Call Center

What Clients of Outsourcers Seek

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of readers of Connections Magazine operate a call center. Many are outsourcers, providing contact center services for other organizations, while the rest are internal (in-house) call centers that outsource, or have the potential to outsource, some or all of their contact center work. Consequently, there should be high interest among you, our readers, in the recent research delving into the area of outsourcers and their clients.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

The survey polled in-house call centers concerning call center outsourcing. As such, the results are of prime interest to outsource call centers, as the attitudes, plans, and trends of internal call centers are powerfully revealed in the findings.

First, some profile information about the respondents is in order. The majority, 96.2 percent, conduct business-to-consumer sales and marketing efforts, while a scant 19.2 percent handle business-to-business. There is an overlap of numbers, suggesting that 15.4 percent of internal call centers are involved in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales and marketing. As far as the size of the companies surveyed, slightly more than a quarter were under $100 million in annual revenues, with 20 percent being over $10 billion; the remaining 52 percent are distributed in between.

With this as a backdrop, 53.8 percent of these companies outsource half or more of their call center traffic, with the others outsourcing between 0 and 50 percent. In doing so, they collectively projected to spend $300 million in 2009, the same level as in 2008.

The location of their outsourcers, however, charted some significant shifts between 2008 and 2009. Those opting to use only domestic call centers (onshore outsourcers) jumped from 26 percent in 2008 to 44 percent in 2009. Interestingly, those opting to use only international locations (offshore outsourcers) also jumped from a scant 3 percent in 2008 to 8 percent in 2009. Those using a combination of onshore and offshore call centers dropped from 71 percent to 48 percent.

In another piece of good news, over half (52 percent) of the internal call centers polled plan to increase their amount of call center outsourcing next year, while only 8 percent intend to decrease outsourcing. (Forty percent indicated that they would be seeking to maintain their level of outsourcing expenditures.)  Of those planning an increase, the average increase was 30.6 percent, with the largest segment (42.9 percent) planning a 10-to-20 percent jump. Also noteworthy is the fact that 14.3 percent plan on an increase of more than 50 percent.

The polled call centers were asked to rate their reasons for choosing to outsource. Of the ten explanations given, half of them ranked in the top group, with two in the middle, and three possessing lesser importance. The top reason cited was to conduct a sales campaign, with the second being to support a marketing campaign. The ten items, listed in order of importance, are to:

  • conduct a sales campaign
  • support a marketing campaign
  • reduce costs
  • gain access to skilled agents
  • allow for a focus on core business imperatives
  • reduce internal staff
  • provide customer service
  • set appointments
  • fulfill offers
  • generate leads

Even more insightful is the importance of various characteristics in the selection process of choosing an outsource call center provider. The leading reason cited, by a significant margin, was the “impeccable compliance record” of the outsourcer. Tied for second were “superior security procedures” and “business experience in the company’s industry sector.” Interestingly, cost considerations do not appear in the top five criteria. The entire list, in order of importance, is:

  • impeccable compliance record
  • superior security procedures
  • business experience in the company’s industry sector
  • exceptional training and expertise
  • skilled program management
  • cost per transaction
  • cost per hour
  • cost per sale
  • advanced technology
  • domestic operations
  • senior strategic counsel
  • number of geographic call centers
  • combination of domestic and international operations
  • international operations

In ascertaining overall satisfaction levels, the collective group of those “somewhat satisfied” and “very satisfied” increased from 83 percent in 2008 to 91.7 percent in 2009. Although the satisfaction levels also improved for offshore call outsource call centers, the numbers were not nearly so encouraging. For this group, 59 percent were “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” in 2008, increasing to 70.6 percent in 2009. The “very dissatisfied” category dropped to 5.9 percent in 2009, improving from an alarming 29 percent in 2008. (The percentage of those “somewhat dissatisfied” almost doubled in 2009, owing to a migration away from the “very dissatisfied” category.)  Parallel to this was a reduction in the likelihood of switching outsource teleservice providers, with the “very likely” and “somewhat likely” categories collectively dropping to 56 percent versus 79 percent for the prior year.

The major conclusions are that there is increased satisfaction with call center outsourcers, increased spending on outsourcing is expected, and fewer companies will be switching call centers. There is also a shift towards domestic (onshore) call center operations. As to the reasons in selecting an outsourcer, compliance and security are the most important, followed by sector experience and quality training; cost considerations are not among the top considerations.

This research was conducted by Dial America.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

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