10 Questions to Ask a Call Center Hosting Provider
March 12, 2013
What is easiest rarely turns out to be the most cost-efficient. That is especially true when considering call center hosting costs.
At first blush, a hosted solution certainly looks appealing since you save lots of time and money in setup, you never have to worry about equipment maintenance or technical support if something goes wrong, and the price is almost too low to believe.
But there are cost factors for call center businesses that are easy to overlook. Moreover, there are dramatic cost-savings derived from new IP-based technologies that may end up benefitting your hosting provider, but never reach your bottom line.
Here are 10 questions to ask your prospective call center hosting provider that will help you truly understand the cost of a hosted solution:
1. Is that free setup truly free?
Often, setup is limited to only basic components. Make sure you know what it will cost to get your call center completely up and running.
2. Is the per-month cost only good for a limited time?
If so, what is the cost after the introductory rate? How long is that price guaranteed?
3. Does the monthly price include calling minutes?Most hosts charge for minutes separately. Make sure the rate you’re told is for the volume of calls you expect. The marketing material of hosting providers will often cite the per-minute charge they apply to high-volume users. Low- to mid-level users often pay much higher per-minute charges.
4. What is the calling rate for outbound calls?
Likewise, marketing materials often cite charges for inbound calls, but fail to mention that outbound call charges are significantly higher. Make sure you get a detailed list of all possible call charges prior to selecting a call center hosting provider.
5. Are there any per-hour charges even when no calls are made?
It’s not uncommon for call center hosting providers to charge for the mere possibility of calls, when there are no actual calls to charge. Ask in advance for a detailed listing of all charges, even those not based on calls.
6. What are the costs for additional features, such as call recording or call monitoring?
In addition to fees charged, you will want to get a detailed listing of the capabilities and limitations of these important features.
7. Are there any additional charges for agent coaching?
The ability to provide on-the-job training and feedback to agents is a powerful management tool. Nothing will allow you to increase the effectiveness of agents more quickly or efficiently. You should be able to not only monitor agent conversations, but also coach them with tips and advice that they can hear during the conversation that is inaudible to the client or prospective customer on the line.
8. Are there any minimum seats to purchase?
Scalability is a great cost control in call center management. Make sure you understand how call center hosting providers view scalability issues. If there are a minimum number of seats required to be purchased, how closely do your real needs match that minimum? You should never have to pay for capabilities that you will never use. The flexibility of today’s call center technology makes scalability easy. Make sure your call center hosting provider doesn’t withhold that flexibility from you.
9. How many simultaneous calls can each agent make?
The effectiveness of outbound calling campaigns exponentially increases as the number of simultaneous calls increase. The benefits of auto dialer tools are wasted if your agents must wait for calls to be dialed and answered one or two at a time.
10. What exactly is included in the package?
In addition to free minutes, your package should include tools to help you effectively exploit all the advantages of a sophisticated call center—better customer service, more effective marketing and time-saving, and efficiency-boosting automated tools.
Does your prospective call center host offer a predictive dialer that automatically dials numbers, manages DNC lists and only hands a call to an agent when a live person answers? What about automated customer relationship management? Does your host offer the ability to keep a complete record of contact events and preferences for each of your customers and prospective customers? Can that customer record be automatically popped onto the desktop screen of an agent whenever that customer calls or is reached?
How about IVR capabilities? Are they offered by your prospective call center hosting provider? What charges does that incur?
Does your prospective call center host integrate other contact formats such as two-way SMS text messaging or e-mail? Can your host handle them and how much does that cost?
Most importantly, how will you be able to manage and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of your call center? Does you prospective call center hosting provider offer management software that enables you to build and execute your own ACD plans? Does it generate campaign reports for your outbound calling campaigns? Can it track and manage compliance with regulatory requirements to make sure you aren’t exposed to the possibility of stiff fines for FCC (News - Alert) rule violations?
Understanding how your prospective call center hosting provider addresses these capabilities and charges for them will give you a clear picture of the real charges you can expect for hosting services.
Once those costs are clear, you will want to look into the comparative costs of managed services, in which you purchase and own the software that runs your call center, either on your own computers or on computers leased through cloud services.
Typically, managed services offered by Voicent Communications will cost less than half of what hosting providers charge, while providing all of the ease, hands-off setup and worry-free maintenance your business needs to succeed.
Edited by Jamie Epstein