What Is a BPO Call Center? (Types, Pros, Cons)

BPO call center

Your customers and users are growing fast, your products and services are expanding, and naturally, your customer-facing team (or rather, the very busy few people managing this process) are fielding a lot more questions.

Even with customer support channels and automated workflows, you can’t seem to resolve all these queries fast enough to provide the level of service your customer expect. Your best best is to grow your customer support function, but you don’t have the luxury to hire, onboard, and train a team of capable call center agents. 

In these circumstances, companies turn to outsourcing call centers with a BPO call center.

Regardless of industry, size, or product offering, organizations can take advantage of the benefits of outsourcing their call center function to keep customers happy, without investing in new support resources or growing your customer service team. But managing an external, outsourced team of call center agents requires careful consideration, as they come with risks that can hurt your brand’s reputation and damage customer relationships.

In this article, we explore the concept of a BPO call center, the advantages and challenges of outsourcing your call center, and how to identify and partner with the right type of BPO call center.

What Is a BPO Call Center?

A business process outsourcing (BPO) call center provides companies with customer-facing communication services like answering support calls and responding to tickets via digital channels like email, live chat, help desk, social media, etc. Companies who outsource their customer service function use this call center strategy because they’re constrained by resource availability or a limited business strategy.

What Does a BPO Call Center Do?

BPO call centers are a flexible service that empowers organizations with resources to improve all types of customer communication; this includes: 

  1. Customer support: Manage support tickets, customer queries, technical assistance, and product guidance.
  2. Dispatch services: Coordinate and dispatch operations such as emergency responders, transportation services, and support technicians. 
  3. Order processing: Oversee and manage the end-to-end process for placing, tracking, and fulfilling orders in industries like e-commerce and retail. 
  4. Market research: Conduct outreach to target prospects for the purpose of gathering survey responses or collecting feedback. 
  5. Telemarketing: Boost market awareness by calling potential or existing customers to promote products and deals.
  6. Telesale: Generate revenue by calling target accounts or prospects to sell products and services.

Types of BPO Call Centers

BPO call centers are used across industries like telecommunications, healthcare, hospitality, retail, and more.

Each of these businesses operate differently. Some have more straightforward communication with customers than others, or may have more urgency for 24/7, real-time support. To better adapt to these different service level requirements, there are a few types of BPO call centers that companies can choose to adopt:

1. Inbound call centers

Inbound call centers prioritize incoming calls and queries from customers. These call centers rely on capabilities like multi-channel communication, call routing, ticket queue management, and interactive voice response to prevent longer response times or limited agent availability. BPO agents are trained to provide high-quality customer assistance that maintain customer satisfaction and retention. 

2. Outbound call centers

Outbound call centers focus on outgoing calls to existing customers or business prospects. These call centers benefits when agents use call center software with capabilities for mapping out outreach campaigns, predictive dialing, call back scheduling, and call center scripting. BPO agents conducting outbound activities are trained  to help companies conduct market research, expand revenue from existing accounts and acquire net new customers by selling products or services.

3. Virtual call center

A remote call center is made up of a virtual workforce distributed in multiple geographic locations. Agents are also strategically dispersed to manage calls from specific time zones or in different languages. These call centers help companies provide 24/7 support and hyperlocalized assistance. It’s also a cost-efficient way to scale the customer support function without establishing new physical offices.

self-help-gif

Above: Example of contextual help and user support built with a Digital Adoption Platform.

Whatfix’s Self-Help overlays on to any web application, desktop application, mobile app, or website. It provides contextual help to users and integrates with your FAQs, support center, LMS, user documentation, and more. Users are presented with common issues and help content for their contextual area in the application, or they can use an open-ended search to find the specific help content they’re looking for. These help support cards often prompt in-app guidance, walking users through the specific workflow they need help on.

Advantages of BPO Call Centers

To decide between outsourcing call centers or building these teams in-house, companies must first evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. 

Certain customer support teams are inherently better equipped to manage high volumes of calls than others. For example, JPMorgan recently invested in 40 new remote customer service roles to expand its virtual call center in Baltimore. JPMorgan has the largest support workforce of any bank in the US, making it a no-brainer to build their team in-house and even cut costs with a remote model, as the have the infrastructure and overhead to manage this effectively.

But not all organizations have these resources. If you have a smaller workforce or serve customers across time zones in industries that require on-demand support, then a BPO call center unlocks many opportunities.

1. Reduce costs

A BPO call center helps teams focus their spending on core business priorities — whether its developing products, delivering services, or executing non-negotiable tasks for generating revenue. 

The costs of building an entire call center function in-house compounds easily. You’ll have to hire new people, train call center agents, implement new customer service tools, maintain your technology stack, and repeat these processes as your business scales. On the other hand, a BPO call center does this work for you. 

