frustrations or rising anger), how long it took to resolve the complaints on the first call, and follow up surveys. Artificial Intelligence can also help inexperienced call agents detect when a customer’s voice is rising, in events whereby they’re not meeting his needs. Artificial Intelligence can send pop-up messages to service agents to indicate they’re talking too much and may need to listen more to the customer. This builds up the empathy level of each and every call agent and gives the needed human connection the industry is trying to become renowned for. AI can help streamline training programs for call service agents. Again, the language barrier that customers complain about offshore call center agents can be solved by AI through its accent and inflection recognition. In all, Artificial Intelligence integration in call center technology has allowed businesses to adopt predictive analytics in order to ensure better service, greater revenues, and stronger brand loyalty by customers.
- Adoption of omnichannel communications: Omnichannel communication refers to a singular experience for consumers across all channels. It is a sort of unified communication across varied channels which gives consumers a streamlined and seamless brand content. Research shows that brands with extremely strong omnichannel communications will retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% foe brands with weak omnichannel communication (Aberdeen Group). Unifying customer communication across channels is the current trend amongst call center providers, and it’s helping give businesses better context for their customers. In adopting this approach, customers’ complaints are resolved more quickly, and service agents are better equipped to identify lead generations and sales opportunities.
- Adoption of cloud communications in call centers: While most companies have adopted cloud communications as an integral part of their communication plans, cloud communications is becoming an important trend for call center service providers. New locations can be sited by these providers, more remote call agents can be engaged, and seamless communication can ensue. For that client who doesn’t want to embrace cloud communications in its entirety, a hybrid cloud option can be made available.
- More remote call center service agents: Thanks to cloud communication, more remote call center service agents are on the rise, and it is becoming a permanent feature for the industry. Its benefits include a low overhead cost for the service providers and flexible working hours for the agent themselves. They can work from anywhere and access real-time analytics.
- Engaging the customers rapidly via social media: Long gone are the days when customers experienced regular cases of unanswered calls, long periods of calls on-hold and delayed replies. Now customers can engage in a two-way social media conversation with service agents. They now get a feeling of personalized and immediate response. Negative feedback from customers has been reduced to a large extent. Now companies can boast of customers who are truly satisfied with how they’re treated and attended to. Now, these customers can openly profess their brand loyalty.
- Use of powerful predictive analytics: Call centers are adopting and taking advantage of sophisticated analytics to turn data into actionable insights for clients. Call and chat recordings, SMS, and emails can be used to develop enhanced feedback for clients. With the successes recorded so far, we can expect more sophisticated software to be employed in the nearest future.
Call Center Contracts: Everything You Need to KnoW
Negotiating contract agreement between call center service provider and the client is usually a knotty problem. This is because most times, there are differences in each other’s expectations. One side may want to pay very little to get as much quality service as possible. The other side may want to gain as much as possible with as little service delivery as possible. Therefore, stating explicitly as possible, what is expected by both parties from the outset will reduce the clash of interest.
When negotiating contracts, pricing is usually the bone of contention. For most contractual agreements, the client usually pays for the outsourced service provider’s team, processes, systems, service delivery, and multiple end products. It’s usually not a single item arrangement. All the aforementioned services are provided on an integrated solution basis. A change in the requirements of one will affect the other and finally, the overall price. This is one fact not usually spelled out in contract arrangements between the outsourced service providers and their clients. Ensuring that such details are clearly spelled out and inserted in the contract agreement, will reduce friction between both parties.
Furthermore, the time duration of certain activities may change over time due to unforeseen circumstances. How these changes would be catered for and by who should also be in the fine print. Take, for instance, a contract was entered between an outsourced service provider and a client for a week-long training program. Due to unforeseen circumstances, this program may extend to an additional two weeks. An extra cost will certainly be incurred by the service provider. The unwillingness of the service provider to bear the brunt of this operational may strain the relationship with its client. And even though it decides to bear the cost of the operation to at least see it through, overall quality service delivery is impaired. Whichever way it goes, a client may feel he is being overcharged, or the service provider may feel he is not making the necessary profit he set out to.
For a client-service provider relationship to blossom, there is the need to smooth over certain differences. The client must realize that the service provider is in business to maximize profit so give him his due. The service provider should also not beguile the client with over-bloated charges.
Over time, certain factors may change the impracticability of some outsourced call center contract agreement. When this occurs, both parties should be able to come back to the round once more and amend the contract to adjust to the prevailing realities. That way everybody goes home happy.
