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The Case for the American Boutique Call Center - Thomas Laird

Our advisors at Outsource Consultants help our clients find "hidden gem" small to mid-sized outsource call centers for clients. The following article by Thomas Laird (Expivia Interaction Marketing Group, Inc. and usacallcenter.net) does a great job discussing the advantages and benefits of outsourcing your inbound call center services to companies in the U.S.A. The article features the key points that we feel align with the idea of "hidden gem" boutique call centers. These key points include ways these call centers can drive peak performance, increase quality, deliver hands-on management, and reduce costs.

us-based-call-centersI personally don’t really like the word "boutique" to describe smaller, high-end, high-quality US call centers, but the more I think about it, it probably fits. When I think of a store that is a boutique I picture one that caters to its customers. They offer high end, one off merchandise with the best of service. They differentiate themselves from the big box stores with a quality of service that the big boys say they offer but cant match. The more I think about it I just may like that "boutique" word!….

So many huge call centers dominate the landscape. Thousand seat centers with locations that span the globe. When you think of a call center or call center outsourcing, for many, these large companies are the first to come to mind. For many large clients they do serve a great service. They offer high volume service and sales to major companies that need hundreds or even thousands to seats filled that they could never do in-house without incurring massive expense and management.

Many smaller (or even larger) companies think that these are the only options in outsourcing. This could not be further from the truth.

Imagine a high end call center with all American associates, best in class client services and lower costs that utilize the newest in Omni channel communication channels and cater to companies that have the need to outsource 5-50 seats. These are your US Boutique Contact Centers.

I have operated in both environments and love the hands on attitude, quality and flexibility of the smaller center. The ability to grow with smaller outsourcing clients and really have an impact on their customers and their bottom line is something that really drives the operators of smaller high quality centers.

Why go small? Some of the great qualities of the smaller call center partner:

1.Quality- When you go offshore or a large call center agrees to take a smaller program are you comfortable with your program being in a room with hundreds if not thousands of other seats that are catering to many other clients? When you are the small fish in the pond, the time and care for your program gets treated as such.

If you place that same 10-50 seat program in a 150-300 seat center the level of quality and care rises as the importance of your program to the outsourcer rises. I really believe that you should only outsource to a Contact Center where your program will take up at least of 3-5% of their seats. You know they are going to really work day in and day out for your business. When you are only .00001% of a large centers business do you really think they are maximizing your program….human and business nature tells a different story.

 

2. Pricing- This is one of the largest differences and most misunderstood pieces of outsourcing. When you are a smaller client you are at the will of the larger call center. They will charge you for everything because they can. You will pay setup fees, IT fees, and fees to setup reporting fees for scripting. The larger call center’s per hour or per minute rate will be set for you. Don’t even ask about changing a report or a script or god forbid the screen after the initial setup…you will be charged.

For the most part (and speaking from my experience) smaller call centers are more entrepreneurial. Their setup costs are less stringent. Their cost per hour or by the minute for the most part as well is very negotiable. They do not have the high overhead of other departments to have to bill to. I know at my center we can undercut all the big boys because of how lean we are, most of the smaller US centers think the same. The other great thing is the boutique will really partner with a client. Changes to scripts, screens and strategies can be done on the fly and at a much quick pace then having to go through the bureaucracy of a larger center.

 

3. Client Service- This in my opinion is the biggest difference between the large and smaller centers. Many of the larger call centers have you call the operations person on the floor to have a production problem taken care of. They make you put in a trouble ticket for an IT change or call “creative” to have a scripting change done. I personally think that shows a lack of caring and empathy for a client. If the call center can’t show that to you, how are you to trust them with your customers!?

Most of the smaller call centers give you access to 24/7 client support with one person who understands your program inside and out. When you have a problem you get one point of contact for all you issues. You cannot put a price on that kind of peace of mind.

 

4. Partnership- Smaller call centers lend themselves to really partner with a client. Try telling a large center you want to AB test a new product with just a couple associates next week. That would never happen and if it did would come with exorbitant costs. With a smaller center not only would it happen, they would bend over backwards to make its success.

Smaller centers don’t just “work” a program and go home. They monitor, find improvements, scour reports to make every program a client brings a success. You get so much more then humans making or answering calls.  I personally never stop thinking about my clients and their programs.

Want to go visit the site? Many of the smaller centers will have an office for you on site and welcome client visits. See how well your multiple visits get received for a 20 seat program offshore…not only that think of the costs!

If you are a large company that’s in need hundreds of seats there are even boutique options for you. There are call routing companies out there that pool together 5 or 10 approved smaller centers and route calls to each group based on the best agent available. Not the most available but the best available. They take the best of the high quality centers and tie them together as one “large” center. This really is the best option for large clients.

There are so many reasons why outsourcing to the right partner makes sense. There are call centers out there that cater to all companies no matter the size or budget. Do not think that the big boys are the only game in town.  Rethink how outsourcing is done.

Thomas Laird is a customer service and contact center consultant and operations professional with over 25 year of experience. Thomas is currently the CEO of Expivia Interaction Marketing Group, Inc.  and usacallcenter.net A 100% onshore multi-channel contact center and lead writer for the Contact Center Muse Blog.

 

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