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The Best Call Center Services for 2020

By
Adam C. Uzialko
,
business.com writer
|
Sep 18, 2019
Home
> Marketing
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Update: We updated this page to include Signius Communications' current pricing.

Customer service is critical to the success of your business, but what happens when you're too busy to handle every communication channel? You can't ignore customer service calls, but you also can't sacrifice operations to answer every phone call. What is your best option if you aren't able to hire in-house customer service staff? It might be time to outsource your customer service operations to a call center.

If you're in the market for call center services but don't know where to start, business.com has you covered. Check out this guide, our best picks and reviews to make an informed decision about which call center is right for you.

Best Picks

Editor's note: Looking for a call center service? We can help you choose the one that's right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

Call center services do more than simply answer phone calls placed to your business. (In fact, some services are rebranding as "contact centers.") Yes, they handle incoming calls for customer service, tech support, and order processing, of course, but many also manage appointment setting, lead generation, and other outbound calling tasks. The best call centers handle email, live chat and social media channels upon request.

Choosing a call center can be difficult: There are dozens of companies to choose from, and you need to evaluate multiple factors, such as price, if you need to sign a contract, the types of services offered, and the quality of its customer care. Making the wrong choice is gambling with your customers' loyalty.

If your business is in a heavily regulated industry, you need a call center that specializes in working with businesses like yours and has the necessary certifications, as well as special training or licensed agents, to provide the support you and your customers need. For example, if your business is a medical practice, you need a service that is HIPAA compliant.  

We want to help you choose the call center that's the best fit for your business. TeleDirect, Five Star Call Centers, Signius Communications and 1-888-GO-ANSWER are our best picks. These companies are U.S.-based and provide both inbound and outbound call services for businesses in multiple industries.

Reviews

Below are all of our reviews for call center services and related categories. Our coverage also includes reviews of the best telemarketing services. See all of our reviews below.

Pricing

Call center services don't typically post their pricing online, because what you pay is determined by the specific services you select and your average monthly call volume.

If your business is highly specialized (or is based in a specialized industry), and you need knowledgeable agents or agents that work exclusively on your account, that also affects your pricing. Inbound services, such as customer service calls and taking orders over the phone, tend to be less expensive than outbound services, such as lead generation calls.

Call center providers use different pricing models. Some charge per call or per minute, while others charge a monthly fee, which may be tied to a certain number of call minutes per month, with a smaller per-minute fee charged for call overages. Others offer pay-as-you-go plans in which you pay an advance and only pay for the call time you use.

As you evaluate services, make sure you understand the pricing model the company uses, how it works, what features or services are included in your plan and what costs extra. For example, if a company charges by the minute, you want to find out if it bills in intervals, such as 1 second, 6 seconds or 12 seconds. You also want to find out if there's a minimum call time and if the agent's post-call actions (such as entering notes about the call into the system or relaying messages) count toward your minutes.

Call center services may charge various fees and upcharges. When you call for price quotes, ask about upfront fees (such as a fee for setting up your account), as well as any recurring and incidental fees (such as overages or holiday rates), that you may be charged. Before selecting a service, read the company's contract so you're aware of all possible fees.

Negotiation Tips

Because you'll most likely be working with a sales agent to design your service plan, you may be able to negotiate pricing, terms or services. Here are some pointers to help you get a good deal.

First, figure out what you need. Before you call any companies for quotes, determine your average monthly call volume and exactly what you need the call center to do so you get accurate quotes.

Get a ballpark idea of how much call center services cost. Although most companies don't post their pricing online, some do. Examine pricing tiers, fees and included services, then consider which one best aligns with your business. Use this information as a gauge as you evaluate additional companies.

Gather price quotes from at least three companies. In addition to monthly rates, ask how much it costs to get set up, how long the contract is, what fees you'll pay and if there are monthly minimums. Ask if the company is running any specials or promotions. Finally, ask the sales agent to email you a quote or bid and a contract to review.

Compare rates, fees, contract terms and services. Of the companies on your short list, read the contract and talk with the sales rep. Ask about any fees you don't understand or that weren't disclosed in the quote. If you were quoted lower rates, fewer fees, better terms or bonus services elsewhere, ask if the service you'd like to use will match them.

Finally, use the free trial period to ensure the service will truly help your business. During the trial, make several test calls so you experience the call center's services firsthand. If there are issues, work with your sales rep or the customer service team to get them corrected and evaluate whether the company is easy to work with. If you're pleased with the trial and satisfied that you're getting a good value, go ahead and sign up. Otherwise, consider the next company on your list.

