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What Is a BPO Call Center (And Do You Need One?)

This article was published on June 26, 2024

Do your phones keep ringing (and ringing and ringing)? Do you have limited capacity to answer them? If you struggle to keep pace with incessant demand, it may be time to lean on a trusted third-party provider. This is where call center BPO can help. In this article, we’ll uncover the meaning of BPO, outline the pros and cons, and help you decide whether you need outsourced support.

Photo of a smiling woman in an office talking into her headset and looking at her computer. In the background, a series of small wave-like icos run across the frame, representing communication.

What Does BPO Stand For?

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is when an organization delegates key business functions to an external provider. The provider may be a sole source or a larger vendor that hires its own specialized workforce.

Though we will be referring to BPO in the context of call centers in this article, other use cases can include:

  • marketing services (such as copywriting or SEO audits)

  • payroll calculation and management

  • supply chain management

  • admin work (such as data entry)

By outsourcing these services, businesses can reduce costs, free up time for busy departments like HR and finance, and improve their overall customer service efforts.

What Is a BPO Call Center and How Does It Work?

A BPO call center is a third-party vendor that employs experienced agents to manage customer-facing communications for businesses. Most modern call centers adopt technology to support these agents, streamline their efforts, and extract important communication data for your teams — such as the number of missed calls and queries resolved.

Like many other BPO providers, these companies operate on a contractual basis and will tailor their service packages to your specific needs. This means you’re free to outsource all of your call center operations or just a handful.

It’s important to note that while these vendors manage the processes, you still retain ownership of your data. So, if anything happens to this data, you will be liable.

Types of BPO Call Center

Generally speaking, there are three types of vendors within the BPO call center industry: those that handle incoming calls from customers, those that conduct outgoing calls, and those that combine the two.

Inbound

Inbound BPO call centers manage incoming calls from customers or prospects. Depending on your sector and business model, you may use an inbound call center for the following services:

  • Customer support. If a customer or prospect has a query about your services, their call will be directed to an inbound contact center. Here, a trained agent will provide them with the answers they’re looking for — or route them to a relevant expert (potentially within your organization, rather than the call center).

  • Tech support. Similarly, inbound agents can resolve tech issues over the phone — depending on the level of expertise within the call centers. This is most useful for software companies or businesses that provide web-based services.

  • Order management. Outsourced agents can guide customers through any order issues, such as delayed shipments, lost parcels, or returns.

  • Appointment booking. Organizing customer appointments can be tedious and time-consuming work for your teams. Inbound call centers can arrange these appointments on your behalf, based on your availability, and then forward them to the respective team.

Outbound

On the other hand, outbound BPO call centers take responsibility for your outgoing communications. Typically, these vendors will provide services geared toward marketing and sales, such as:

  • Telesales. This may include cold calls as well as lead nurturing. In some cases, an outbound call center may generate new leads, which can then be passed on to your in-house sales team for further nurturing.

  • Marketing surveys and research. Planning on launching a new service or evaluating the success of your current services? In either scenario, it’s best practice to get insights from your customers or target audience first. An outbound call center can conduct surveys and marketing outreach on your behalf. With the data you receive, you can refine your business plans and avoid risky decisions.

  • Telemarketing. Gone are the days of door-to-door marketing. An outbound call center can spread awareness about your business and promote your products over the phone in a less-intrusive, more personalized manner.

Hybrid

A hybrid BPO call center merges inbound and outbound services. This option can be beneficial for smaller businesses with lower call volumes that don’t wish to invest in a large BPO vendor.

Equally, a hybrid solution may appeal to companies that don’t require a lot of specialist knowledge. If external agents can confidently handle customer support, telesales, and telemarketing services without extensive training, organizations may choose this route to free-up their internal teams.

Benefits of a BPO Call Center

Despite their best efforts, some businesses simply can’t handle the sheer number of incoming and outgoing communications needed to keep their customers and prospects satisfied. This is the biggest catalyst for adopting a BPO call center.

An external vendor (or vendors) can ease the strain of endless calls and free up time for busy teams. On top of this, a BPO call center may also provide:

Lower Costs

The cost of contracting and setting up an outsourced call center will vary depending on the services required, the agents needed, and the location of the business. Onshore or nearshore call centers may charge more, while offshore companies may offer more attractive rates.

All of this being said, outsourcing your call center operations will cut costs in certain areas, particularly in relation to personnel and technology. A vendor will already have the human and technology resources needed to set up your call center. As such, you’ll only pay for the services needed — not the foundations for those services.

24/7 Global Service

There aren’t many businesses that can provide 24/7/365 customer support in-house. In fact, unless you’re depriving your agents of sleep, it’s near impossible.

