Calculating the true cost of a particular call center system isn't easy, as different variables and factors can turn what seems like a good deal into something that is, in reality, quite expensive. Finding a solution that provides the best value for you means assessing three different sets of costs: capital expenses, subscription fees, and outbound calling charges.
1. Capital Expenses
- Self-managed. If you choose a system that will be installed on your own servers and computers, you're going to have to pay for the initial hardware and any additional storage required for expansion. You'll need lots of storage capacity if you're going to use functions such as call recording or workstation recording. You'll also need staff to look after the running of the system. This might amount to one or two people for a small outfit, up to a whole team of IT professionals for a large call center. Then you have the cost of the software. Buying all this in advance could be very costly, but is the preferred solution for those who want total control of the operation. It can even be the least expensive solution, depending on the cost of keeping the system running. Purchasing a system over time on a contract basis usually entitles you to some technical support from the vendor. After all, vendors don't want to lose your business if you're having problems they could easily fix.
- Cloud hosting. Running on the cloud will cut down on capital expenses, as there will be no need to buy or lease servers or hard drives. You'll still need support staff to look after the software; however, as cloud-based systems can be accessed from anywhere, you don't have to hire in-house technicians to keep your call center running. You can outsource the maintenance of your system separately from outsourcing the staffing of the phones, if you choose.
- Third-party hosting. Beyond the basic hardware-such as workstations and headsets-the capital expense with a third-party hosting system is negligible: no servers, no software, no IT team, and no setup costs. The hosting company should take care of everything. Watch out for low entry-level pricing combined with contracts that are difficult to terminate. Contracts vary from one to five years, and some of them have high termination fees.
2. Subscription Fees
Monthly or annual subscription fees vary from vendor to vendor, but these are meaningless unless you factor in the total costs of operating the system. Usually a software company charges on a per-operator basis, making it more expensive for larger call centers. If you expand, for every additional operator, the subscription rate will increase. And subscription costs are not the only regular expense. You also need to consider the cost of outbound calls. Your subscription agreement might lock you into a high cost for outbound calling.
3. Outbound Calling
These days, VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services provide the most cost-effective solutions for call centers because outbound calling plans are so much cheaper than regular business landline rates. The great freedom of a self-managed system is that you can choose from the large number of VoIP service companies, ensuring that you get a competitive price. Perhaps the most common and popular VoIP service is Microsoft's Skype, which offers 5,000-minute bundles for $30 to U.S. landlines and mobiles.
With a hosted system, you not only pay a monthly fee per operator, but you'll also be charged a per-minute or per-30-second rate for outbound calls, and usually you have no choice as to the outbound call provider. Discounts are normally offered for higher call volumes. Typical per minute charges are as follows:
- $0.035 / 60 seconds (0 - 350,000 minutes per month)
- $0.015 / 30 seconds (350,001 - 500,000 minutes per month)
- $0.012 / 30 seconds (500,001 - 1,000,000 minutes per month)
- $0.011 / 30 seconds (1,000,000 - 2,000,000 minutes per month)
- $0.010 / 30 seconds (2,000,000 - 5,000,000 minutes per month)
Another option, especially if you go the self-managed route, is to sign up for an unlimited calling plan. These plans allow for unlimited outbound calls, usually within certain areas or countries, for a monthly fee per operator. Whether this works out to be a better value than paying for individual calls will depend on the number and average duration of calls your operators make. Unlimited domestic calling plans typically start at around $10 per month, per operator.