Our Methodology

We take the process of recommending vendors seriously; we invested substantial time into researching various call center services and their features. We gave each company equal consideration.  

We began our research by coming up with a comprehensive list of vendors that offer call center services. We searched the web and consulted other lists and reviews of the most popular vendors. We ended up with a list of 50 call center services to examine further. 

From there, we visited the websites of each vendor to compare pricing and features. We looked at all the details, including inbound services, outbound services, invoice requirements, call minimums and additional features. We used this information to narrow down our field of candidates to several finalists.  

Next, we contacted all the services we were considering, posing as a customer. We wanted to go beyond the marketing rhetoric and get a feel for how the companies handle actual customer interactions. We asked each customer service rep the same set of questions about features, options and pricing, and we recorded our observations about the experience. Company representatives who were friendly and forthcoming received higher marks, and those who were less than helpful or too pushy received a lower score. 

Our decision regarding which call centers were the best was based on several factors, including which ones offered the best balance of affordability, useful features and how professional and helpful the services' representatives were.

Best Call Center Services

Below are the criteria we looked for when evaluating call center services. Customer support is critical, because call center representatives are ambassadors for your company, and their interactions with your customers directly affect your business.

Services offered. The best call center companies provide several types of inbound and outbound calling services. If you need help reaching customers, look closely at the call center's outbound calling services. Many companies assist with lead generation, market research, seminar and event registration.

However, inbound calling services are critical, too. Some popular inbound calling services handle customer assistance and technical support for a program or software. Not every call center offers inbound services, but companies that offer customer and technical support are worth checking out.

Campaign success features. There are many different aspects of call center services that influence your goals and campaign. Look for a call center solution located in the U.S. Many call center services are located overseas and hire employees for whom English is a second language. This may be an issue if your customers have a difficult time understanding and communicating with representatives, which can cost your business money. Every company on our list is based in the U.S. and employs native English speakers.

Another tool that can contribute to a successful campaign is script development. The best call center services help you create the perfect script that the service's representatives follow when speaking with your customers. This preparation helps call center reps provide knowledgeable, professional customer service to your clients. It also ensures that the representatives deliver consistent information, which is important for marketing and sales.  

Reporting. As with any type of marketing campaign, it's important to track the results of your efforts to measure your progress. Many call centers provide call completion and refusal reports.

A call completion report shows how many agents were able to complete the entire script with a customer before the call ended. A refusal report shows the number of agents who were not able to complete the script or how many individuals declined to make a purchase or take the survey. Many companies offer customizable reporting options, so you can receive key statistics on the progress of your campaigns.

The frequency of reports is another important factor, especially if you are contracting with a call center on a time-sensitive campaign. Many call center companies give you the option of receiving daily reports so you stay abreast of your campaign.

Help and support. The support you receive from a call center service is critical. After all, call centers interact with your customers, and you want them to receive the best assistance possible.

If you have a question or problem, it's critical that you're able to reach the call center service quickly and easily. All of the services on our list provide telephone and email support, and a few provide live chat. In addition, many call center services have online resources, such as FAQs and articles, for finding answers on your own.

Which Call Center Service Is Right for You

Your business type and calling needs ultimately determine which service provider is right for you. Some issues to consider, however, are how many outbound calls you want the service to make, or the volume of inbound calls the service can expect.

If you're not seeking an outbound call solution, you may want to partner with a service that operates as a call center for your company and takes incoming calls from customers. Or perhaps you need a service that actively contacts customers and follows up on leads.

In addition to understanding the needs and goals of your business, consider the following:

Services. Services you may want to consider include business-to-business calls, lead generation and market research. Each of these are imperative for running a successful call center campaign that can grow your business – all of the companies on our lineup offer them.

Business-to-business calls help you develop relationships with new clients, including other businesses. Lead generation is important, because it builds leads for your company and follows up with potential customers to convert them into sales. By outsourcing your business-to-business calls and lead generation, you can save your in-office staff valuable time so they can focus on other aspects of your company's daily operations.

Market research is another valuable practice that can save you money when it's outsourced correctly. A call center service will conduct surveys of your target audience and gather data for you.

Contracts. Some call center services have minimum requirements you must meet for each campaign. These requirements can include a minimum time commitment as well as a minimum number of calling hours within a defined time frame.

