Yes, outsourcing your call center services to a correctional facility is a viable option for your business. The president of Outsource Consultants, Corey Kotlarz, recently visited a call center within a women’s correctional facility to see what the customer experience level would be and the quality of the calls. We asked Corey a few questions about his trip, what he learned and his general thoughts on this call center.
Tell us about your trip to the correctional facility call center. What were some of the highlights?
I took this trip with the goal of learning about the inmate call center system. I went to a women's Level 1 correctional facility, which is a minimum-security facility where the inmates are in a dorm-type of living quarters and not in cells. There are many jobs throughout the correctional system, from cafeteria to grounds cleaning to call center jobs. Call center jobs are the highest paid jobs by a significant margin more than any other job. As a result of this dramatic pay difference, these jobs are highly desired. The call center manager said they have over 100 applicants for their call center positions.
How does a correctional facility call center's model/structure differ from a standard call center?
The structure and layout (see photos) are actually very similar to a standard call center. There is a call center manager, team supervisors, on staff quality monitoring, and team supervisors (ratios are 1:15). The key difference is that the bulk of their quality monitoring team is located at a different facility. The quality team monitors calls and provides feedback to the internal correctional facility call center supervisors, who then provide the feedback to the agents.
What kinds of companies use correctional facility call centers?
Numerous companies in a variety of vertical markets utilize inmate-staffed call centers for a broad range of needs, but the type of calls I listened to featured survey work, office product sales, mortgage, subscription renewals and lead qualification clients. Over 85% of the calls were of the outbound calling nature.
What is the customer service quality level from incarcerated call center agents?
I spent time learning about the agents’ job satisfaction as well as quality of the agents’ phone skills. I spoke with and listened to over 30 agents with excellent grammar and English-speaking skills and I was highly impressed. The inmates need to keep a quality standard to retain their jobs. They’re rated on a scale of 1-4 and if they're not on a consistent level of 3 or 4, they cannot be employed in the call center. The agents need to maintain exemplary behavior inside and outside the call center in addition to meeting their specific client quality and KPI goals. In addition, these call center agents can even earn additional bonuses based upon their performance. Because of these factors, the inmates are highly motivated to be model employees.
What are some of the key benefits of correctional facility call centers?
From a client perspective, correctional facility call centers have high-quality and high-performing agents at price points below $19 per hour. Most USA based outsource call center rates range from $23 - $27 per hour, thus, the correctional facility's call center pricing structure is 15% - 35% below the typical USA rates. This is extremely cost effective pricing for agents within the United States who can drive top performance by exceeding KPIs at above 90% quality fashion. The call center also has over a 99% attendance rate with a turnover rate of less than 10% per year, mostly due to early release, so you know your customers will be receiving reliable service.
In addition to financial benefits for companies, there are also many good-will benefits:
- These call center agent positions are highly compensated within the correctional facility system and the employees are mandated to have 20% of their pay deposited into an automatic savings account. When they're released after finishing their sentence, they have money to help them get back on their feet and back into society.
- Agents have the ability to send money home to their families.
- Agents are given excellent customer service soft skills and they’ll have experience for a position when they leave the correctional facility.
What are some key disadvantages to utilizing a correctional facility call center?
The obvious answer is the initial negative stigma that may come along with hiring incarcerated workers. But strictly from a call center production standpoint, there are call types that can’t be outsourced to a correctional facility call center. Typically, any sales program that requires providing credit card information is not a viable option. One way they've gotten around this is by transferring the customer to the client's internal call center to capture the payment information for the sales transaction when the customer is interested in buying.
Companies might be hesitant to use a correctional facility call center. What would you say to them?
There may be somewhat of a negative stigma attached to using a correctional facility call center, and that’s understandable, as it's a unique business model and it isn’t for everyone. My advice, as I tell all my clients, would be to visit the facility and see it for yourself. Listen to calls and the quality and you'll see it doesn’t differ much from any other call center. We always recommend our clients doing significant due diligence on their outsourcing strategy. No matter which outsourcing location you’re interested in, it’s always important to make sure you check references, listen to calls, and visit the call center.
Now that you’ve read about Corey’s site visit to a correctional facility call center, let us know your thoughts! Have you ever considered this as an option for your company? Would you ever consider it in the future?
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