Creating A Statement Of Work (SOW)
Creating a statement of work (SOW) is a vital aspect of your contract details. It helps define a clear-cut roadmap for the outsourced service provider that handles your business needs, ensuring they follow specific guidelines and expectations, as stated expressly by your company. This will be the guideline document the outsourced service provider will work with, to guide them during the course of their business dealings with your organization. It gives the service provider the capacity to work with your internal team to move your project forward.
What Is a Statement Of Work (SOW)?
It is a formal document wherein a company adequately explains the expectations it has set out for a service provider. With this document, there are set boundaries, the scope of work is known, deadlines are provided for, expected results are spelled out, timelines are given, work activities are scheduled, and payment for service is agreed upon. The statement of work leaves no room for conflict of interest and undue friction between both parties. It reduces the stress that comes with an unwritten set of rules, prevents assumptions and helps to sustain the customer-client relationship for a long time.
The Basic Framework
- Introduction: In the introduction, critical stakeholders are duly introduced – the client, the outsourced service provider and other third-party stakeholders, such as legal representatives. In the introduction, you briefly define the project and what it sets out to achieve. Ensure every stakeholder understands what the SOW stands for, as this is a formal agreement binding on all concerned.
- Define the vision of your project: In your vision statement, you create goals on what needs to be achieved. The final end-user of your products and services are stated, and the problems the project is expected to provide solutions to are also written down.
- Define the scope of your SOW: This sets the stage for critical planning. It is like setting up the foundation of what is to come. You can set milestones you want the project to achieve, define setup arrangements and the planning process.
- Set up the deadline for the project: while a time estimation of projects are often far-reaching and not always reliable, it gives the project a sense of direction. Therefore, your statement of work should set out specific deadlines for the project and the capacity needed to meet these deadlines.
- Manage your SOW roadmap: Every step taken during the project should be accessed and roles or requirements reassigned if necessary. This enables both parties to work within the agreed perimeters. Managing your roadmap enables outsourced service providers to be aware when certain milestones are reached and when some are around the corner. It gives the OSP a clue on what project to focus on and in what order these projects are to be delivered.
- Define terms of payments and due dates: This will ensure that all parties concerned are on the same page. It gives the outsourced service provider the scheduled dates to expect compensation and other such benefits.
What is a Master Service Agreement (MSA)?
A statement of work (SOW) usually accompanies another document, often referred to as a Master Service Agreement. The MSA is like a governing document for the entire contractual relationship. It encompasses expectations and the commitments both parties expect from each other.
Most outsourced service providers can go into long-term relationships with clients. And most relationships are typically structured across multiple projects. Approaching each new project every time with re-negotiations, reviews, and re-approvals can hamper the progress of each project. It is highly inefficient and slows the pace of the project down, including taking the operating costs a notch higher. This is where MSA comes in. It serves as a building block for every renewed agreement and can be referenced for future projects.
Wikipedia defines an MSA as “a contract reached between parties, in which the parties agree to most of the terms that will govern future transactions or future agreements. A master service agreement allows the involved parties to quickly negotiate future transactions or agreements because they can rely on a strong foundation of the master agreement for future business so that the same terms need not be repetitively negotiated and you only need to negotiate terms specific to the latest deal”.
What Should An MSA Contain?
- General terms (can cover statement of work)
- Confidentiality (Non-disclosure Agreements)
- Intellectual Property Rights
- Indemnification clauses
- Insurance requirements
- Payment schedules
- Termination process.
Non-disclosure agreements are needed by companies prior to outsourcing their business operations to outsourced service providers. This will prevent their confidential information such as – customer lists, business performance index, copyrights, trade secrets, technical data, and the state of finance, from getting into the hands of third-parties, especially business rivals or competitors. It protects a business’s competitive advantage. It is vital non-disclosure agreements are put in writing, thoroughly understood by both parties, before a business relationship could commence. Duly attach a copy of what you consider ‘confidential information’ so that the other party clearly understands what is being protected.
Details that would be fully explained in an NDA:
Definition of “confidential information”: means information relating to the Discloser’s business, including, without limitation, product designs, product plans, data, software and technology, financial information, marketing plans, business opportunities, pricing information, discounts, inventions and know-how (including the existence and terms of this Agreement) disclosed by Discloser to Recipient, either directly or indirectly, whether in writing, verbally or otherwise, and whether prior to, on or after the Effective Date, that either: (a) is designated as confidential by the Discloser at the time of disclosure; or (b) should reasonably be considered, given the nature of the information or the circumstances surrounding its disclosure, to be confidential. Confidential Information also includes the terms and conditions of this Agreement and the existence of the discussions between the parties.
