Asking the question "Why Outsource?" would seem to be counter to general economic movements and run against prevailing industry beliefs. Many companies are outsourcing as standard procedure, following industry trends. Yet, the question needs to be asked. After all, call centers have been supporting the needs of customers since the telephone was offered to the public, and cost has always been a factor in the history of call centers.
Even from the beginning, Alexander Graham Bell at the Boston Telephone Dispatch company hired the first female telephone operator, Emma Nutt, on September 1, 1878 for two reasons: lower costs and higher customer satisfaction.
Bell determined that women were better behaved than young men. Women had pleasant voices that customers-most of which were men-preferred. They could also be paid less and supervised more strictly than their male counterparts. Since then, women have obtained equal treatment and equal pay, but the ability to calmly handle customers with courtesy and patience has set standards that have lasted for more than 100 years.
Businesses are still challenged to find ways of minimizing costs and maximizing profits while retaining their customer through service excellence. When making the decision to outsource, businesses are seeking outsourcers with the ability to deliver high customer satisfaction plus cross-sell / up-sell revenue instead of being just a low-cost provider.
Many businesses also realize that they are not good at running their own call centers and are looking for organizations with core capabilities in call center operations and customer service. The top outsourcing companies have tens of thousands of agents in call centers around the world with the best technology available and the ability to leverage their scale and efficiency in ways your company can not duplicate.
Still, you need to know how to project the load for inbound and outbound calls, the life cycle of the product or services, and the level of service to be maintained. This may vary between outsourcing inbound services and outbound services. For outbound call centers, planning the workload is relatively easy. The number of agents will be dependent on the number of calls to be dialed.
In contrast, the rate that inbound calls will be received is harder to predict. You may not get any calls for minutes, and then receive a rush of calls at one time. Thus, forecasting your call patterns is critical to determining whether to outsource or not. If the staffing model is too high, the cost benefits are minimized. If the staffing model is too low, customer service will suffer.
Businesses operating internal call centers should have historical reports with how many calls are received in late August versus those received during the holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The same reports should tell you how many calls are received Monday versus Thursday, or even for specific times of the day. Analyzing the data should reveal patterns that can be used for forecasting, as long as factors that could alter the patterns are taken into consideration.
Your forecast may improve over time, but it is impossible to accurately predict how many calls you will receive at specific times, days, or seasons. The only fact you can count on is that call flow will not be even. From time to time, agents will be idle. At other times, callers will be waiting for the next available agent.
So why ask if you should outsource? The answer depends on establishing the expectations of how an outsourcing company will handle your calls. There are many variations on outsourcing with no off-the-shelf solutions. Each solution depends on your business expectations, goals, and objectives. Moreover, you need to be sure your unique needs will be met and your outsourcing company is capable of meeting your expectations for cost and customer service.
(c) 2011 Geoffrey Best.