Joe Geroux is the Vice President of Support Services at CCI Systems. He has over 30 years of experience within Telecommunications, working with major operators, including Charter Communications, AT&T, MediaOne and Continental Cablevision. His experience includes leadership roles in Sales, Customer Support, Operations and Field Services. Joe has acquired extensive knowledge in Hospitality and the Multi-Dwelling industry, both in residential and commercial services, while gaining additional experience with Broadband and Fiber Networks.
After hours of searching, researching, reading, and incessantly Googling how to find reliable options for customer support providers through ratings and star counts… you find yourself at a loss.
There is nothing substantive pointing to an approach or answer to solve your burning questions outright and the idea of choosing incorrectly between a call center or contact center is keeping you up at night. Are there other options?
Differences in how call center andcontact center agents receive training and continued education can vary from company-to-company, including the types of hardware and software they use. Is it even possible to find call support providers with a good reputation and competent agents?
Beginning the process of trusting an outside entity to handle your valued customer base can be a scary thought. But, rest assured there are solutions out there, good solutions. Some solutions will even be tailored exactly to your industry.
CCI Systems works directly with clients just like you going through these very scenarios. Our team sees the struggle to find reliable help, and they know the process.
As a provider of contact center services, CCI helps those same clients through this new endeavor, answering their questions and learning what is important to their company.
In 4 straightforward and easy steps, you will be able to determine your business needs with the highest priority and value, understand why outsourcing helps promote positive experiences for your end users, know how to narrow the scope to find a viable customer support provider for you, and define what budget will be appropriate for your company.
Step 1: Define Your Business Needs
Instead of trying to approach customer service and call support in generic terms, and before you ever look for a third party provider, consider and define the actual needs of your business. Then, you can brainstorm potential solutions with your team.
Whether your company requires 24/7 support, exclusively business hours support, off-hour support, overflow support, or the entire package, defining your unique set of needs will set your company up for success with a provider.
Other things to consider:
How does the third party train their agents?
Who are the vendors and partners they work with?
What applications do they use or support?
Do they have a disaster recovery plan for emergencies?
What precautions do they take for data and information security?
How do they send you reports and customer data they’ve collected?
How Complex Are Your Business Needs?
Next, discuss the level of complexity needed to serve your specific end user internally with your team or leadership.
Does something simple suffice where customers are answered the next business day? Do you need the calls to be handled smoothly and effortlessly, so the end user doesn’t know a third party is engaged?
What is your average call volume? How large is your customer base? How big of a priority is customer service within your industry? How much is this all going to cost?
At this point, the responsibility of the company seeking customer support is to figure out what their needs are to sufficiently support their end users and then, determining the right resource.
Step 2: Research Industry-Specific Support Options
Once you have assessed and defined your business needs, it will be crucial to do your research on the 4 main types of third party companies providing customer support, specific to your industry.
There are tens of thousands of companies worldwide that can provide call support and customer service. Many specialize in key or niche industries, including telecommunications, healthcare, security, helpdesk, and the list goes on ad infinitum.
It is important to hire a third party who has experience with what your company needs. You do not want to pay for their agents to learn your industry. You are not in the business of education.
So, find a call support provider who is right for you.
What is right for you and your company will vary by the type of training your company expects from the agents.
A third party will have tried and true processes for introductory and ongoing training to maintain premium support and an active readiness to serve your end user.
Plus, third parties are often in markets where they can easily recruit new employees with a diverse set of qualifications, experiences, and levels of education.
However, sometimes, a customer support provider who is similar to your company, lifestyle, and/or region may be more appropriate.
With call support, you will not have to:
manage 24/7 staffing and scheduling.
provide sick days, vacation days, and benefits.
maintain hardware and software internally.
provide office space, workstations, and secure devices.
Regardless of where the company can cut costs on staffing, the true benefit and advantage of outsourcing call support is access to affordable talent that does not have to be managed in-house.