Use of confidential information: A party that receives Confidential Information under this Agreement (“Recipient”) may use the Confidential Information only for the purpose of internal evaluation of whether to enter into a business relationship with the party which discloses Confidential Information under this Agreement (“Discloser”).
Disclosure of confidential information: Recipient shall: (i) hold Confidential Information in strict confidence and take reasonable precautions to protect such Confidential Information (including, without limitation, all precautions Recipient employs with respect to its own confidential materials); (ii) not to divulge any Confidential Information to any third party (other than to employees or contractors as set forth below); and (iii) not to copy or reverse engineer any materials disclosed under this Agreement or remove any proprietary markings from any Confidential Information. Any employee or contractor given access to any Confidential Information must have a legitimate “need to know” and Recipient shall remain responsible for each such person’s compliance with the terms of this Agreement.
Term: Confidentiality period: This Agreement covers the disclosure of all
Confidential Information for a period of three (3) years as of the Effective Date. Recipient’s obligations with respect to Confidential Information under this Agreement expire five (5) years from the date of receipt of the Confidential Information (except that with respect to any trade secrets the obligations shall be perpetual). These obligations shall survive any termination or expiration of this Agreement.
Exclusions: This Agreement imposes no obligations with respect to information which: (i) was in Recipient’s possession before receipt from Discloser, (ii) is or becomes a matter of public knowledge through no fault of Recipient, (iii) was rightfully disclosed to Recipient by a third party without restriction on disclosure or (iv) is developed by Recipient without use of the Confidential Information and such independent development can be shown by documentary evidence. The recipient may make disclosures to the extent required by law or court order provided Recipient uses diligent efforts to limit disclosure and to obtain confidential treatment or a protective order and has allowed Discloser to participate in the proceeding.
Return or destruction of confidential information: Upon termination of this Agreement or written request by Discloser, the Recipient shall: (i) cease using the Confidential Information, (ii) return or destroy the Confidential Information and all copies, notes or extracts thereof to Discloser within seven (7) business days of receipt of request, and (iii) upon request of Discloser, confirm in writing that Recipient has complied with these obligations.
Proprietary rights: Neither party to this Agreement acquires any intellectual property rights or any other rights under this Agreement except the limited right to review the Confidential Information set forth in Section 2.
Disclaimer: CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION IS PROVIDED “AS IS” AND WITH ALL FAULTS.
Publicity: Neither party will make, or authorize any third party to make, any public announcement or other disclosures related to this Agreement, discussions, negotiations and/or the terms of this Agreement and any potential agreement or relationship with the other party or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries without the prior written approval of the other party. For the purposes of this Agreement, public announcements include disclosures to any person or entity other than the Recipient by any means, including but not limited to, press releases, written or oral statements made to the media, blogs, trade organizations, publications, websites, or any other public audience or unauthorized third parties.
Injunctive relief: Each party acknowledges that any breach of this Agreement may cause irreparable harm for which monetary damages are an insufficient remedy and therefore that upon any breach of this Agreement Discloser shall be entitled to appropriate equitable relief without the posting of a bond in addition to whatever remedies it might have at law.
General: Neither party has an obligation under this Agreement to purchase or offer for sale any item or proceed with any proposed transaction. In the event that any of the provisions of this Agreement shall be held illegal or unenforceable by a court of competent jurisdiction, such provisions shall be limited or eliminated to the minimum extent necessary so that this Agreement shall otherwise remain in full force and effect. This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of French without regard to conflicts of laws provisions thereof. Unless waived by [Call Center business name]. in its sole discretion, the jurisdiction and venue for any action arising out of or relating to the subject matter of this Agreement both parties hereby submit to the personal jurisdiction of such courts. This Agreement supersedes all prior discussions and writings and constitutes the entire agreement between the parties with respect to the subject matter hereof. The prevailing party in any action to enforce this Agreement shall be entitled to costs and attorneys’ fees. No waiver or modification of this Agreement will be binding upon either party unless made in writing and signed by a duly authorized representative of each party and no failure or delay in enforcing any right will be deemed a waiver.
