Customer service can often be one of the most difficult and frustrating tasks in a business. As a company or organization grows, there are obviously more customers to deal with, meaning more demands, more queries, and more complaints. Small companies can also feel overwhelmed by the task of having to engage with customers and guide them through small, basic steps every time.
As a result of these pressures, many companies are turning towards outsourcing their call centers. These remote call center agents can be working from home or gathered in one place.
Distributing the responsibilities of a call center can be beneficial to the company in many ways. The business only pays exactly as needed which mean that they can fix the payment according to the number of calls the remote agents take. Obviously, remote call center agents also require less overhead investment and almost zero additional equipment.
Just like in hiring any other remote workers, the case of remote call center agents also has its downsides.
Read on to find the pros and cons of this kind of outsourcing:
1. They are cost-effective
There is no doubt that hiring remote agents significantly saves your time and costs. You don’t have to spend money on IT equipment since the remote agents would already have their own. Since there is no equipment that the company provides to these workers, it also saves them from incurring the maintenance costs. So if anything needs a repair, it would be dealt by the workers themselves.
Additionally, renting or setting aside a room for a call center is also not necessary when you hire remote call center agents. All these savings could then be put to more practical use, such as reinvestment or hiring better, experienced, and quality agents. Small private companies would particularly benefit from these savings.
2. You don’t have to pay them during off season
During certain times of the year, business tends to be booming and the role of call center agents become even crucial. At other times, the phone lines might be silent due to low sales or low buying activities of the customers.
However, the call center agents hired on a contractual basis will have to be paid anyway, resulting in a loss to the company. Remote agents, however, can be recruited on a pay-per-call basis or according to the schedule of peak and low seasons. This will ensure that the call centers can handle peak volumes of calls and also night, weekend and holiday calls without any extra payment.
3. You have more choices in terms of labor
Telecommuting means that employers can pick from a much larger bunch of applicants than what they would select from regular candidates This adds more competition between the available workforce, lowering the labor rates and bringing a mix of skilled people.
With remote call center agents, a business doesn’t have to be limited to their immediate locations which may not have a high level of quality applicants. Remote outsourcing means that a business can even reach out to labor in other countries which could be much cheaper than what is available locally. Many call centers for American businesses are located in India for this very reason.
4. You contribute to a social cause
Physical call centers require not only the financial investment but they also tend to have a heavy carbon footprint. As more and more companies are getting making efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, having a regular call center could put a question to your social responsibility.
When you allow remote agents to work from their own locations, their travel costs are immensely reduced along with the gas emissions that would have come from their means of transport. This approach of running a business not only saves the environment but also earns the business the grants and subsidies in some countries.
5. You are able to keep your in-house employees motivated
A business might have problems when telling its in-house call center agents that they have to stay longer and work difficult shifts due to changes in demand. This can happen around peak sales times such as the holidays, Black Friday, or during the summer.
Employees may have been informed of the possibility of these changes but they could feel miserable at the shift in their routines and many of them may not be able to handle it. By hiring a few additional remote call center agents, the extra work can be completed and you can keep the spirits high of the employees. This makes for a better, happier, and hence a more hardworking team.
6. Staffing issues are eliminated
There are certain companies that provide the service of remote call center agents. When a business or organization wants to hire such agents, they usually get in touch with these companies rather than seeking out the workers directly.
This system is highly beneficial for the ventures who want to hire remote agents. The companies providing the labor is the one that interviews the employees, trains them, and schedules their shifts and generally does all the management work involved in maintaining a workforce.
Not only does the hiring party cut down on the time, effort and costs of hiring a workforce for their call centers, it also does away with the stress of managing the schedules of more employees than it already is.
For example, if a remote call center agent is ill or is otherwise unable to come into work, the hiring company that is paying for the remote labor would probably not be affected. The company that provides the remote worker service would also be responsible for substituting the missed work for that period of time.
7. You are free from the hassles of managing an entire team
Unlike in-house call center agents, running a team of remote call center agents is much easier and manageable. This is because you don’t have to dedicate a big chunk of your time in managing and supervising your team.
Similarly, you don’t have to spend hours on solving the creative and technical problems of your team. All these perks of remote call center agents make it even a more viable idea to run a business.
