October 9, 2020

Behind the Curtain: Tricks Some Call Center Outsourcers Play

Let’s pull back the curtain on some outsourcing tricks. Unfortunately, there are some things that you should look out for when you are searching for a new call center outsourcer. The vast majority of call center outsourcers hold themselves to high industry standards. Some potential outsourcers will present ideas that will be outside the box while still being helpful. However, there are always those that like to get a little sneaky and slide some tricks into a contract.

  1. Exorbitant setup fees. Outsourcers often use setup fees to recoup some cost in their systems, which is totally fair.  But, sometimes, they like to get more than a little crazy. For the most part we aren’t dealing with a vast amount of technology. So, in reality, setup fees don’t need to be super high any more. Some programs have a ton of integrations and programming for natural speech IVRs and other self-service features–those features will probably add to the setup fee.  However, if your organization alread has a phone number and an IVR tree and only needs a customer service program set up for 30 reps, there should not be an expectation for a huge expense from setup fees. If you need a VPN set up, those aren’t hard and should only take a couple of hours.  For companies that are already in the cloud, your setup fees could be as low as $7,000. At Expivia, we have never charged more than $10,000 for setup fees, which shocked someone who asked if $87,000 was reasonable.  What?!  NO!!
  1. Setup fee payment. Do not be surprised when you are asked to pay your setup fee before work can begin. Most of us have been burned by not collecting ahead of time. For example an outsourcer might have a program lined up for you, but a week into training, the entire project gets scrapped. Without collecting prior to starting the work, the outsourcer will never see payment for the cancelled job, which means we just wasted everyone’s time and have nothing to show for it.
  1. Paying for client support. My number one pet peeve is being expected to pay for client support. If you have an outsourcer telling you it will be $50 an hour (or a monthly package of $2,000) for client support–run away!! Client support should be rolled into the costs. This is most true with smaller, boutique programs of 500-1000 seats, but not necessarily true for a 30,000 seat international program.
  1. Permanent charges. Be sure you understand the breakdown of your permanent charges.  A potential client told me their current center is charging of $2 per minute.  When doing the math if you reps are working 45 minutes each hour, that’s $90 per hour they are charging you. Even if you are not full-time or are using blended agents, I would be careful of going over $0.75 a minute. When you are being charged too much in your permanent charges, there could be a hidden reason. It may be that they don’t really want your program, but will take if they can convince you to pay them that much.
  1. Upcharges for email and chat.  Everything you are using in your program, such as voice, email, and chat, should be included in your cost. There should not be an additional setup fee for any of these services–unless it is not during the initial setup. If you set up your program and six months later want to add chat services, there could be a minimal setup fee for that.  If your oursourcer, from the time of setup, wanted to charge you $5,000 to setup voice, another $5,000 to setup email, and another $5,000 for chat along with a “base” setup fee, that’s just not right. All of these should be tied together unless they are added later.
  1. Licensing for reporting. You should never have to pay for additional licensing for reporting to dashboards. If the outsourcer is paying an extra license fee to have you on their platform, a small fee to cover that is understandable. But, some companies see this as a way to charge you up to an extra $1,500 a month just for you to be able to see your own reports through a dashboard login.  Expivia doesn’t charge that.  Most call centers will build any fee for this into their permanent charges.
  1. Charging to monitor and have access to recordings. Any recording made belongs to your company. If you are being charged per recording, push back against that. There might be an exception to this if there is a storage fee, but most of these will not stay on a server. There may be a small fee if you are storing your recordings on their server, but they shouldn’t be making a ton of money on it because there is very little overhead on this.
  1. Paying by the minute. When paying by the minute, be sure you understand what you are paying for. Is it handle time? Talk time? A combination? Is after-call work included, and if so, for how long? If you are being charged for everything, including all after-call work, they could be charging you a lot of money. Your call center may also inadvertently become incentivized to get really lazy on calls. Most companies will hold everyone up to an efficiency standard and not do this. However, be sure that they have the reporting to justify their billing.
  1. Paying by the hour. The majority of our clients pay by the hour. You need to know if you are paying for the reps’ lunches and breaks. Usually, this can be negotiated based on a per hour charge. As a rule, if a representative works an 8-hour shift, the center should bill you for 7.5 hours. If your center says they bill for an 8-hour day, try to negotiate a lower rate to compensate for that half-hour lunch.
  1. Attrition Training. Do not pay for attrition training. Let’s say you signed on with this call center and started with 25 reps. Several months later three reps have left the company.  The call center is responsible for paying for the training to get their numbers back to what you are paying for. If your center knows that they will have to pay for training to maintain a number of seats, they are going to think twice about the type of person they bring on for your program. It is just human nature that they will look for a higher quality candidate instead of just a seat filler. Not setting things up this way from the start can lead to a high turnover rate, that will cost you in more ways than one.

While the majority of call centers don’t do anything on this list, there are always a couple who will try to do something sneaky. If you send out five requests for proposals, you might just see one that looks much different than the others.  That is probably who you want to avoid; do some homework and pull back the curtain on their contract to see what it really going on.

Expivia doesn’t do any of these things. We make our money by providing a ton of value and having you need to increase your program.  We want you to expand and make more money, which will allow us to invest more into the customer service realm for you.  This really is a partnership.

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