26 Sep Your Business Needs a Call Center Like a Crop Needs Bees, but How Much Do the Costs Sting?
Like sun and water to a crop, call centers are a necessary part of success providing important data to secure and build business over time. But, how much do call center costs sting?
Call center costs depend on many variables, much like the final cost of a sun-ripened tomato.
Like a farm, labor is the highest cost involved in operating a call center. Many crops are still hand picked by skilled laborers. Similarly, there are customer service issues that require the finesse of a knowledgeable agent. It takes time and money to train quality agents along with benefits, ongoing training and wage increases to keep those sharp agents productive and happy enough to stay.
Highly skilled agents who have amassed years of experience working with customers, learned company policies and products in-depth, and obtained institutional knowledge cost more per hour, but may cost less per call. The number of agents at a call center per call volume and overtime costs are also factors.
Agents perform better when they have manageable call volumes, proper breaks, up-to-date systems and comprehensive managerial support. Management and IT must be included in call center costs. These departments with proper support structures will depend on call center size and complexity. All of these factors impact absenteeism and attrition, which are costly. Absenteeism increases pressure on existing agents and their managers, which snowballs into a hostile workplace, disgruntled employees and unhappy customers.
Just like food costs vary from country to country, the location of a call center factors into labor and other costs. Asian and Latin American based call centers pay less per agent than European and US centers.
US call center jobs have been moving overseas for years. Due to call center closures in the US in 2017 over 18,000 jobs were lost. This is partly due to higher costs of agents and facilities in the US especially compared to India or the Philippines which have large call center industries. Though AI is beginning to bridge this gap making it more cost effective to have a stateside call center, it is still generally cheaper per agent in multiple countries outside the US. That said, language barriers and the problems they create may impact that cost saving significantly. Just like a consumer needs to decide whether getting their produce locally from a farmer’s market is of greater benefit in the long run compared to the cheaper produce that has traveled thousands of miles, each business needs to decide whether in-country support would better suit their needs, goals and preferences.
In-house vs Outsourced
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) for call centers is becoming more and more common as in-house call center prices rise. In-house centers have multiple initial and ongoing costs including:
Outsourced call centers are bundled and ready to go. Pricing is based on the type and volume of calls a business typically receives.
There is more than one way to harvest on a farm from old-fashioned hand picking to various forms of machinery which make harvesting much easier. Similarly, there are numerous tools for smoother call center operation. Though these tools come at a price they also save businesses time and thereby money.
Automated system software identifies the nature of a customer call and forwards to the appropriate department. These tools also provide automated information that would otherwise need to be repeated by an agent on every call. Items like legal disclaimers and policies can be prerecorded ensuring accuracy and consistency. This type of tool helps ease language barriers for a US based company working with an overseas call center.
CSR Management Software
A grocery store needs to maintain inventory levels for their shoppers. Repeat customers feel confident what they need is going to be available when they need it.
Customer service agents need stats to assist them in addressing customer issues effectively. Dashboards that enable ticket creation and follow up, show calls waiting, anticipated wait time, available agents and more are necessary for call center function. Some tools integrate more seamlessly with other beneficial tools like call recording/logging and social media monitoring. Some dashboards are all-inclusive. Comprehensive software packages may be more expensive, but the challenges of integrating multiple pieces of software may not be worth the cost savings.
Call Recording and Logging
The recording and logging of calls provides valuable data to refine processes and improve customer satisfaction and retention. They also provide a record to assist agents and managers with accuracy and adherence to policies.
Social, Video and Chat Interfaces
The food industry has innovated. Hydroponic growing techniques, shelf-stable packaging, hybrid fruits and vegetables, all accommodate the evolving needs of consumers and distribution considerations. In turn, customers connect with businesses via methods more modern than the telephone. Social media channels are one of the fastest growing methods consumers use to engage brands. This saves money as an agent is able to address more than one social post at a time but not more than one phone interaction.
Online chat interfaces are another alternative to a growing populace that spends more time on their computers than talking on the phone. There may be wait time between responses on both sides, but there is also freedom to continue other interactions while waiting, unlike a call.
Video interfaces are a method for engaging customers through educating them about products and walking them through an issue in real time.
Software tools that manage and parse data from these communication channels are a call center cost for businesses that want to stay on top of the technological curve. They provide the broadest opportunity to engage, grow and retain a businesses customer base.
These costs involve the tools and processes that help identify how well each aspect of the business is performing. This data can be used for cost saving measures. The metrics tracked vary depending upon whether it is an inbound or outbound call center and the type of business the center is supporting.
Are you a vegetarian? Vegan? Do you follow a Paleo diet? Do you only buy organic or do you stick with conventional produce for cost, cultural or other reasons? Much like dietary choices are personal so are best practices for your business. What is your company culture? How about your long-term and short-term goals? What is the budget you are currently working with? How do you want your customers to experience your products and support?
In the end, all of these specifics impact what kind of call center experience is the best fit beyond the individual costs.