Outsourced call centre services in the UK have been undergoing a revival in recent years. Since the development of the modern call centre, their reputation has ebbed and flowed. Much of their unpopularity, especially with customers, was down to poor-quality providers, often offshore, who were unable to manage the calls they received, frequently because of communication difficulties. However, more recently, UK businesses are starting to realise that call centre services are not only essential to managing consumer demand, but they can also play a part in improving customer service.
“The service sector represents about 80% of the UK economy. This creates a significant need for call centre services. Even those parts of the service economy that are direct, like physical retail, will frequently have a central customer service function, not least because it is what customers expect as a standard,” says Ralf Ellspermann, CEO of PITON-Global, an award-winning call centre specialising in high-performance in- and outbound services.
Customers often retain their stereotypical image of low-quality contact centres, recalling nearly incomprehensible telephone conversations. “The industry has transformed so much the customer doesn’t recognise it. They have a negative image of ‘call centres’, but when they have a great experience with their favourite business’s customer support, they often don’t realise it was a call centre too!”, he adds.
One factor behind this transformation has been businesses recognising that low-cost call centres prove unaffordable. Customers, put off by a bad experience, will go elsewhere, costing the business far more in lost trade than they can save.
Call centres in the UK have benefited from this. When many of the complaints about outsourced contact centres focused on communication, it was a natural response to assume these were geographic rather than staff quality issues. The result has been that UK-based providers have seen increases in demand from businesses looking for call centres services where they can be assured that the call agents can easily converse and build a rapport with customers.
“The importance of excellent customer support cannot be understated,” says Ellspermann. Some research has suggested that good customer service, even when prompted by a bad experience, will leave customers feeling more satisfied and more loyal to a brand. A business using outsourced contact centre services should expect to see improved customer sentiment following their decision.
Call centre services can offer more than just better communication. They offer 24-hour support, if needed, and an omnichannel presence, meaning customers can make contact in a way that best suits them, rather than having to use channels determined by the business. They can also scale rapidly, allowing a business to flex their customer service capacity quickly and easily in response to seasonal demand, product launches, or expansion.
Indeed, the benefits to customer service and the fact they allow their clients to focus on their core function rather than a time-consuming, if necessary, ancillary customer service function has fuelled a steady growth in the call centre sector. Call centres in the UK are typically 10% to 15% cheaper than in-house operations, which has often driven the outsourcing decision, but it should probably be considered an added bonus rather than the main incentive.
Savings of up to 15% with UK-based providers, or even as much as 50% with a premier Philippine-based contact centre, are possible while maintaining quality. “The key to successful outsourcing is using a provider with deep domain expertise who can not only maintain but enhance the customer experience,” says Ellspermann. “If the quality isn’t there, it won’t work in the long term. Businesses should also look for providers that invest in their staff, processes, and technology.” Any business considering outsourcing call centre services can generate savings, but quality must always be the first consideration.