Bottom line: You need to figure out what works best for your company, your clients, and your end users. Each of those considerations will help uphold your positive reputation as an industry leader.
Step 3: Find Your Customer Support Solution
Below are the primary types of call support solutions when it comes to customer service worldwide, starting from the most basic type to the most complex.
This is the most rudimentary type of call support, the lowest level. They take your customers’ calls, write down or record the information, and report it back to you for you to respond accordingly at your convenience.
There is no troubleshooting, advanced features, or complexity to the service. Thus, it acts as a virtual answering service.
Third Party Call Center
Call centers are the prototypical term when referencing customer service or call support. It is the keyword end users think of when calling their service provider.
At call centers, agents will collect and gather information from the customer and generate tickets. They may be able to follow advanced tiers of end user processing where they are following an approved workflow or script, depending on how the company wants the call or the ticket handled.
Typically, call center agents cannot access applications, and they cannot handle troubleshooting or device management applications, like router switches or zone controllers.
More involved requests are handed back to your company to determine a solution for your customer, or it is escalated to a second tier (Tier 2) of support, dependent upon your service agreement.
An omnichannel contact center is appropriate for companies or organizations that may need something much more elaborate and dynamic to support multiple channels of communication.
The third party can provide your company not only with inbound call handling, but social media support, email support, and SMS (i.e. text messaging).
As with a call center, a contact center will follow your company’s process and procedures, but they can go a step further by using your applications and ticketing.
Each level of involvement and hands-on processing increases the cost for contact center services.
Typically, this is calculated per transaction or per call, while also paying additional costs in setup fees to maintain an advanced degree of readiness.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
In this type of third party support, the entire program is completely managed per the company’s discretion, as outlined in their processes and procedures.
The BPO provides dedicated agents who work specifically with and for your organization. They are not working for anyone else.
BPO agents will follow your proprietary documentation as if they are your own employees. They will access your applications and ticketing as needed, and they will handle all communications remotely.
Step 4: Always Define and Keep Your Budget in Mind
While finances may not be the vehicle or driver toward the appropriate type of call support, it will be the final deciding factor for most organizations.
Generally, the more complex the support service interaction is with your end users and company, the more the cost will increase to offset the added workload of the call center, contact center, or BPO.
If it is necessary to have a seamless exchange with the end user, the contact center agent will require more training (i.e. documentation of processes and procedures), thereby increasing the overall cost burden.
Pricing is always dependent on the level of support and complexity needed, as well as where the support is coming from. Tier 1 domestic support will typically cost $7.00 to $10.00 per call which translates to approximately $0.75 to $1.25 per minute.
Whereas Tier 2 domestic support will range between $10.00 to $15.00 per call or $0.90 to $1.75 per minute for agents with advanced troubleshooting skill sets.
*All rates of either tier are dependent and vary by call volume.
If it is appropriate to simply have an answering service set up where the end user is followed up with the next business day, the costs will be considerably lower.
Another consideration is whether to keep this call support domestic (in the U.S.) where the pricing is much higher versus taking calls nearshore (Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, etc.) where the costs will be significantly lower.
To go a step further would be overseas support, either in India, the Philippines, or somewhere else where the costs will be even lower than nearshore.
Again, the budget should be determined with consideration for the end user and how their experience and satisfaction will be affected in the long run.
Go Out and Find Your Customer Support Solution
Here is a simple checklist to consider which details to look for when searching for third party call support solutions at home or abroad.
Research the experience within leadership.
Speak to their current customers or former clients.
Find a proven track record of growth and know the age of the business.
Investigate how they scaled for growth.
Analyze data security measures, precautions, and certifications.
Know where they are located.
If you follow these steps, you will be prepared to continue your search for a customer support solution that is right for you and your company. You may even find a third party who is a perfect match and understands your industry inside and out.
Within the field of telecommunications, CCI Systems has over 50 years of experience delivering communication and across-the-network solutions to operators and service providers alike.