Looking to outsource call center operations?
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about BPO call centers, their benefits, and their drawbacks. We’ll also show you how to outsource call center operations for your business process.
Let’s get started.
What is a BPO call center?
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is the process of delegating non-core business activities to a third-party BPO vendor. Since you no longer have to manage these non-core activities, you have more resources to focus on your core business operations.
Call center business process outsourcing is the process of outsourcing your outbound and inbound calls as well as other activities related to sales and marketing.
For example, E-commerce companies selling products like smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc., can outsource their inbound call center to a BPO vendor.
BPO agents can handle all customer communications tasks like providing pre-sale and after-sales services and responding to customer complaints.
In addition to making and receiving calls, BPO call center activities include:
- Data entry and other back-end work.
- Help desk customer service.
- Virtual front office and back office activities.
- Technical support.
- Market research.
Today, most call centers use automated AI-based tools and software such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Robotic Process Automation to perform repetitive tasks. These tools help simplify tasks and reduce the chances of human error.
For example, call centers use chatbots to respond to customer queries on webchat, which quickens and improves the customer service experience.
Where do you outsource to?
Offshore outsourcing involves hiring third-party vendors to conduct business operations from a different country. It’s especially popular to offshore to low-cost regions with lower wages, cheaper rent, and reduced setup costs.
For example, countries like the Philippines, Mexico, and Malaysia are great options for offshore outsourcing since they give you quality talent at a fraction of the cost as compared to countries like the US or UK.
However, outsourcing to foreign countries isn’t your only option.
Some companies even outsource to a local third-party service provider in their own county. However, their cost savings would usually be lower. Some companies even outsource to independent freelancers or startups to further reduce costs.
How is BPO different from a call center?
Call centers specialize in operations related to telecommunications. On the other hand, a BPO company undertakes a wide range of services that are not restricted to communication.
While call centers are a type of BPO, a BPO cannot be considered a call center because BPOs are responsible for providing support services that go beyond making and receiving calls.
These services include:
- Call and email support.
- IT services.
- Web development.
- Software development.
BPO call center operation firms offer front-office and back-office assistance to provide the best customer experience.
Besides customer support, BPO call centers can provide telemarketing, digital marketing, and technical support services.
Now that this distinction is clear, here’s a breakdown of the different types of call centers you can outsource to:
3 types of BPO call center outsourcing
There are three types of business processing outsourcing call centers. Here’s a closer look at each one to help you determine which one suits you best:
1. Inbound call center outsourcing
An inbound call center doesn’t make any telephone calls to customers. Instead, they answer incoming calls.
Inbound call center outsourcing services include:
- Answering support questions: Inbound call centers have teams of agents dedicated to inbound calls related to customer support and other forms of customer interaction. They provide 24/7 support services such as listening to customer complaints and providing solutions to their problems or answering customer queries. They can also answer pre and post-sale queries.
- Helping in order processing: These services are helpful for customers who prefer to make purchases through a phone call. BPO agents can handle the entire process, saving time and money. They also help process international orders regardless of time zones to improve customer experience.
- Handling dispatch calls: Dispatch agents answer customer calls when they request services or technical support. For example, if a taxi company receives a booking request, the dispatch agent receiving the call can notify the driver to provide the service.
BPO call centers can also operate at odd hours to ensure no customer calls or service requests are ignored.
You can outsource your activities to an inbound call center if you run a business that needs a customer care hotline or information center.
2. Outbound call center outsourcing
Outbound call center outsourcing services include:
- Handling telemarketing operations: Telemarketing is a cost-effective direct marketing strategy that involves selling your products and services over a phone call. With the help of business processing outsourcing, companies can reach out to a wider audience and generate new leads that can increase the ROI of their marketing efforts.
- Doing telesales: Telesales involves closing deals over a phone call. BPO call centers can help companies reach out to a potential customer or follow up with leads in their pipeline. BPO agents are skilled in cold calling, and this helps them to generate more sales in less time while improving customer experience.
- Performing market research: Many businesses utilize the services of an outbound call center to conduct market research through over-the-phone surveys and gather important customer data. This helps in customer relationship management and is a cost-effective way to obtain customer feedback.
3. Virtual center outsourcing
Virtual call centers also handle customer communications, such as incoming and outgoing calls. The main difference between this and the other types of call centers is that here, agents work remotely and can make or receive calls to an existing or potential customer from anywhere.
Virtual call center employees are geographically dispersed and may work from home or remote offices rather than working from workstations at a fixed location. This allows them to work flexibly and saves set-up and overhead costs.
Virtual call center outsourcing services include:
- Handling inbound and outbound calls.
- Customer interaction and support services.
- Telemarketing and sales.
Hiring a virtual call center service is a great option if your company needs both inbound and outbound call assistance. For example, use a virtual call center when you need a customer care helpline for customer support services and cold calling for sales.
Let’s have a look at some benefits call center outsourcing has to offer.
3 benefits of outsourcing your call center
Here are a few reasons why you should consider outsourcing your call center service:
1. Reduced costs
Running an in-house call center isn’t cheap.