An outsourced call center can reach your customers and prospects at any time — and with minimal downtime. This is a compelling differentiator that can lead to fewer missed calls and faster resolution times. The result of this, of course, is boosted customer satisfaction and increased retention.

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Increased Flexibility

Many businesses opt for outsourced call centers because they suffer from a lack of flexibility. Their in-house teams can’t spare the time to dial a telephone number, nevermind sit on a lengthy call and give customers their complete undivided attention.

A BPO call center can relieve your teams and enhance flexibility in a handful of ways, including:

  • Freeing up internal resources. As your sales, marketing, and IT teams needn’t spend hours of their days on the phone, they’re free to focus on more high-value tasks.

  • Scaling to meet customer demand. Does your business experience peak interest at certain times, such as holiday seasons? Sudden influxes of calls can be difficult to manage on your own — especially if doing so requires hiring new agents. With experienced talent already on hand, a BPO call center can adapt to meet your changing needs at speed.

  • Empowering your in-house teams. Partially outsourcing your call center services to a BPO provider is a surefire way to increase the efficiency of your in-house agents. By streamlining business processes like appointment setting and lead qualification, you can augment your communications operations and reduce low-value, time-consuming tasks.

Risks of Outsourcing

As the saying goes, “every rose has its thorn.” Like most things in life, BPO call centers have their downsides, so take these benefits with a grain of salt.

When deciding whether outsourcing is right for your business, be sure to consider the potential risks:

Less Control

You will have to relinquish some control when outsourcing a call center.

While you’ll retain visibility into your call operations from a distance, you’ll have little control over how these operations are conducted. This can cause anxiety for some businesses — particularly those with complex services, products, or customer needs. Without immediate, real-time access to call logs, you can’t know for sure how your outsourced agents are handling calls.

Related to this lack of control is a lack of collaboration. A BPO call center operates separately, which can result in stunted (or non-existent) communication between BPO agents and in-house teams. Because of this, vital information and customer feedback could get lost in translation.

Increased Security Risks

Outsourced call centers aren’t immune to security risks like phishing attacks, ransomware, and data breaches. While the same can be said for your business — or any business, for that matter — this risk will come with additional concerns.

Ultimately, you cannot control the security standards, systems, or tools your BPO vendors follow. Therefore, you can’t guarantee they’ll protect and secure your sensitive data properly. This may make you more vulnerable to data breaches and could impede your regulatory compliance.

When selecting a BPO vendor, it’s crucial to do your due diligence and ensure the company follows strict data security practices. Otherwise, your sensitive information may fall into the wrong hands.

Less Specialist Knowledge

Knowing your services and understanding your buyer is key to delivering compelling outbound and inbound communications. While outsourced agents may complete training related to your company, services, and customers, they will never know your business as well as you do.

For companies that deliver complex services or products — such as financial or healthcare services — this can be a huge risk. If the agents cannot talk about your services in a confident, expert manner, they may give the wrong support — or, indeed, no support at all. This could result in dissatisfied customers, poor retention, and a hit to your brand reputation.

Deciding if a BPO Solution Is Right for You

At this point, you may be wondering what next steps you should follow. Is a BPO call center solution right for your business? Or are there better alternatives out there?

There is no right or wrong answer here. For some businesses, outsourcing some or all of their customer-facing communications can be life-changing; for others, it’s entirely unnecessary.

So, when making this decision, you need to weigh a number of different factors. To help you along, we’ve compiled a list of questions you should answer:

  • How much control are you willing to give up? With a BPO solution, you will retain less control over (and insight into) your communications. You’ll also relinquish some control over the security of your data.

  • Do you have the time and resources to hire in-house agents? If not, you’ll need to rethink your call center operations and either find a way to augment your current workers or support them with outsourced support.

  • Is your business particularly technical or specialized? If you operate in a highly specific industry and, as such, need to deliver complex, educated communications, a BPO call center may not be the right choice.

  • How much coverage will you need? Consider the extent of your call center needs. How many services will you need to outsource? How many calls do you typically handle? Where do your customers or prospects reside? The wider — and larger — the coverage, the more challenging it’ll be to handle your call center in-house.

Of course, it’s important to remember that there are more ways to improve your call center abilities without hiring more in-house staff or contracting an external provider.

With a call center solution such as Vonage Business Communications, you can scale up your communication efforts, streamline workflows, and boost productivity across your teams — all in a quick, cost-efficient manner. This is thanks to the platform's intelligent call center features, such as call queue, virtual receptionists, and AI sales assistants. Even when you’re not on the line, the platform’s call logs feature allows you to analyze your call recordings and continuously optimize your inbound and outbound tactics. This means you can make the most of the resources you already have, while simultaneously delivering exceptional customer experiences.

If you’re a small business that doesn’t want to invest in a full contact center option, or spend money on additional staff, this could be a smart alternative for you.

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