Myth-Busting: Outsourced Call Centers

The truth about quality and customer service when call centers are outsourced

Outsourced call centers have gotten a bad reputation, and for a good reason. In the early 2000’s, there was a widespread movement to outsource call centers to places like India and the Philippines, with disastrous results.

Yet a quiet revolution has been happening inside of call centers and the companies that use them, as the number of Americans working in one has grown to an eyebrow-raising 5 million people.

“The higher the value of the customer, the more likely the job will be in the U.S.,” Paul Stockford, director of research for the National Association of Call Centers in Hattiesburg, Miss., said. He estimates about 66,000 call centers now exist in the U.S.

Yet 5 major myths still exist when it comes to outsourced call centers, myths with large implications for how companies make some of their most important business decisions.

Myth #1: Outsourced Call Centers Mean Offshore Call Centers

The larger problem isn’t whether or not a call center is outsourced. It’s when a call center is outsourced overseas, to non-native English speakers. This is when customer service plummets.

A study by the CFI Group concluded that when customer service representatives speak clearly, they will retain customers even in the face of major product or service issues 88% of the time. If the customer representative is perceived to not speak clearly, that retention rate plummets to 35%.  Another study found that customers who reach an offshore call center have been proven to defect at 3x the rate of customers who reach a U.S.-based call center.

This is the reason US companies are bringing their call centers back onto US soil. It’s more expensive, but it’s also good for business and supports long-term growth and customer satisfaction.

Myth #2: Consumer Call Centers are Comparable to Business Ones

The differences between B2B call center models and B2C ones are profound. A company using a B2B hotline service will, on average, need to be able to process up to 3% of their total employees per year, far less than the B2C model. Additionally, these callers will be using hotlines and call centers for very specific reasons that can be anticipated and clearly addressed. Because of this, trainings are easier to conduct and quality easier to ensure.

At Convercent, we have a 96% year-over-year customer retention rate based on the high quality of services we provide. Part of this is fully understanding why our clients will be making calls, and ensuring the call center operators speak the lingo of the industry, the business, and the typical concerns. (And for our overseas clients, the language and dialect as well!)

One of our clients with 50,000 employees worldwide launched their multilingual, global hotline with country-specific customizations within 48 hours of contract execution, something directly attributable to the scalability of an outsourced model.

Myth #3: Quality is Better In-House

In-house call centers, especially in the B2B realm, have two big problems: scalability and trainability. If you have a large, in-house call center, it is very hard to scale up or down depending on fluctuations in call volume, since hiring and firing full-time employees carries a large logistical weight.

Some of the biggest consumer-facing companies in the world have some of the largest in-house call centers, and have ranked near the bottom of customer satisfaction with them. This includes Time Warner Cable and Comcast (both of whom, it should be noted, are trying to address this).

In the B2B realm, companies with in-house call centers struggle with high overhead, management headaches, turnover, and a lack of expertise in the call center business.

What makes a call center successful is:

  • How well agents are trained
  • The quality of their work (time to answer, abandon rate, handling time, wait time for translator, speed of dispatched reports)
  • Their ability to offer anonymity while still capturing call data
  • Rate of problem resolution

A high quality center will have low attrition rates, rigorous training, and meticulous performance evaluations designed to create a good experience and an increasingly efficient process. It is, after all, their business.

Myth #4: Call Experience Better In-House

Call center data is vital to understanding what’s happening both within a company and with a company’s customers, but the caller’s experience is also vital for success.

The data gathered by third-party call centers can be fed directly and anonymously into case management software, so that company managers get on-the-ground results concerning call statistics, management of open cases, satisfaction of callers, and other data that allows a compliance officer to focus on bigger and better things.

In the case of investigations, objective third-party monitors have been proven to be a deciding factor in Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission fines and charges.

Outsourced call centers are experts at what they do, which enables us to be experts at what we do. That translates into our clients and their customers and employees getting a great caller experience.

Myth #5: Cost is Better Controlled In-House

This is the easiest myth to dispel. One of the main reasons companies send call centers overseas in the first place is to control costs. In-house call centers are notoriously difficult to manage and expensive to run, and don’t produce higher quality unless you compare them to overseas call centers. A U.S.-based, outsourced call center’s business is managing calls and nothing else.

Overcoming the Myths

In the matrix of costs versus quality, the data shows that in-house call centers can drive up costs while lowering quality, creating a layer of bureaucracy within a company that reacts slowly, trains poorly, has difficulty adjusting to caller volume, and is unable to scale internationally.

Convercent offers comprehensive and integrated compliance management, reporting, and defense for compliance departments who want to become best-in-breed. Our bi-weekly blog offers cutting edge information for compliance professionals.