These vendors equip you with technology platforms, automated workflows, and a pool of proficient call center agents that fit your needs. To access these services, BPO providers give companies you transparent and predictable pricing that is calculated based on factors like a  flat subscription fee, the volume and duration of calls, the number of agents, access to specific features, or customized pricing that best reflects more niche or complex business models.

2. 24-hour support

In industries such as (but not limited to) health, hospitality, utilities, and transportation, constant and reliable access to call centers is critical to retaining and keeping customers happy. Providing this 24/7 support  can be tricky for those who serve customers in different time zones and locations. 

Companies would have to either hire agents to serve those target customers or limit customer service hours and risk the repercussions. Instead, you can select a BPO call center with high-quality talent who can support your operations outside traditional working hours. 

If you’re serving customers around the globe, you can choose BPO call center agents stationed in select countries — and give you the added advantage of multi-lingual service.  Beyond people resources, BPO call centers also support tickets 24/7 via digital channels, even if no agents are available.

3. Increased efficiency

Ultimately, BPO call centers streamline customer support services to a single point of accountability. For example, leaders can communicate a point of contact for all call center operations instead of managing onboarding, training, upskilling, and performance assessments for an entire team. For resource-strapped companies, this approach makes day-to-day call center operations much simpler to scale and, most importantly, track. 

BPO call centers will be extremely experienced at handling customer communication, being that it’s their primary business driver. You can quickly implement and measure the performance of a call center that is fully equipped to resolve customer issues quickly and execute supporting tasks. 

You also don’t have to worry about building a data infrastructure from the ground up that can give you enough visibility into your help desk KPIs. Instead, you’re leaning on your BPO call center’s expertise to help you optimize performance in real-time.

Disadvantages of BPO Call Centers

Although many companies have seen great success with both BPO call centers, some may not reap the benefits of managing a robust external team. 

Customer-facing communication is a huge responsibility that leaders can get anxious about putting into the hands of their employees without multiple rounds of interviews and hours of training. Understandably, these worries are heightened when placing that trust in the hands of a team that you may not have worked with before. 

Here are a few disadvantages of BPO call centers that companies should be aware of:

Decreased brand control

When you outsource any service, there’s the risk of not being able to own or control output fully. In the case of a BPO call center, this output refers to the quality and efficiency of communication with customers. 

Unlike employees who are more involved in day-to-day operations around the company, BPO agents are not hired and onboarded by your organization. This gap in brand alignment can result in inconsistent messaging and a poor customer experience from BPO agents.

Investing in a robust training program for BPO agents will help you avoid this issue. You should treat your BPO agents as a part of your organization and eliminate siloes by making company resources and knowledge accessible during a time of need. When applicable, you can even involve select BPO agents in strategic discussions about customer communication so both parties have full transparency on expectations and service level requirements.

Increased security risk

In strictly regulated industries like healthcare, financial services, government, and legal services, customer data is extremely sensitive. Information such as health data, financial records, and confidential government documents can be extremely dangerous if handled by a third-party vendor with an unprotected technology stack. Without the correct security protocol, this data can be lost, compromised, or stolen through data breaches and cyberattacks. 

If you work with a BPO call center, you must ensure that your vendor has undergone a strict vetting process that evaluates their data infrastructure, processes, and data handling for the right compliance standards.

Potential communication issues

Many organizations have seen great success calling their customer service operations with offshore BPO call centers. But this only happens if you set the right expectations and deliver high-quality training to ensure agents are comfortable and confident communicating with customers who speak different languages or have different cultural norms. 

You’ll want to select a BPO call center that is transparent about its capabilities in managing a global customer base. There is no shortage of call center vendors that are upfront about their strengths in providing multilingual support across different time zones. These vendors typically have more robust workflows, tools, and resources to support communication in other languages and regions.

How Does a BPO Call Center Work?

Now, let’s get into the specifics of what the process of partnering with a BPO call center looks like. 

Although this process can look different depending on the size of your organization or the industry that you’re in, we’re highlighting a few basic components of a BPO call center partnership.

1. Partner with third-party vendor

The first thing you’re going to do is evaluate third-party vendors and choose your BPO call center provider. Ultimately, this selection process will boil down to the cost of the service, the training and onboarding process for BPO call center agents, building out service-level agreements (SLAs), and setting KPIs. 

You want your vendor to make your job easier by providing clear organization and processes for managing customer interactions and aligning with your brand. But at the same time, you also want a vendor with enough flexibility to quickly make improvements and adapt to different environments when needed.

