Call Center Outsourcing Services: Dedicated vs. Shared Agents
Once you make a decision to outsource or contract out your call center activities, you have a choice to make. You will need to decide what type of agent you want working on behalf of your company. You can achieve your required service levels with any configuration. However, the type of call center outsourcing services you choose will shape the pricing of the service. It influences how calls are handled, the cost of extended customer support hours, and the level of service your agents can provide. The term “outsourcing” has become a scapegoat this political season. But beyond the political hype, it is important to understand the long term benefits of outsourcing. AND it doesn't have to mean sending jobs outside your community.
There are three basic types of call center representatives. Some agents are dedicated to your project exclusively while others are blended or shared. In this article, we are going to review each one in turn and discuss how opting for one support model over another will impact your business.
What is a dedicated agent and who needs them?
Dedicated agents are customer service associates who work solely on your behalf. In many ways, they are an extension of your company. Whether they handle inbound or outbound calls, dedicated agents are focused solely on your program. They more quickly become subject matter experts in your company, your products or services, and your industry. They know what you sell inside and out, and they can help your customers troubleshoot issues. Dedicated agents also understand your brand and the way you do things, and that shows in the way they do things. If your needs require a personal contact assigned to the customer, dedicated is the way to go because the agent will have a fixed schedule on your program. As such, when your customers call in, they will be able to get theirs as if they called your company. To the client, the integration is seamless.
Dedicated agents are typically located in an assigned space in our centers. It is branded for your company. Sometimes it is physically separated, other times, it is a portion of the call center floor.
Dedicated agents may compromise your entire team, or you may opt to supplement their efforts with other agents. You could even choose to have dedicated agents staff your existing in-house call center as auxiliary agents or to learn your business and prove themselves before becoming full-time agents. Generally speaking, we advise our clients to choose dedicated agent support when they meet certain criteria. The first thing we look at is whether they have enough call volume to support at least several full-time equivalents (FTE). Normally there is a steady flow of volume throughout the day. Otherwise, a shared or blended option may be a better way to avoid bottlenecks.
Dedicated agents are also a good idea when you require in-depth customer service support. For instance, many insurance companies prefer to have agents that are dedicated exclusively to their projects because they need to know so much information in order to serve their customers well. Security and compliance issues are another concern. Depending on your industry, you may have regulations with which your agents need to comply such as HIPAA or PCI-DSS. In this case, sometimes a secure area will solve the problem, but dedicated agents can help you ensure compliance.
If your company does not have a heavy, consistent call volume, the need for highly-trained agents, or regulatory compliance issues, you might find a blended or shared agent option is a better fit.
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What is a blended agent and who needs them?
Blended agents, also called a hybrid model, offer the best of both worlds. When you choose a blended agent level of support, you have a core group of dedicated agents that will handle the bulk of your customer contact needs. When call volume is exceptionally high, we “mix-in” additional support by pulling agents from other projects. This could be done on a seasonal or daily basis. For example, if you find that your company receives a disproportionately higher volume of calls during the lunch hour, we can assign agents trained on your project to answer the phones during the spike.
Because these customer advocates are not on your program full-time, they may not have the same depth of experience with your company that a core group of dedicated agents does. But they will be trained and certified to your program. Your blended agents can be assigned to handle basic call types, freeing your dedicated agents to handle the more complex tasks. our customers benefit from having shorter wait times during times of heavy call volume.
This call center outsourcing services model has several advantages. First, there is scalability. With a blended agent model, we can add agents as needed to your project – whether you need extra help to handle a website redesign or a new project launch, we can do that. You can keep additional agents on your project as long as you need them. Second, there is a sort of balance. It may not be cost-effective to have an auxiliary staff capable of handling all the nitty-gritty details with your customers. But, they can help with the easier tasks, freeing up the core agents to take the time with the customer to handle the more complex tasks. It really is the best of both worlds. Even better is you get all of the coverage in a single cost-effective package. You are only going to pay for the extra agents when they are taking calls for your company. That’s significantly better than paying extra agents to sit around just in case your call volume goes up.
The other advantage – is that we will manage the a core group of agents. We match their schedule to your volume. Your core, dedicated agents flex to your customers' needs. This is ideal for retail stores and service providers who tend to prefer a blended service option.
What is a shared agent and who needs them?
Shared agents are agents that work on more than one program. Sometimes it is multiple programs for the same client. For instance, they handle customer service inbound calls and outbound lead generation. Other times they are trained on different client programs. They answer phones for the company needing them at a given moment. They are assigned to a given program based on call forecasts.
You want to make sure that your customers do not have to wait too long to speak to a customer service agent, and this is one of the ways that help make that happen. Cost savings can be significant too. With shared agents, you only pay for the time that agents are actively working on your behalf. This contract service level is also easily scalable – we can add on as many agents as you need.
The shared agent arrangement is really best suited for companies with multiple program types or with a high variability in call demand. We manage the workforce to meet your call demand. We work with you to forecast using the best possible data. This allows us to staff to meet service levels at the lowest possible cost. We remove that headache for you. Your agents get as much training as required to handle the various call types or programs they are assigned too. Even the auxiliary agents are kept up to speed with refresher changes and training. They are ready to go.
Today’s call center technology is highly flexible, making it easy to assign and switch agents easily between programs. Data and reporting can be done by program as well. For some companies and situations, the shared service option is absolutely the best. Nonprofits, retail, marketing, lead generation, and advertising campaigns are a good fit.
How do I decide?
Let us help. Call us with your situation and we will work with you to design the best fit for you. We have seen many solutions across various industries and are glad to help., This overview just scratches the surface of the considerations and options. Deciding what level of contact center services you need from a call center outsourcing vendor is not an easy one. You are making a decision that will impact the service your customers receive as well as your bottom line – so why guess. If you are unsure whether a dedicated, shared, or blended agent situation is right for you, check out The Complete Guide to Call Center Services. It will help you decide what configuration will best suit your needs.
The Complete Guide to Call Center Services
What you NEED to know about the different call center services available to you