Pros and Cons Of Contact Center Outsourcing
[Updated October 7, 2019]
When people talk about contact center outsourcing, they often use the term interchangeably with call center outsourcing.
But here’s the thing: they’re not the same, especially today in 2019.
Call center generally refers to a room full of people answering calls, often offshore. A contact center, in contrast, means a place where agents work through multiple channels—like live chat, social media, and email—to answer customer questions and resolve problems.
The old-school offshore call centers and BPOs have garnered a bad reputation are on their way out and are being replaced by more niche-specific US-based companies that are staffed with actual specialists. Most modern retailers and ecommerce brands (and their customers) demand this level of integration and familiarity and are a driving force behind this shift.
What’s the best choice for you to build (and maintain) your customer relationships? Do you tackle this in-house or outsource to a specialized US-based contact center?
There are some factors that aren't readily apparent so we wanted to share some of the primary pros and cons of utilizing contact center outsourcing companies that we've compiled based on decades of experience in the industry, and being a disruptor in the space ourselves.
5 Pros Of Using a Contact Center
1. A Contact Center Can Save You a Lot of Time (and Money)
Contact centers’ and call centers’ primarily business is hiring, training, and managing personnel. Customer service can be a high stress job, and good contact centers spend considerable sums just to maintain the kind of employee engagement needed to keep service levels high.
Recruiting and managing people who are customer minded, can handle difficult people, can retain information about your product or service, is a full-time business. Adding that business on top of your e-commerce business may be overwhelming.
Employing an outstanding contact center outsourcing service can save a lot of time and energy.
2. Contact Centers Handle The Complex Tech, So You Don’t Have To
An interesting challenge that companies and their customer service agents face today is the technology innovation they must learn and manage. In addition to a multitude of IP PBX and IVR networks, CRM software, ticketing processes and other tools, there are AI tools now as well designed to map the customer journey, build a list of customer traits and identify customer emotions to recognize when to escalate an issue, track information on products and services, and more.
All this can automatically be yours if you sign on the dotted line and work with one of several qualified contact/call center outsourcing solutions.
Additionally, there are many communication channels now and customers like to use them all. Keeping on top of this is important but actually acquiring, deploying, managing and keeping this omnichannel tech current is a huge expense and usually requires outside IT consultants. When it comes to e-commerce, failing to keep up with technology equates to failing.
3. Contact Centers Handle Your Company’s Customer Service 24/7
“Time and time again, I see brands spending huge sums on driving traffic to their websites through online advertising only to make the assumption that once a customer lands onsite the job is done. There’s still plenty of work to be done once a customer finds their way onto your site,”
Paul Talbot, marketing expert, Forbes.
The potential benefits are huge here: as an e-commerce company you’re not just competing with another companies in your industry, you’re also competing with Amazon and every online experience the customer ever had. The best of those are going to provide 24/7 customer service. If you’re not there to answer questions or solve problems when the customer is shopping, they’ll just go someplace else and you lose the lead.
"Come back tomorrow” isn't really a thing in e-commerce anymore. Unless your organization can offer 24/7 customer service and communication on your own, outsourcing your customer communicate to a contact center is likely the best option if you don’t want to miss out on significant after-hour sales. (Think of how many people drink and make impulse purchases late at night. It's a lot.)
4. Right-Sizing is Much Easier With Contact Centers
Smart contact center outsourcing companies and IP call centers know how to work with their clients to schedule the right number of agents for peak demand times, and in peak demand channels. They have the CRM and VOIP software and network platform in place to scale up during holidays when sales go up, or if the e-commerce client has a sale, or introduces a new product.
This means the e-commerce company doesn’t have to handle management, scheduling, scaling-up, or layoffs depending on popularity or seasonal trends.
Also, want to ask how much does a call center charge per call? We'd suggest you focus on how much they charge based on resolution, as that's a much more telling metric. Some contact center companies won't be able to give you an answer, while others work exclusively on that metric.
At any rate, with a solid outsourced contact center on your side, you only really need success with the overall customer service experience and let the call center meet the demand flow and manage at the individual agent level.
