Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Your Call Center to a BPO
When your call center is scaling, it’s an exciting time for your company. Unfortunately, it puts a new challenge on your plate — how are you going to hire an influx of employees for your growing call center?
It’s hard to keep up with all the hiring and training when your call center is scaling quickly, especially in an industry where turnover is high.
You could always hire new agents to work internally, but it takes a lot of energy to continuously manage that hiring process and keep your call center staffed. And now that you are scaling more, it might be time to outsource your call center.
As the Head Consultant at ScreenSteps — a knowledge base software company that helps you share your procedures with your call center agents — I’ve worked with multiple clients who have both chosen to outsource their call center when scaling and others who have decided to keep agents in-house.
They’ve shared their experiences with me, and I’ve seen how there are multiple advantages and disadvantages to outsourcing your call center. From their experiences, I’ve compiled a list of 7 pros and 6 cons when it comes to outsourcing your call center.
What is call center outsourcing?
First, let’s define what call center outsourcing even is. Call center outsourcing is when a contact center hires an external company to handle its customer service calls. These external companies are commonly known as Business process outsourcing (BPO).
A BPO is a third-party service provider for your business. Essentially, it is an agency for your call center. You can hire a BPO to handle specific aspects of your contact center — incoming/outgoing calls, night shifts, etc.
7 pros for outsourcing your call center
Hiring an external contact center to manage your customer service calls has many advantages. Some of the pros include:
1. Having expertise in customer service
A call center BPO specializes in, well, call center stuff. That means they typically know the best practices for customer service. They have experience working for multiple companies which adds perspective on how to efficiently and effectively support customers on a call.
Of course, the extent and quality of their expertise depend on which BPO agency you hire.
Tip: When hiring a BPO, it helps to have clearly documented procedures. The missing link for a BPO is the understanding and experience specific to your company.
2. Reducing costs
A primary reason many contact centers decide to outsource overseas is that it is less expensive to pay employees. With a lower cost of living in some countries, the employee wages aren’t as high as employees in the United States.
Even if you aren’t hiring overseas, outsourcing can help you reduce your costs. When you hire a BPO, your company often signs a contract for a fixed cost. The BPO handles the costs of managing the call center for you (i.e. hiring, training, etc.).
3. Providing extended service hours
When you hire a BPO that is in a different country — specifically, a different time zone — it helps you cover hours that aren’t convenient for you and your team.
For example, India’s morning is the USA’s night. If you are a US-based company that hires a BPO in India, you now have 24/7 service without having to hire employees to work through the night.
4. Serving a broader audience
When you have an internal call center, it is more difficult to create and hire teams to help your diverse customer base. Usually, that means companies hire agents who can support the majority of their customers.
BPOs often have more robust and diverse teams. If you have customers who speak Spanish or another language, you can outsource to a BPO with native Spanish speakers.
5. Helping you distribute the workload
Hiring a BPO doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of your internal call center. An internal contact center can work hand-in-hand with an outsourced call center as long as you clearly define roles and responsibilities.
Maybe you don’t have a lot of high-level calls but the company has a lot of low-tier calls. You can keep your internal call center to handle those complex calls. Then scale your team by hiring a BPO to handle low-tier calls.
6. Helping you systematize procedures
When you have an external company communicating with your customers, you need to make sure they understand your procedures fully.
A BPO can help you improve and systematize your procedures. This makes you think through your processes so they are more efficient. Since you know you need to document for external employees, it forces you to clearly articulate how to handle different tasks.
7. Supporting seasonal demand
Almost every call center has a busy season. Whether you need more reps for the holidays or the grueling tax season, outsourcing your call center can help with the seasonal demands.
A BPO is prepared to respond to the fluctuating demands on a call center. That includes hiring and training seasonal agents.
6 cons of outsourcing your call center
With any partnership, there are also challenges. Here are some of the cons of outsourcing to a BPO:
1. Loss of control
Whenever you hand off an assignment to a contractor, you lose a little control over how things are executed. You no longer have control over hiring, training, and day-to-day operations.
It can be risky to trust someone else to deliver the quality customer service and branding that your company promises.
2. External agents may lack company and industry knowledge
Outsourced call centers rarely specialize in one industry. After all, their specialty is contact center operations. That means your BPO agents may not know your company or the industry you are in as well as internal agents who solely work for your company.
3. Cultural barriers
Every country has its unique challenges. There are different blockers and reasons that your company might struggle (at least, initially) while outsourcing a BPO overseas.
Some challenges our customers have faced while hiring a BPO include:
Depending on the country, there can be infrastructure weaknesses that interfere with the BPO’s operations. For example, areas of the Philippines and India experience rolling power blackouts.
Uncontrolled external disruptions
No country escapes uncontrolled disruptions. It helps to know the environment where your potential BPO is located. Things like political unrest can disrupt your day-to-day operations.
For example, a major Covid outbreak in India happened at a different time than in the U.S. Other countries may have other disruptions. Or, protests and rioting could keep employees at home.
The way phrases are shared or explained in English doesn’t always translate directly into different languages. Different phrasing and accents can make it difficult for both sides of the conversation to understand each other.
Other countries might have different cultural values that conflict with work schedules. Work won’t always be their priority (which I’m not saying is a bad thing — it’s just something to be aware of).
In India, family is the most important priority in life, so you may need to plan for unexpected days off for employees to care for elderly family members.
Not knowing when to follow instructions verbatim and when to go “off script”
One challenge our clients encountered while hiring a BPO in other countries — one in India, some in the Philippines, and another in Nicaragua —is that it’s not always clear when reps should stick to the script exactly, and when they can kind of go off-script.
Whether it is because of a language barrier, cultural differences, or another reason, BPO agents overseas can sometimes struggle knowing when it’s okay to engage in conversation (aka: leave the call flow for a bit to respond to the caller) and when they need to stick with doing exactly as they’re told.
So, the tendency is to only do exactly what is scripted. This becomes a problem if the instructions are unclear or the caller says something that wasn’t explicitly written in the call flow. In those situations, the caller’s experience might feel a little off.
The tendency is to not deviate from the script even if logically it makes sense to change it slightly to adapt to what the caller says.
4. It requires more planning ahead
Are you getting new products in your company? Are policies and procedures changing? When you have an external company handling your call center, you have to be even more vigilant about planning ahead.
You need to prepare documents and communicate ahead of time so that information can be passed onto your BPO agents. For training purposes, you’ll need to send equipment to the BPO location ahead of time.
5. It’s difficult to communicate expectations
How should your agents behave? What is the culture of your company? It can be difficult communicating and training your BPO agents to exhibit your company values.
It’s not impossible, but having a BPO requires a lot of coordination between your company and the BPO.
6. Slower to communicate customer feedback
An internal call center allows customers to directly give feedback to company employees who can pass that on to management.
With an outsourced contact center, there are added levels of management. The BPO managers must gather that information to send it to your company. It takes longer to receive customer feedback.
Want to try writing call flows your BPO agents could use?
There are many advantages and disadvantages to outsourcing your call center. The key is to understand the risks and scale — internally or externally — in the way that is best for your company.
If you decide to outsource your call center, you will want a way to communicate your policies, processes, and procedures with your BPO. Creating clear call flows is essential to having a strong partnership with your outsourced call center.
Using our ScreenSteps knowledge base, it is fast and easy to document your policies and procedures. With workflow articles, you can take call center agents through a procedure step by step.
Plus, you can use our robust content creation tools to clearly explain and show how to perform procedures.
Whether you are using ScreenSteps or writing your call flows in a Word document, here are 6 Best Practices For Writing a Call Center Script For BPO Agents.