Call center outsourcing being one of the top business trends for quite some time now, questions are bound to arise whether or not the outsourcing sector underwent any change. The truth is, a lot has changed here and changed for the good. From the outsourcing destinations to the technologies used for serving clients to the scope of functions, change is prominent everywhere and anywhere.
The best part is all these changes have more or less yielded positive results, call center services have become economic and even more efficient. Be it advanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technologies or cost effective outsourcing destinations, present day business enterprises have found a very reliable and most importantly competent business partner in the call center companies.
Let us have a closer look at the changes that have made life easier and economic for contemporary entrepreneurs. For convenience let us discuss the same under three broad headings.
A) Innovation and Upgrade in the Field of Technology:
In these times of constrained budgets and extremely competitive market scenario, the only thing that delights entrepreneurs is the ongoing technological innovations in the corporate customer service hubs. Call center companies and their agents are up on the toes to improve and expand the CRM technologies. At the same time they have in mind the cost considerations. Constant efforts are being made to keep the pricing as affordable as possible.
Now that businesses aim to globalize their operations, the technology at disposal should be adept enough. Such has been the level of development and progress in the realm of call center technology that many, like Jason Compton say that the modern call center agents are even capable of ‘following the sun’. No matter to which part of the world the entrepreneurs want to expand their activities, present day CRM technologies are capable to offer support to customers located in any nook and corner of the globe.
Most call center companies have multiple functional sites spread all over the world. And if noticed, we will see bulks of these new operational sites are located in the lower-cost countries. Such a move is guided by definite reasons. We shall have a look at the same in the next section. As of now let us focus on the changes that the call centers have experienced in the realm of technology. These are the changes that make these external vendors so much more effective and efficient.
- VOIP in place of PSTN: Customer Relationship Management has become better and easier with the introduction of VOIP in place of PSTN that is a switch from circuit-switched telephony to packet-switched telephony. There are many external vendors who chose to stick to the traditional PSTN system, IP telephony have opened up doors for upgrading. What is perhaps the most attractive feature, VOIP is really economic.
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR): Interactive Voice Response system permits the call handling executives to automate services. This saves good bit of time and money as well. Now automated answering service machines are used for handling routine inquiries. The agents are free for addressing more complex issues.
For example – in case of a satellite TV service provider, calls seeking information on account balance can be addressed through IVR. And for any inquiry or information as to how to install a particular device or how a particular feature operates it is better to approach a live agent.
Wondering how the IVR system works? First callers have to dial specific numbers as instructed by the pre recorded voice. Then the well maintained database is accessed to pull in the necessary information and assist the caller. Many IVR systems are blessed with speech recognition technology and a few can actually gather feedback from customers once the interaction is over.
- Integration of Live and Automated Answering Service: No doubt IVR has made life easier for answering service agents but callers still prefer live answering service agents. As a matter of fact there are several issues that can be dealt only and only by live agents. Here in the CTI technology i.e. Computer Technology Integration acts as a bridge between the IVR agents and agent workstations.
For example – a customer wants to book a flight ticket. Because of system issues the transaction stops mid way. CTI ensures that all the information that the customer have already shared are stored. Here from the agent can take over. This accelerates handling time and saves the customers some frustration; he/she does not need to provide the same information all over again. Above all he/she is being assisted by a live agent now.
Most call center companies use a perfect blending of live answering service and automated answering services to strike a balance between economy and efficiency.
- Effective Call Routing facility: Modern call center technology enables skill based routing. This call routing facility ensures that senior agents handles the complex issues. This definitely has positive impacts all round including customer’s perception of the business. Much to the surprise this facility is hugely underutilized. According to a survey conducted by the Service Quality Management Group only a very limited number of contact centers, as low as one third of the total number of vendors use it. Experts strongly recommend the use of this facility for a better performance.
- Cloud based services: With VOIP all that the call center agents need is an access to the internet. They can get the liberty to work from home. And for the supervisors, they can supervise and monitor from anywhere and everywhere. There is no need of servers on premise, media gateways on the premise, support services can be offered from any corner of the globe. This is exactly the reason why call center industry has shifted its base to the third world countries. But this development we shall discuss later.
The new cloud based services are flexible, scalable, secured, transparent, cost effective, easy to implement and above all reliable.
- Integration with the web and social media: As a very attractive part of the new cloud based services, call center companies now make use of the web and Social Media as Service (SMAS). This has expanded the horizon and reach of the call center agents. At the end of the day it is the business enterprises driven by profit motives that have benefited from this integration with the web world. Offering customer support, gathering customer feedback and customer outreach have become easier than never before.
The host of improved technology tools and gadgets will make things easier but for the perfect results Tim Hickernell, senior program director at META Group, advises caution in vendor selection. More technology intensive the services have become more is the need for expert and experienced call center agents.
B) Expansion of the Scope of Functions of Call Center Companies:
In consonance with the technological upgrade, contact center companies have expanded the scope of their functions. An industry that started with assisting the business executives in answering customer calls and taking down messages, have grown and grown substantially. Not only customer handling but also marketing the business products or services have been added to the list of duties and responsibilities. The good thing is, companies have not stopped by merely expanding the scope of functions they have concentrated in specialization as well.