5. Contact Centers Stay Up To Date With Customer Behaviors
Customer behaviors and tastes change all the time. While some demographics still use voice/phone heavily, McKinsey predicts that 75 percent of customers will soon use multiple channels.
It’s the job of contact centers to support the latest and future trends—such as Instagram DMs
For e-commerce companies, stopping to actually address these omnichannel changes (instead of simply being aware of them) can pull attention from the core business. Instagram is an obvious example, but do you know how to actually manage it at scale, including reviewing every comment and video your company is tagged in? What about reviewing customer feedback on emerging social media platforms, such as EYEEM and TikTok?
5 Cons Of Using A Contact Center
1. Quality US-based Contact Centers Can Be A Little Pricey
A new contact center solution or IP call center service will be an additional expense for your customer communication budget. Depending on which contact center you use, you may or may not get what you need for your dollar.
Say, for example, that you only really need a couple of agents available most of the time for the first year of operation, with some additional agents during peak sales times. Contact center SLAs and contracts are often designed for bigger corporations and for lengthy periods, meaning if your company scales fast, your contract may not fit well… ever.
One problem with many contact centers or call centers is they require you to make a big commitment even before you’re sure of the value to your company.
2. Using A Contact Center Can Be Risky With Quality Control
“Customer service is just a day in, day out ongoing, never ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate, type of activity.”
– Leon Gorman
Will your contact center do outbound as well as inbound calling?
Will they be more focused on cost savings and operational efficiency, trying to keep customer interactions brief, than on customer satisfaction and improving metrics on first response times?
How much control will you have over the quality of your customers’ experience?
These days, more and more companies are bringing their customer service onshore to increase quality even if it means increasing initial costs. Treating customer service as an asset and/or investment is becoming the new norm.
Many have replaced the low-cost call centers with low cost AI and chatbots. But that, too, has serious limitations that can leave customers frustrated. When customers can’t make sense of the pre-programmed responses the AI provides, they tend to reach for the most expensive solution: the phone.
And by that time, they’re unhappy.
You must be careful to choose an outsourced vendor that offers custom-tailored customer communications based on your exact needs and specs to ensure you're enhancing and not damaging your reputation by relying on an outside team.
3. A Lack Of Brand Cohesion & Technical Product Knowledge
Inbound and outbound contact centers work with a lot of different businesses so the employees are less likely to be evangelists for your product or service than they would if they were your own employees.
They also won’t have the same company culture and training to understand your product. And they won’t be on top of upcoming changes or trends.
That means that if customers contact them with questions or problems, they’re less likely to be able to answer them rapidly than they would if knowing your product was their full-time job. The contact center is providing a service, not fulfilling your mission. That’s a loss.
4. Too Many Levels Of Management Can Slow Things Down
On the one hand, these companies are all about staying ahead of the curve and embracing new technology. On the other, they’re working with the customers of a lot of different companies.
Let’s say your customers tend to be early adopters and they easily move into new channels, but the contact center also works with legacy companies whose customers are wedded to old channels such as phone email.
Or let’s say the company has begun to use newer channels like live chat or social, but hasn’t really gotten good at it. But that’s where your customers are.
The struggle with working with a contact center is responding to what your customers want in real time and getting the contact center to evolve quickly as well.
5. A Cheap Contact Center May Foster A ‘One Size Fits All’ Approach
Generally, this is a euphemism for “doesn’t fit anybody very well.” Most contact center outsourcing services do not focus on creating options with different sizes, channels, financial agreements. They are not nimble, and in today’s fast-paced retail and e-commerce world, that is not a small liability.
Is there a solution that's right for your company and industry?
Fortunately, there’s a way to get the best of both worlds. Niche-specific technology companies are replacing the incumbent call centers, and many of them utilize highly-qualified US-based workers.
Simplr is a relevent example of a contact center alternative as it provides razor-sharp 24/7 US-based customer service solutions for high-growth retailers, and are 40-60% more cost effective than in-house operations. Simplr also offers the scalability and affordability without jeopardizing a client’s brand or business strategy.
Simplr's network of on-demand Simplr Specialists can be responding to your businesses's emails, chats, and DMs starting this week, not next month. They also can work alongside your in-house agents and existing BPO. Click here to get a free quote.