You’ll have to handle:
- Setup costs (costs incurred to set up your call center) differ depending on the region your operations are based in and the services you offer.)
- Overheads (expenses incurred while carrying out the business process; for example, call center software, rent, utilities, administrative costs, etc.)
- Training costs.
Why spend on all of that when you can outsource your call center activities?
Here’s how it saves you money:
- No setup costs since you outsource your contact center activities to an established agency.
- No overhead costs for call center software, office space, electricity, etc., since you’re not operating the center yourself.
- No training costs as you won’t have to provide any training to the agents.
- Most call center BPO vendors are based in foreign countries with lower wages – this can also cut down your spending.
2. Save time on recruiting and running a call center
Everyone knows how difficult recruiting is.
It’s time-consuming and takes valuable resources away from your core activities.
Plus, when you add the time you spend on training and managing new hires, you won’t find the time to do anything else!
Why go through all this trouble yourself when BPO call center vendors can handle it for you?
Whether it’s hiring, training, or managing agents – your BPO vendor handles it all.
Worried that the agents aren’t qualified?
Most reputable contact center vendors are cautious of whom they hire, and you’ll only be working with the best!
3. Easily expand across international borders
Another problem with running an in-house call center is that you’re geographically limited.
If you’re a global company, you’ll need to handle incoming calls round the clock and have your local call center operate 24×7 to provide customer support services.
Since you can’t do that – why not simply outsource your call activities?
Most call center BPO vendors have agents and sub-BPO centers worldwide. This helps them manage your telephone calls round-the-clock without overworking their agents.
Now that you know the benefits, let’s look at some challenges you might face while outsourcing your call center.
3 risks in outsourcing your call center
While business process outsourcing is cost-effective and convenient, it has a few limitations. Here’s a closer look at what they are:
1. Communication and fluency issues
When you run an in-house call center, you can hire agents with strong communication skills that meet your company’s standards to deal with customers.
For example, if you’re hiring in the United States, all your agents will be familiar with the nuances of American English.
However, once you outsource your call center operation, you won’t be in charge of employee onboarding. This means you won’t know how effective your agents are in communicating and providing customer support services to the callers.
A foreign call center agent may have trouble communicating with the customer as they may not be fluent in your preferred language. While they can follow a script, they may not understand subtle nuances or slang as the conversation moves along. This can make it difficult to communicate effectively and impact the overall customer experience.
Since business process outsourcing involves dealing with international clients, often from English-speaking countries, it is important for the center managers to ensure their agents have a certain level of English fluency.
Fortunately, BPO call center agents are usually multilingual and can provide customer support services in many languages.
2. An increased risk of confusion
Keeping your business process in-house can be costly, but it ensures your employees are dedicated to your business. As their sole focus is your company, they’ll know everything about your products and offerings.
However, BPO call center vendors aren’t employees of your business, and your company isn’t the only one they handle. This means your outsourced call center agents could handle many different companies, services, and products daily.
While working for multiple companies that sell products and services similar to your business, call center agents have to assist a large number of customers every day. This can pose serious problems for your call center services because the agents can confuse the features and prices offered by your company with those offered by other companies.
Of course, you can have a team dedicated to your business, but this is possible only if you have a high budget.
3. Difficult to monitor and control quality
A 2022 Zendesk study shows that 61% of customers stop dealing with a business due to poor customer experience.
That’s a loss of more than half your customers over bad customer service!
Running an in-house call center guards against this, as you can easily monitor your employees’ work to maintain quality assurance.
However, with outsourcing, you lose this ability.
You have limited control over what the agents do because they aren’t your employees. This can result in a dip in quality that can hurt your customer retention rate and customer satisfaction levels.
Poor customer service issues are magnified and can harm your retention metrics when you switch from an in-house call center to a BPO call center. When your customer is used to a certain level of quality, switching to BPO could be jarring enough for them to notice.
This is why most companies use performance monitoring tools like Time Doctor to measure agent performance and the productivity of their outsourced call center operations.
Despite a few risks, call center outsourcing offers definite benefits that allow you to grow your business and improve operational efficiency.
Let’s look at some ways you can successfully outsource your call center activities.
3 ways to outsource your call center activities
Here are the steps you need to follow to outsource your call center activities:
1. Identify your outsourcing needs
The first step in outsourcing your call center activities is zeroing in on your business needs.
Businesses usually outsource inbound call center functions such as customer service and outbound functions like lead generation and cold calling.
Whatever your need is at the time, look for BPO industry vendors that specialize in it. For example, if you’re looking to outsource your marketing research activities, you should choose a vendor that specializes in sales and marketing. It will help effectively build your brand presence across all digital consumer touchpoints to encourage higher marketing-led growth.
Note: Try not to outsource any activities that handle sensitive information like client records and finances unless it’s a well-established BPO service with the right data security procedures. Otherwise, activities like this are best kept in-house to prevent data breaches and legal issues.
2. Find the right service provider
Before you begin with call center outsourcing, you should make a decision about the activities you want to outsource and find a suitable BPO service provider. Here are a few things to consider when you look for a BPO call center vendor:
A. The location
First, decide if you want to outsource to a local or foreign provider.