You want to carefully review and consider the contract before signing on with a call center solution. Some companies may not require a long-term contract but, instead, require a minimum number of calling hours. For example, you might have to agree to at least 100 hours of representatives interacting with your customers.

Before agreeing to engage with any call center service, understand the requirements. If you fail to meet them or break your contract early, you could be charged a fee or for the hours remaining in your contract, even if you have not used them.

 

 

Issues to Consider

Call centers can be great resources, but they're not always necessary. Use our checklist below to determine whether you need a call center service. If several of the statements below are true, it might be worth trying a call center solution.

  • My employees and I spend too much time answering phone calls.
  • My company is losing sales because we don't have time to follow up on leads.
  • I don't have time to run my business because I am answering customer questions.
  • We miss many customer calls because the phone lines are busy.
  • It takes my team longer than 24 hours to return customer phone calls because there's so much to do.
  • We have a hard time keeping track of appointments.
  • My team doesn't have time to call and remind clients about upcoming appointments.
  • Several of our customers speak languages other than English, but none of my staff can assist them.
  • I know we need help, but I don't think we have enough work to hire a full-time receptionist to answer phones.
  • Customers often call asking for help with placing their orders, and we don't have the extra time to guide them through ordering processes.
  • We want to improve our customer service, but we don't currently have the resources to do so.
  • Our customers call at all hours, and we can't always answer the phones when our clientele needs us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do call centers work?

A: The companies we reviewed are U.S.-based and available 24/7. All of them have at least some 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 simply take messages from inbound calls or transfer calls to you, they can set appointments and help with order processing, or you can have the call center agents handle technical calls following a custom script about your business and its products or services. Some companies charge an extra fee 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: What do call centers cost?

A: Call centers vary significantly in their cost from company to company. While many advertise per-minute rates, it's important to realize more goes into pricing than just that rate alone. Many call centers also 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.

Be sure to request a breakdown in writing of every charge you will incur before partnering with a call center. 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 and lead generation, as well as market research, such as polls and surveys.

Rather than helping its business clients retain customers or converting new ones, 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 associated with larger companies and pricier campaigns

Call Centers and Answering Services Infographic

Understanding Call Centers and Answering Services
Credit: Grant Reinero

Common Call Center Service Questions & Answers

Have a call center service question of your own?
Ask an Expert

How do I get genuine campaigns for a call center?

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If you offer benefits over a company hiring their own inbound agents, what you could do is look for companies that are hiring full-time inbound agents, maybe use Craigslist, Monster.com, Dice.com ... and newspaper classifieds. Once you find those that are seeking inbound agents, approach them by phone, email, in-person or by sending a brochure outlining why they could use you, rather than internally staffing their company.

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Hi Denise, I am the kind of person that would forget their head if it weren't sewn on. So I know exactly what your client is experiencing. In regards to etiquette, I would suggest he refrain from stating that he was "too busy" to return a call. That immediately implies that the caller is of no importance to him. Instead, he should apologize for not calling sooner. In regards to systems being put in place, this is paramount. If your client is lacking organizational skills, there are...

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Absolutely. Like most things in life, your success will depend on several factors. Having a firm, but a flexible process. Phone, email, etc... Knowing your prospects inside and out. In other words, do your homework. Have a clear, engaging, and consistent message. Time of day and week can depend on the verticals you are calling. I like early mornings and late in the day. Always get the next action. When speaking to a "gate-keeper", don't make it a sales call. For example, you want to schedule an...

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Insight allow you to see what types of content your fans like. You can then post more of it and their experience will be improved. You can also view any unlikes, see if they occurred after a certain type of post and rework your strategy. If you have multiple unlikes/unfollows after a certain post, review the content and see if you can pinpoint what would cause a fan to want to leave.

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Hi Georgia, As it looks like you're finding out, making it easy doesn't always mean that a customer will actually leave feedback. What I call "natural" feedback is the type that tends to be given when something really does not meet a customer's expectations/is really bad, or it was so amazing that they're inspired to leave feedback. If you want to coax everyone else to leave some feedback, try incentivising it. For example, do the feedback cards offer the customer anything for their...

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This is a very specific question and I guess that seasoned developers who have worked with AI can give you a competent answer and advise you on the implementation of AI for call-center services. There is a number of companies in the USA, Europe offering AI services represented on clutch.co/developers/artificial-intelligence.

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