Q: How do call centers work?
A: The companies we reviewed are U.S.-based and available 24/7. All of them have bilingual agents who speak Spanish, as well as English, and several can help your customers with other language needs.
You can instruct representatives to do any number of things with your calls. They can take messages from inbound calls or transfer calls to you, they can set appointments and help with order processing, or you can have agents handle technical calls following a custom script about your business and its products or services. Some companies charge extra for custom scripts, especially for complex ones. Keep this in mind when shopping for a call center service.
You can have the call center perform outbound calls in addition to taking inbound calls. Outbound call services include administering surveys, placing scheduled calls to customers for follow-up purposes, lead generation services and even cold-calling, though some call centers no longer participate in cold-calling if you do not have the customer's information in your system already.
Q: What are the benefits of a call center?
A: Call centers free up your and your employees' time so you can focus on the important aspects of running your business while others handle your phone calls. A call center is a good way to improve your customer service without taxing your current resources, and it's a cost-effective solution, especially if you purchase a plan that lets you pay for minutes you use them.
Call center services also help you close sales since someone is available to assist with order processing and appointment setting. You can also have call centers follow up with your customers and work on converting leads into customers.
Q: How much do call centers charge?
A: Call centers vary significantly in their cost from company to company. While many advertise per-minute rates, more goes into pricing than just the rate alone. Many charge a setup fee, and some charge additional fees for certain services. Some round usage up, which can inflate costs; some round to the nearest 6-second increment, while others round up to as much as the nearest minute. A call center that rounds up usage might have a lower rate, but your total bill will likely be much higher. The best call centers will explain your rate and any additional charges.
Q: How do inbound call centers work?
A: Inbound call centers typically involve what is known as a shared agent environment, where several representatives handle your account alongside other clients. Inbound call centers manage incoming calls from a customer to your business, including customer service inquiries, order taking, complaints and more.
Every call center is slightly different. Some simply capture caller contact information and take a message, while others manage the call from start to finish without transferring it over to you. Most inbound calls can be handled by shared agents, although some more advanced functions might require dedicated agents, which are more expensive.
Q: How do outbound call centers work?
A: Outbound call centers almost always require expensive dedicated or semidedicated agents, which are focused on only your account, or your account and just two or three other businesses. Outbound calling campaigns involve telemarketing, lead generation and market research, such as polls and surveys.
Outbound call centers typically focus on drumming up new leads or gathering market insights to inform broader business strategies. They tend to be campaign-driven, rather than continuous like inbound call center services. Outbound call center services are commonly used by larger companies.
Q: How can call center outsourcing help business growth?
A: Call center outsourcing can help small businesses grow by improving customer service and the overall customer experience without detracting from operational resources. Call center agents are trained in customer service and professionalism; they are tasked with boosting customer satisfaction and increasing retention rates. For small businesses that have general staff manning the phones in addition to their other duties, a call center service agent takes the pressure off and frees up staff to focus on other tasks.
Q: What companies outsource call centers?
A: Businesses that commonly outsource customer service to a call center include retail businesses, banks, property management businesses and more. Some businesses might prefer using an answering service, which tends to be more narrowly focused on a specific type of answering, such as for an attorney's office or a medical practice.
The best candidates to work with a call center are businesses that have trouble managing their day-to-day communications with customers or those that have unexpected spikes in call volume. Additionally, some businesses partner with call centers for after-hours support so their customers have a professional representative to reach around the clock. For some businesses, call centers serve as a tool to drum up new leads and business, helping them to grow when they've reached a plateau.