Foreign BPO call center providers usually offer better rates, but local BPO call centers may be easier to manage and coordinate with.
Want to outsource to foreign countries like the Philippines? Here’s our comprehensive guide on how to do it.
B. The vendor’s specialization
Most companies make the mistake of assuming that all business process outsourcing call centers are the same.
Most call centers specialize in a particular field; only choose one that aligns with your industry and business needs. For example, BPO call centers specializing in handling medical transcription agencies will be better for businesses in the healthcare industry. They may not be the best option for a travel business in need of that kind of customer support.
C. The cost
Deciding on a budget and sticking to it is a core part of outsourcing.
Your budget should be high enough to hire a quality vendor but lower than you would spend on an in-house team. Most BPO call centers charge around $26 -$30 per hour for basic services, but this can go up to anywhere from $35 to $55 for a specialized BPO company.
D. Make it contract-bound
Enter a Service Level Agreement (SLA) contract with your BPO call center outsourcing service provider. This ensures that both parties are on the same page and you receive the same level of service from them as you would expect from an in-house team.
E. Plan your transition phase
When your company already has an in-house call center, it is best to be clear about the expectations from your service provider during and after the transition.
Since transitions can be tricky, it is important to have your team involved in providing the necessary information about your business process to your BPO call center provider.
3. Continuously monitor your vendor’s results
The best way to ensure quality assurance in your call center operations is by consistently monitoring your vendor’s results.
But when your vendor is thousands of miles away, how will you know:
- How long the agents work?
- What tasks they work on?
- How productive are they?
Luckily, performance monitoring tools like Time Doctor can help you determine this.
Time Doctor is a powerful time tracking tool that can help you monitor your BPO call center vendor’s performance. It can track what your outsourced call center agents are working on, how much time they’ve spent on your tasks, and more.
You can easily carry out your BPO center processes by integrating Time Doctor with your existing CRM software (such as Hubspot, Zoho, and other apps) using its powerful Chrome Extension.
Time Doctor can also sync with many project management and accounting tools like Asana and PayPal to create accurate reports for the ease of creating invoices and billing clients.
Let’s take a closer look at how Time Doctor can help you:
1. Simplified time tracking
Time Doctor is a user-friendly time tracking tool that offers manual and automatic time-tracking modes.
To use the manual time tracking mode, agents simply need to
- Add a new task or select an existing one under the relevant project.
- Press ‘Start’ to start tracking time.
- Press ‘Stop’ to stop tracking time when you want to take a break or clock out.
Time Doctor’s time tracking tool can be used to track an agent’s work activities and the projects they work on.
The automatic time-tracking mode runs silently in the background when BPO call center agents start their devices, offering an undisturbed workflow. The app also creates automatic and accurate timesheet reports to track time spent on each project, client, or task.
2. Minimize inactive time with a built-in idle time tracker
Sure, your BPO call center agents can track time for a task, but how do you verify that they’re actually working during that time?
Time Doctor’s built-in idle time tracker monitors keyboard and mouse movements to measure activity levels.
You can set a custom inactivity time limit. If an agent exceeds it, the tool will automatically stop tracking time. This way, employees won’t forget to stop their timers or pass off idle time as productive time.
Note: For privacy reasons, Time Doctor doesn’t track which keys were pressed. It only tracks if any keys were pressed.
3. Manage distractions to help your workers stay focused
You can’t have your BPO call center employees browsing through social media during calls, right?
They need to be entirely focused on helping the customer.
To ensure this, Time Doctor has a built-in web and app usage tracker to track how much time an agent spends on different apps or websites.
Time Doctor lets you set customized productivity ratings for different apps and websites.
You can classify apps and websites as productive or unproductive for specific teams and employees, depending on their tasks and projects.
For example, you can classify social media sites like Facebook and Instagram as productive for BPO agents carrying out social media surveys. But these sites can be unproductive for agents in charge of answering customer calls and handling customer queries.
4. Detailed reports for insights into what the agent is working on
Time Doctor generates multiple detailed reports to analyze agent performance. Here’s a look at what these reports contain:
- Hours tracked report: Shows a breakdown of the time worked by an agent in a day, week, and month.
- Timeline report: Chronological breakdown of the time each agent spent working on a given day.
- Web and app usage report: A breakdown of each app and site accessed by the agent during work hours.
- Activity summary report: Reflects your agent’s active seconds, active minutes, unproductive, or mobile time.
Outsourcing your call center operations is a great way to cut costs and focus on your core business functions. Many firms benefit from BPO call center outsourcing for managing their day-to-day operations.
However, challenges like improper communication and an increased risk of confusion among agents while working for multiple companies can impact your business. That’s why it’s crucial to monitor your BPO call center agent’s performance to ensure they provide quality services.
Time Doctor’s performance management and analytical features can help you with the quality management of your BPO call center operations.
Stay on top of your vendors’ performance and measure the productivity of your call center agent by signing up for the 14-day Time Doctor free trial today!
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.