2. BPO call center handles inbound and outbound calls

Your BPO call center’s primary responsibility is managing incoming and outgoing customer communication. You’ll give agents access to all your customer support channels so they can work smoothly as an extension of your organization, especially when dealing with customer support requests and tickets. 

You don’t want your customer experience to seem fragmented and inconsistent despite having an external team, especially if you’re handing customer communication to them at a certain point during the day to provide 24/7 assistance. 

You’ll also be leaning on BPO call center agents to conduct outbound calls, in which they’ll represent your company to engage with customers and scale revenue-growing opportunities.

3. BPO agents rely on existing knowledge base

Organizations play the biggest role in ensuring a successful partnership with BPO agents. You’ll be responsible for supplying agents with accurate, up-to-date, accessible information to help them do their job. This includes information about all your products and services, frequently asked questions, pricing, troubleshooting tips, branding guidelines, and even your company ground. Build a robust, well-organized knowledge base that is easy to find, and contains relevant examples, suggestions, or visual guidance that can help agents quickly solve customer queries. With digital adoption platforms like Whatfix, you can equip your knowledge base or call center software with in-app knowledge that’s proactive and searchable.

4. BPO provider tracks performance

Your BPO vendor will also be in charge of helping you track and measure your call center’s performance. These vendors have access to agents and an underlying tech stack that supports tracking, reporting, and data analysis capabilities. For example, you and your BPO vendor can analyze response times, call dropoff rates, customer satisfaction, and issue resolution times to identify process gaps or resource availability.  

At the end of the day, your BPO provider is incentivized to improve their performance because the success of your partnership is determined by their ability to meet the KPIs defined in your SLA.

Best Practices for Implementing a BPO Call Center

Similar to how it is working with any business vendor, you want to be strategic and thorough in the process of evaluating, selecting, and implementing a new BPO call center. Here are a few tips to building a strong partnership:

1. Vet providers thoroughly

Don’t skimp out on conducting your due diligence. You’re trusting your BPO call center to represent your brand and properly manage customer data and interactions. Do background checks and assess each vendor’s track record across factors like:

  1. Industry reputation and references
  2. Security and regulatory compliance 
  3. Data security and privacy measures 
  4. Cost transparency
  5. Customer support and disaster recovery 
  6. Communication style and work ethics

2. Agree on a BPO contract

Establish a contract with comprehensive coverage of your scope of services, service level agreements, performance expectations, legal and financial requirements, confidentiality terms, data security requirements, and conditions for termination. This legally binding document is the source of truth for your partnership and should serve the purpose of preventing unnecessary disputes and risks to your company’s finances and reputation.

3. Have a transition plan

Moving your operations to a BPO call center will require a clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and timelines. You’ll want to assign points of accountability in your team to oversee and execute processes like data migrations, tech stack implementations, and agent training and onboarding. Your transition plan will also help you plan your resource allocation and handoff workflows between your internal employees and external BPO call center. Get these processes in place before officially kicking off the partnership so you’re not compromising your customer experience with messy data, confused agents, and slow support.

4. Analyze and monitor results

Your BPO call center agents are not going to be in your office with you. If they’re working in different time zones and geographic locations, reaching them becomes even harder. But this shouldn’t deter you from putting your trust in a BPO call center. Build your partnership on a mutual sense of trust and accountability. 

Based on your defined KPIs and SLA, establish a process where both parties are tracking and reviewing call center performance metrics like average-handle time and time-to-resolution on a regular basis. Call center software features like call recordings, reporting dashboards, and even AI-powered sentiment analysis gives you a lot of data to assess the quality of customer communication and identify areas of improvement. By tracking results, you can maximize your investment and your BPO call center’s time by pivoting strategies to focus on what works best.

Enable your customers and deflect support tickets via in-app guidance and self-help support with Whatfix

Whatfix’s digital adoption platform (DAP) enables customer support teams to build high quality customer experiences and enable end-users with in-app guided experiences and real-time self-service support accessible, when customers need it. 

Empower your customers and call center agents by using Whatfix’s interactive in-app guidance to answer routine questions and free up your team’s bandwidth for complex customer issues. 

Proactively feed product tips and information to customers at the right time with pop-ups, tool tips, and guided product workflows to prevent customer friction within your product. Analyze your customer support tickets and deploy these content formats at specific points in the user journey to avoid any confusion. 

With Whatfix, you can improve your customer experience, shorten the time taken to resolve tickets, and maximize your BPO call center investments on the right problems.

What Is Whatfix?
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that provides organizations with a no-code editor to create in-app guidance on any application that looks 100% native. With Whatfix, create interactive walkthroughs, product tours, task lists, smart tips, field validation, self-help wikis, hotspots, and more. Understand how users are engaging with your applications with advanced product analytics.
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