8. You can precisely meet the requirements of your niche audience
Hiring a team of remote call center agents provides you an opportunity to diversify your business, especially when you are outsourcing a third-party business from one of your target markets. In this way, you are not only able to bring more variety in your services but also cater specifically to needs of your customers.
9. You can save money on currency value
Hiring an outsourcing service from a different region is always beneficial, particularly when you are operating from a costly American market. No wonder so many American companies are hiring South Asian companies to outsource call relationship management services. This saves them from hiring a local vendor service that charges twice or thrice more than what they spend on outsourcing from an offshore company due to the difference in currency value.
10. You can get the cream of the crop
Being an American business, you can get the best grain of remote call center agents if you are outsourcing a team from a different country. For many Asians, working in America is like a dream, so they will give their best shot if they get a chance to serve the American company even when they are working from their home country.
In other words, if you outsource a team of call center agents from a different region, you’re likely to get the best talent who will work hard for your company in the hope of getting a work permit to their dream country.
1. You have to supply specialized equipment of software
In some companies, the remote call center agents may require special equipment, softwares, or even Internet access which the company has to provide them in such situations, there is no choice but to bear these costs if remote workers are to be hired.
These costs are significantly higher than what the company bears when they employ in-house call center agents since the resources can be shared between agents. With remote employees, however, you cannot do this.
2. You have security issues
When a business has a centralized model for a call center, all the workstations related to it are linked to one central access point, making security comparatively easier. With the distributed model that comes with outsourcing, however, there are computers all over the world that have a connection to potentially sensitive information about the business or company. Call center software security could be embedded, but it can’t be as strong as when all the workstations are in one location and directly controlled by the company authorities.
Thus, if a company has especially sensitive data, they should severely reconsider hiring remote call center agents.
3. You are unable to monitor remote workers
Remote call agents can’t be checked randomly unless one listens to their calls. Alternatively, recordings could be checked after the calls have been made. This makes the process of the problem identification a slower process.
Besides, the customers themselves can also complain about a certain remote agent. By the time the problem is diagnosed, a lot of damage might already have been done.
4. They lack a sense of belonging
In any business, a sense of unity and team spirit are the core elements of success. If employees feel like they are part of a huge extended family when they go to work, they will be all the more motivated to give their best.
Unfortunately, remote workers don’t feel part of a camaraderie and oneness that comes with working with actual people in a team which affects their ability to give the best shot in their job role. Not only will this waste their talents, it will also deprive the employer of utilizing his or her employees to their maximum potential.
5. Lack of customer satisfaction
Studies have shown that the businesses that hire offshore call center services actually decrease their quality of customer experience. It is difficult to keep tabs on the performance of remote call center workers as they receive millions of calls every day. This could lead to cases when customers are not satisfied with services of call center agents.
Sometimes, it’s not that the agents themselves are lazy, rude or unskilled but there are language and cultural barriers that don’t allow them to fully understand the problems of the customers. Lack of a proper accent along with other linguistic factors could all be reasons for this.
Additionally, the remote agents could simply not have enough knowledge about the company they are working for. This would lead to a lack of dedication which would show in their services.
6. The remote workers are difficult to coach or train
Even if your remote call center agents are skilled at their jobs, new technology, requirements, software or protocol has to be learned by them from time to time. In order to provide training, you need to take out the extra time to provide online courses to remote agents in order to keep them updated about new developments.
Such form of training can be expensive and inconvenient with several sessions having to be provided if remote workers are scattered all over the globe across different time zones. With a centralized model, the workers would simply be given some training on the spot. Remote workers, at the very least, would need a video from someone in a top management training position which would require extra time, money, and effort.
7. The remote workers have less familiarity with work culture of the organization
Additionally, the remote agents could simply not have enough knowledge about the company they are working for. This would lead to a lack of dedication which would show in their services. Remote call center agents could be working for one company this week, and another the next. There is also an increased chance that the agents would move on to another job just as the hiring company had trained him in the basics.
If not moving on, then a remote worker would certainly not feel any loyalty, dedication, or obligation to the company who is paying for his services. It’s simply a ‘give and take’ situation there; there’s no building of an employer-employee relationship.
