Despite the fact that many companies are shifting their customer service centers overseas, it’s imperative for call center quality that customers can understand the reps – or risk losing customers. There’s always a trade-off, a balancing act between cost and quality. Too often, overseas call centers do not have quality control, proper training, or management held to the customer service standards of the United States. Choosing a contact center in the U.S., close to home, is one of the high-percentage approaches to ensuring your customers a more personal, clearly understood voice of your company – more likely to result in highly qualified leads, versus “don’t call me; I’ll call you.”
One of the most important things to look for in a call center quality, even those based in the United States, is one that will provide their operators with knowledge of your company culture, practices, and values. Because some call center operators are outsourced or offshore employees, they may not relate to cultural differences or understand your company practices or processes. Therefore, it’s imperative that your hires dedicate themselves to call center quality by learning your company’s products and services, and especially the ability to give your customers the positive experience they expect.
Although most Business Process Outsourced (BPO) call centers maintain a workforce of unskilled and/or entry-level positions, some U.S. based contact centers hire managers who have 20 or more years of experience managing high-volume financial, IT, customer service, and sales support. Exceptional managers on the floor can monitor scripts, down time, individual productivity, and incentives for their customer service representatives to continue stretching their goals. An experienced operator is not likely do deliver a highly qualified lead, which is why the most successful BPO call centers strike the balance between challenge and rewards – the end result being more sales to the clients. A excellent call center operator should be able to resolve customer concerns, answer their questions and provide them with exceptional service. Go to the facility. Watch the operators in action. Listen to the scripts. Analyze the recordings. Are the reps making customers feel special, or simply like just one more consumer?
Speaking to Humans
Although some companies began moving their call centers overseas a few years ago, others chose to begin using automated routing systems where customers pressed specific keypad numbers to reach the proper employee. This practice still goes on today, and it’s up to you whether or not you want you customers to be welcomed by a courteous voice, or by an automated almost-English-speaking robot. The machine versus human debate may depend on the particular industry involved, but it’s uncommon for anyone to enjoy plucking away at a maze of key options to reach a human being – let alone the right human being. Companies must decide if they want to take an high-priced risk adding an expensive auto-routing system to their customer operations, or train knowledgeable call center reps to welcome them with a trusting voice.
Better Customer Service
“Customer experience” is remembered. How many times have you shared stories about getting put on hold, then being transferred, then losing the connection … then finally giving up? Live chat services on websites are often no better; it’s often the same representative, just in a different medium. It’s certainly no substitute for a warm, friendly voice. On the other hand, when your call is answered quickly and in a familiar voice, you’re more likely to feel like an individual, not simply another “consumer.” Which customer is a company more likely to keep … the person on hold, navigating time-consuming recorded instructions, or the customer welcomed in a clear voice, with little wait, and quick resolution to their needs? In a recent survey by Call Center Week (see infographic on this page), top employees at 1600 call centers said “customer satisfaction” was their number one priority. Now, whether all of these call centers actually achieve that goal is another story – and one reason we hope this article will encourage to “be nosy,” ask questions, listen to the reps … what do other companies say about the call center’s success?
Maintain Control of Business Operations & Property
One unwise reason to replace a call center with an overseas contractor is that you’re giving away control of your business operations, customer-facing voice, and potentially proprietary information. Because other countries have different laws related to trade secrets and because different cultures have different methods for handling complaints, it may be more difficult to monitor how well customer complaints or questions are being handled. In addition, placing your company information in the hands of an offshore service provider expose your trade secrets, exposing you to foul play. In a 2012 report by the National Security Agency, it was estimated that businesses lose $334 billion per year due to trade secret theft (note: full details in PDF). Not only are you putting customer services at risk, you may also lose possession of goods or services your company has developed.
Call Center Quality Customization
Another reason you can’t replace a call center with auto-routing software is because they rarely allow for customization. Too often, consumers become frustrated when their options do not match the question they may have. In some cases, they may hang up and dial a competitor who has a friendly, human voice on the other end of the phone and that competitor will get the business rather than your company. A call center can be as basic as you need with only voice support or you can choose a service that offers chat, email, social media, fax and voice mail as well. Because some call centers operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week, you can even customize the hours your calls will be answered, providing even more service to your customers.
Handle Overflow Call Volume
Almost every business has peak seasons when their phones are busier than others. During those times, staff can become overloaded and stressed to the point they are not providing the customer service you want your clients to get. Choosing a call center during peak season to augment your current staff sounds like a cost – but after you do the math, you may find that overstressed employees are not increasing your sales – and more importantly, discouraging repeat business. If you want to provide exceptional customer service and create highly qualified leads, a call center may be the answer. Be sure to choose a call center that will train their employees in your company values and culture while also providing the same quality control that you expect of your own staff. A call center owned and operated in the United States will provide you with local training, continual script monitoring and will prevent your customers from an endless stream of redirects, machine versus human, or long waiting periods as they seek answers to their questions.
U.S. Based Call Centers Increasing
Many times, when people think of call centers, they think of large, faceless companies based in the Philippines or India. Too often, the employees at the call centers have difficulty speaking and understanding the English language, which frustrates many customers who are seeking that trusting voice on the other end of the phone. However, according to the National Association of Call Centers, the number of call centers in the United States, which is around 66,000 right now, is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. In 2013, General Motors closed a call center in Buenos Aires and moved it to a location within the United States. GM spokespeople say that this places those who answer their customer service calls closer to engineers and top leaders. In most cases, only companies with low-price, low-margin items are still using overseas call centers while companies that highly value their customers are returning those jobs to the United States. Customer dissatisfaction does not drive sales.