Outsourcing With Dedicated Agents is Better. Here are 5 Reasons Why.

Photo Credit: Bryce Johnson via CC License

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on November 20, 2017. Click here to read the original.

When it comes to outsourcing customer service you may encounter a couple of different staffing models. The first is a shared model where you pay per minute for an agent’s time only when they are speaking with customers. Shared agents are trained to handle interactions for multiple companies. The second is a dedicated model where you pay an hourly rate and the agents are completely dedicated to your account. The goal of this article is to highlight the advantages of dedicated agents, but let me first tell you some of the pros and cons of shared agents.

Shared Outsourced Agents

Certain outsourcers and answering services might work based on a shared model. Here are some things you should know about the shared model approach:

  • An answering service can be a good way to maintain a 24×7 customer service presence in case issues arise after hours. It can also help with overflow in the event that your internal team is too busy or understaffed.
  • Shared outsourcing can work well if customer interactions are generally brief, simple and repeatable, require minimal training, and if volumes are low.
  • As contact volume and the usage of the shared team increases, there comes a point where it makes more sense on multiple levels to use dedicated agents and pay a flat hourly rate rather than paying by the minute.
  • Similarly, it can be difficult to control costs and stay within a budget using a shared team — especially if you’re prone to unpredictable spikes in call volume.
  • You generally benefit from having a large team available to handle calls as they arrive.
  • The outsourcer doesn’t make money unless shared agents are well-utilized, so agents are trained to handle calls for multiple different companies. If one company has a spike in call volume, this can impact service levels for the other companies.
  • It can be challenging to use shared agents for anything other than phone support simply because tracking time is trickier on other, text-based channels.

There are definitely some benefits and challenges to using shared agents. Now let’s look at dedicated agents.

The Advantages of Dedicated Agents

As I mentioned earlier, when you outsource with dedicated agents, they are completely focused on your company and you pay a flat rate per hour for their time. There are a number of advantages to this model over a shared approach. Here are five reasons to go dedicated.

1. Dedicated agents are more focused on your company and culture.

Unlike shared agents, dedicated agents are an extension of your internal support team. They aren’t handling support for other companies but instead are totally focused on your company. Once they are fully trained with the appropriate level of experience, you’ll find that they are every bit as good (and in some cases better) and as qualified as your internal agents to support your customers. Heavily vested in the company they’re supporting, they are passionate about improving the customer experience by sharing valuable voice of customer insight. Keeping outsourced agents engaged and a part of the company culture is much like keeping internal agents engaged. Here’s an article I wrote with some practical tips for doing this.

2. Dedicated agents are experts.

Typically dedicated outsourced agents go through the same customer service training as internal agents. When I outsourced, I found that many of my more tenured outsourced agents eventually took on Tier-2 work and beyond. We even involved them in onboarding and supporting newer internal agents.

3. Dedicated agents can handle a variety of tasks.

When agents are dedicated they can handle any support channel as needed. And much like you would do with an internal team, if support volume is slow, agents can do other administrative work and projects like proactively reaching out to dissatisfied customers. While they work for the outsourcer, they are very much a part of the company they support. Treat them as if they are your own employees.

4. Enhanced supervision.

As the team grows, leadership is dedicated to your account and trained in much the same way as the agents. This means that they can be equipped to handle escalated issues and provide floor support to the agents — avoiding an influx of issues sent to the company. Granted, many of our clients also use tools like Slack to work closely with their dedicated team to provide them with the support and empowerment they need to do their job well.

5. Costs are more predictable and controllable.

When you pay an hourly rate it’s easier to predict how much you’ll pay in a given month based on the hours the agents are scheduled to work. Blended with your internal customer service team, agents can work overtime and cover staffing gaps that arise. On the cost side, consider this case study that shows how scaling with an outsourcer can represent significant cost savings over building the team in a large metropolitan area with a high cost of living.

There are certainly benefits to both shared and dedicated agents, and depending on your individual situation, either model could make sense. The theme throughout this article is that dedicated agents are in a position to deliver a higher quality experience to your customers. They are an extension of your internal customer service team and company culture and your customers will most certainly hear and see the difference.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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