Essentiel outsourcing Services
- CRM Management and Implementation: Essentiel Outsourcing can integrate with many popular CRM systems, giving you that streamlined and seamless user interface, all tied into your back-end customer management systems. Call center CRM software, which is also called the call center CRM customer relationship management, are software solutions that help call center service agents to access all the available information and data about customers’ history to help improve the overall customer experience. It is usually a desktop software that integrates with the prevailing telephony and back-office applications.
There exist numerous benefits to integrating customer support data into your CRM.
- It delivers real-time information to customers during telephone and online support calls. This will enhance the jobs of call center agents and enable them to deliver top-notch services to customers
- Delivering solutions to customers’ issues in a quick and efficient manner is what CRM tools and management-based applications do best. The software will utilize predictive analytics to offer the right presentation of products to customers.
- CRM software can offer training programs to call center agents.
- It offers social media monitoring and customer data tools.
Our systems currently integrate with the following CRM solutions:
- Zoho CRM
- Agile CRM
CRM integration is a necessary tool for call center services. It’s easy and friendly interface allows customer data to pop-up when a phone call is received by a service agent. Our team can help integrate with your CRM to the extent you require.
- Management of Inbound and outbound Chat, Emails, Calls, Calls for Sell and Customer Service : Allow our service agents to handle all your inbound and outbound calls, as well as emails and website customer chat, integrated as a web-based agent interface. We have the mission of empowering our teams to deliver a top-notch customer experience u customized and innovative learning solution for greater engagement and development.
- Management of Digital Marketing campaigns (Google Adwords, Facebook, LinkedIn): We will manage your PPC campaigns, social network, and SEO ranking results. Building your online presence will take your bra to high target demographics. Our Artificial Intelligence support will create and sustain your core message across varied social media platforms, spreading the word about the uniqueness of your brand. Our campaign will make your brand stand out among the crowd. We are bringing tested and growth-driven social media optimization solutions that work, helping your business grow beyond bounds. We assure you of the contents that can meet the needs of your target audience, thereby placing your brand on an enhanced visibility scope. We are your go-to solutions for ranking higher on the search engine results page (SERP), which will take your profits to the next level. Guiding your customers to pages that will boost your revenue is our trademark.
- Interactive Voice Recorder (IVR): IVR offers an automated telephony system that interacts with callers, gathers information, and route calls to the appropriate receiver. It accepts a combination of voice input and touch-tone keypad selections, providing suitable responses, which can be in the form of voice, call-back, emails, and other communication pathways.
Increased lead generation.
Ensures seamless business communication.
Reduces the cost for support requests.
Ability to manage leads and sales cycle.
- Entry Of Data (Administration): In a business world that has become highly competitive, how a company processes and handles its data is critical to its business success. Processing your company’s data can be done either manually or digitally, using an automation system. The world over, organizing large chunks of information and data entry still remains a huge challenge to numerous firms. Outsourcing is the solution, as it provides the following benefits:
- It is cost-effective: Hiring an in-house team can be very costly. Providing workspace for the team, purchasing the right tools and then the remuneration that comes with it is what every company wants to avoid.
- Time-saving: Outsourcing saves time and resources. The time spent entering data can be channeled into other productive services.
- Maximum safety guaranteed: In-house teams when not properly trained can expose your company’s data to outside unintentionally. This security breach can be avoided with third-party outsourcers who take their reputation very seriously and would go the extra length to protect your company’s information, ensuring it remains what it is – confidential.
- Enhanced productivity: With resources channeled into productive services elsewhere, there is increased productivity in your company. Our experienced and dedicated team of experts will meet your business evolving needs as it concerns data entry and administration.
- Accounting: Part of our all-round services means we yet again offer comprehensive accounting services that enable your firm to avoid damaging financial decisions that may affect the growth of your business. We provide:
- Financial Statement reporting.
- Audit support.
- General ledger maintenance and reporting.
- Building an automated billing/invoice system.
This is usually done on a per-minute basis as our service agents are helping customers resolve their issues. Phone time, time spent on chats or average response time can be used to calculate the billing process. In order to make everything seamless, we provide recordings of every call and can have on-demand access to all chat transcripts.
We can also charge by productive hours, which means from the point in time when an agent is starting a support task with a customer issue and when that issue is resolved. We calculate the real number of hours worked, the number of communications (trying to reach the 100% FCR “First Call Resolution”, FER- “First Email Resolution” or FCR- “First Chat Resolution”). These are done with complex formulas that can be broken down for the clients for easy understanding.