The discussion on the latest CRM software made it pretty evident that customer relationship management is not only about answering customer calls; it holds a broader and wider connotation. The present day answering service agents not only answer calls, they try and build rewarding connections. Customers
Improve the Business Sales Performance:
Healthy business-buyer connection has all the potentials to influence the eventual sales figures in a positive way. Outstanding customer service leaves the customers happy and contented. A satisfied customer base brings in more sales opportunities in the form of repeat sales and sale through referrals. Now this is the main reason why the customer care executives slog so hard to put up a very positive business image or brand identity.
Improving sale figures through customer retention is not the only way how call center companies contribute to the sales performance. These days’ businesses outsource the entire marketing process to be taken care of by the experienced marketing agents at the disposal of these companies. And much to the delight of the entrepreneurs this move has paid off.
In a nutshell, modern day contact center companies have a role to play in the all round development of the businesses. Right from increasing the productivity to improving the revenue figures to enhancing the overall business value- services offered by call center companies have a bearing in all these areas.
New Areas of Call Center Activities:
Besides serving the conventional industries guided by the profit motive the companies now have ventured into newer areas. The newer and unconventional areas where call centers have made their presence felt are the following.
- E- governance services
- Retail services
- Pharmaceutical research services
- Financial services
- Healthcare services
From among the list the role of the call center companies in the area of e-governance is considered to be the most critical and crucial. Assistance from call center companies is expected to make it easier for the authorities to rule the state effectively and efficiently.
C) Recent Noticeable Trends:
Now that the technologies have changed for the better, it is logical that there have been other changes in the realm of call center outsourcing. And when talking about trends, outsourcing to offshore call center companies is one development that grabs the attention of one and all. So wondering where is the new hub of outsourcing located? The developing countries – India and Philippines are the leading destinations for outsourcing.
Asia : The New Outsourcing Destination
Gone are the days when entrepreneurs would outsource to none but call center companies located in close proximity to the business building. In sharp contrast to their yesteryear preferences call centers India, to be more accurate call centers Philippines have become their recent favorites. According to an article published on The New York Times US based business houses are resorting to call center companies in Manila for the Manila customer care executives to take care of their customers. However it cannot be denied that call centers India are the trend setters as far as offshore outsourcing is concerned.
Such preference is undoubtedly guided by profit motives or we can say cost considerations keeping in mind the financial constraints that entrepreneurs are facing these days. Outsourcing to any of these Asian countries implies saving a good amount of business funds. Here quality call center services are offered at amazingly affordable rates.
Wondering how the companies strike a balance between investment and expenditure with such low service charges?
Well it is the economic labor charges that such competitive pricing of support services in this part of the world permits. Besides, the government of the above mentioned countries realizes how crucial the revenue earned by call center sector can be in the growth story of the national economies. To entice more number of foreign clients different incentives are offered that further brings down the costs.
Offshore Outsourcing: Is It a Good Decision?
Wondering what prompted entrepreneurs to take such a bold step? Well, technological upgrade is the answer. Call center technology as it has been discussed at length has made significant progress. The same technology has done away with the concerns and issues that distance between the service provider and business operation center otherwise would have led to. You must be thinking how? Let’s see how.
- Coordination, monitoring and supervision of different call center activities are no problem: One of the biggest concerns that entrepreneurs of yesteryears had was how to coordinate the different activities of the call center agents. Monitoring and evaluating their performance was another headache they had. The bone of contention here was, if the services offered by the agents weren’t scrutinized the quality of the service might suffer.
Again excessive dependence on a service provider is never good for the health of the enterprise, the entrepreneur or the in-house team that is in charge of looking at the outsourcing department should have the final key in their hands. As a matter of fact, improved call center technology have made coordination way easier.
- Geographically scattered agents are more of an advantage than disadvantage: The new web based call center technology permits customer care executives and even marketers to work from home. Can such geographical dispersion of agents create troubles as far as coordination, monitoring and supervision is concerned? Well no. The same advanced features of the virtual call center technology comes to rescue.
It is the call recording feature that enables call center quality assurance team as well as the in-house quality control team to record every single incoming and outbound call so that the agents’ performance can be evaluated. Web conferences can be arranged for to train and educate the agents. Similar conferences can be arranged for discussing the problems that the agents are facing or the mistakes they are making.
Now that the technology is capable of establishing link between the widely scattered agents, enterprises can hope to cater to the needs and requirements of their global customer base with utmost efficiency.
And the answer to the question raised at the very beginning of this section of the article is – yes, offshore outsourcing is a good decision indeed. Now businesses can cut down on their investment while keeping the return on the same as handsome as ever, an arrangement they were looking for so long.
So we can conclude on a positive note, the call center industry which began journey in the aftermath of globalization has further consolidated its position. Call centers be domestic or offshore are here to stay for a long time and serve the present day enterprises to achieve their stiff targets and goals. The future of these companies seems pretty bright and so does the future of business enterprises.