Coverage and Communication
As you price out contact center services, the first thing you will notice is the number of live agents needed and the number of hours for which you need coverage are the two biggest cost drivers. In addition, the number of communication channels agents are expected to cover may influence the cost. Some channels, like email, can be combined with voice. Others, like text or chat, are often with dedicated agents because more than one session can be managed at a time. Overhead items, like basic connectivity, CRM, supervision, quality monitoring, and facility costs are often included in the agent cost.
Look also at the speed at which you want your calls handled. Some companies do not want their customers to wait long on hold before reaching an agent. The faster the Speed of Answer (SOA), the more agents need to be available during peak times. This will add to the overall cost, especially if your business is prone to peaks, cycles, and seasonality.
Usually, you will specify the Service Levels you want the outsourcer to meet. For example, answer 80% of the calls within 30 seconds. The more precision you need, the higher your cost. For example, if you want 100 percent of your calls answered within one minute, you could spend multiples of what it would be to have 98 percent of your calls answered within the same time limit.
There is also a matter of the skills you require of your agents. A skill is a trait, competency or knowledge. Examples of skills include languages, product or technology certification or license. And there are degrees of each. For instance, a bi-lingual English- Spanish speaker will cost more than someone who only speaks Spanish. If the skill is scarce, like the ability to speak in Singhalese or tech support, the cost is even higher.
Training also factors in. Your cost per agent needs to include the time and cost of training as well as the retraining that will be required in the future to keep the agent’s skills up-to-date. A good outsourcer will have ways to improve your training, often while lowering the cost. They can help you to skill route, or tier, your calls by complexity to reduce the number of people you need to train to handle higher level issues.
Regulations and Certifications
Similarly, you can expect to spend more on your contact center services when you have to meet requirements for certifications. Obtaining PCI or HIPAA compliance, insurance agent licenses, and other such regulations require additional training and administrative time and may add to the cost.
Pay attention to the level of business continuity or the amount of redundancy you need as well. In some cases, if the call center cannot be reached for a few hours, it is ok. For others its not. Then you will want to have some amount of duplicate processes and systems so that your contact center can stay up and running even if you lose power, experience bad weather or have a technical issue.
Location, Location, Location
Location matters too. The cost of qualified labor can be very different around the country and even more so around the world. But the skill set or availability of the labor will vary too. While locating your contact center to one of these lower labor cost locations may have its own complications, it could pay off in the end.
Self-Service and Other Tools
Finally, consider the tools you want to have in place to handle calls more effectively. Self-service features like Interactive Voice Response (IVR) will help you improve your workflow. In many cases, you may be able to use the outsourcers system and only pay a small setup fee and a price per call.
Average Amount (Domestic Pricing)
In general, domestic contact center services can start in the low $20 per hour for simple tasks. You should expect to pay at least that for in-house services, and it will be a fixed cost because those people work for you. Often with overhead and benefits, in-house costs are a lot more.
If you outsource, most suppliers bill on a per hour basis, which is nice because you only pay for what you use. While pricing starts in the low $20s many centers are $30 or more. For functions requiring complex tasks or higher skill sets will easily exceed $60 per hour. A short conversation with a good outsourcer can nail down a budget range for you.