Thus, there is also very little extra effort put into the work, which is understandable. After all, why should anyone go out of their way to provide more than what they’re being paid for?
8. There are communication hurdles
When all your call center agents are working within a specified location, then they can communicate important updates to each other as well as to the other departments of the company. When call centers are outsourced, however, the agents working for one company could be located thousands of miles from each other and have no means to communicate with their team or the other departments.
This lack of communication leads to several problems. First, the company who has outsourced its call center would have to oversee the updating of each department and each individual remote agent working for them. Secondly, since the data has to be repeated for every sector, there is more time and effort spent in that area.
A company would thus have to consider the costs and benefits involved in outsourcing their call center agents, as when outsourcing any other task. Does this communication decline outweigh the benefit of a lower cost per agent? Or are the costs of updating other departments about call center-related data more than the real estate costs saved by an outsourcing decision?
The answers to these questions would be important factors in making the final decision about outsourcing call center agents or not.
9. There are possible hidden costs
There are several costs lurking everywhere when it comes to outsourcing any kind of employee. Especially when the operations goes international, as it usually does with remote call center agents, international law comes into play.
Hence, a lawyer who is well versed in this area must be hired separately. Just like equipment cannot be used by multiple agents while outsourcing, the usual company lawyer would probably not be of use in cases like these.
If customers are lost due to the low quality of customer service as described in one of the points above, this is another cost that a business might have to suffer. Additionally, there would be the cost of attracting these customers again and providing them benefits to make up for poor service.
All these hidden costs should also be taken into account and prepared for before hiring remote call center agents. Prevention is better than cure, so it would be well to train the remote agents beforehand to eliminate the risks involved in sub-quality customer support and service.
10. Lack of unity and spirit
In the most successful businesses, a sense of team unity, community, and spirit are important concerns. If employees feel like they are part of a huge extended family when they go to work, they will be all the more motivated to give their best. Unfortunately, remote workers don’t get the sense of camaraderie and oneness that comes with working with actual people in a team. This can result in the remote workers, including call center agents, giving much less than their true potential.
Not only will this waste their talents, it will also deprive employers of utilizing the total range of talents they have at their disposal.
Browser-based call center software: An alternative method to manage remote call center agents
On a brighter note, there is now such a thing as browser-based call center software. With this, a business could hire and maintain a group of workers, making a global call center. These agents can work from their homes, undergo training online, and learn this software in a matter of minutes. The advantages of such a system are listed below:
This would give the employers all the benefits of remote call-center agents, such as a larger selection of applicants, flexible capacity, and cost-effectiveness. Agents can also be selected according to the culture, language, communication skills, and any other factor that the company deems essential for attracting and serving customers.
By expanding teams globally, the work quality would also go through the roof. The remote workers would be dedicated to your company and also be satisfied as they are allowed to work from the comfort of their homes.
A browser-based call center would also allow managers to directly supervise the call center workforce. They can ask their workers for feedback as well as the customers they are dealing with.
Managers can even use the browser-based software to conduct random listening in on live calls and also train the agents through a feature called whisper coaching. Thus, the agent would learn his job on the spot, mistakes could be immediately rectified, and the customer wouldn’t be put out.
As for communication problems, this call-center software would also allow the whole team to view real-time updates. Automated tasks, helpdesk software, and integrated CRM (Customer relationship management) are just more of the many features which can keep the whole company working as one unified entity.
Real-time and historical reporting can keep track of agent performance. With technology such as IVR (Interactive voice response), skills-based routing and call queues, managers can also make sure that the correct agent picks up the call each time.
There are definite advantages to hiring remote workers, especially for such monotonous tasks as those of a call center. However, the potential risks and downsides of this outsourcing can greatly outweigh the savings and efficiency.
The many cons of such form of call center agents are exactly why a huge company like Dell has done away with call center outsourcing. However, the kind of company and its requirements need to be taken into account before making the deacons to hire remote call center agents or not.
About the Author:
Jessica Barden is an academic writer at an essay writing service and a student of business management. She understands the ins and outs of running a business and which is why he writes mostly on corporate topics.
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.