Customer service is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of any business. But with already stretched employees dividing time between handling core business processes and managing administrative tasks, it can be difficult for them to actively address customer concerns and inquiries at the same time. It’s no surprise that many companies opt to hire business process outsourcing (BPO) providers that offer expert customer services in the form of call centers or help desk services.
However, and because both are associated with solving customers' queries and problems, you’ll often hear call center or help desk services used interchangeably, especially in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. If you are a business contemplating any of these services, it’s important to be aware of the different aspects that set them apart and select the one that’ll best suit your operational needs.
The differences can be divided into 3 categories — the nature or types of issues they handle, the skills professionals need to have, and the channels they manage. In this article, we will be discussing their key differences to help you gain a better understanding of what a call center or help desk entails, so you can make the right decision.
What is a Call Center?
A call center is a centralized department that handles the phone-based customer support service of a company. This is made up of agents who manage inbound and outbound calls to address customer inquiries, resolve product and service concerns, and handle sales calls, among others.
Call centers can either be in-house or outsourced. With in-house call centers, businesses can address customers quicker and more accurately as agents have direct access to company information. The downside, though, is the cost of setting up a call center which often involves maintenance fees, recruitment, and training can be high.
On the other hand, outsourced call centers are ideal for companies that don’t want to spend on developing a call center. As most BPO companies offering this service already have the necessary infrastructure, all you have to do is provide them with the relevant information they need to answer customer inquiries. Whether in-house or outsourced, call centers allow businesses to provide real-time customer service and foster stronger relationships with clients.
Types of Call Centers
Call centers address basic day-to-day customer complaints and queries through phone-based support. From providing technical assistance to customers to conducting in-depth market research, a call center has multiple offerings and is known for round-the-clock phone assistance.
- Inbound. As the name suggests, these handle all incoming calls. Companies use this platform to assist customers who call in for assistance. Services associated with this type of call center include processing phone orders, answering product/service questions, and resolving complaints. In addition, these interactions also represent upselling opportunities.
- Outbound. Here, the focus is on managing outgoing calls. This is useful for lead generation and customer relationship management. Telesales, customer surveys, new customer follow-ups, all can be conducted via this platform.
- Automated. This is an unmanned call center type that relies on auto-attendants. Companies use this for simple interactions such as helping customers locate store branches or providing appointment reminders, for example. Some BPO companies today provide this service alongside their inbound or outbound call center offerings.
Call centers are categorized depending on where they are based:
- Onshore. A call center that’s located within your country. This is a great option if you are concerned about language or cultural barriers. Plus, with its proximity to your headquarters, it is easier to train agents and stay on the same page when it comes to customer service protocols.
- Nearshore. A call center located outside of your country but still within the same region. This is ideal for companies on a budget as it is still close to your headquarters but labor costs are relatively low. This option also allows you to provide bilingual services.
- Offshore. A call center located in more distant regions of the globe such as India and the Philippines. Offering the cheapest labor cost among the three categories is often the preferred option of large corporations.
Primary Functions of a Call Center
Call centers are often associated with cold calls and conflict resolution. In reality, however, these have functions that go well beyond that and offer opportunities to create personalized customer experiences.
All interactions with your customers represent opportunities and call centers can help you maximize sales opportunities, for example. Outbound calls can help you tap new markets and keep in touch with existing customers to make sure they know of any promotions or sales you may be offering. Inbound calls can be used as a chance to upsell or even introduce new products.
Call centers, particularly outbound ones, are useful for implementing customer onboarding and follow-up programs. Getting agents to routinely interact with customers allows you to engage them effectively, identify at-risk customers, encourage repeat purchases, and even win back lost customers.
A lesser-known, but important function of call centers is research. Call centers are a crucial customer touchpoint and you can gain insight into your operations by simply paying attention to the common concerns and inquiries of your clients. In addition, call centers can also be used to conduct surveys so you get an accurate pulse of customer preferences.
What is a Help Desk Outsourcing Service?
“A help desk can mean many things, depending on the nature of your business. But it all goes back to the core principle of helping people and serving as a place where they can go to get help.”
Chris Grosspietsch, Senior Manager, Advocacy Operations at Zendesk
A help desk acts as a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to handle a company’s internal or external queries. Support can be accessed via phone, email, chat, instant messaging, using social media, or undertaking self-service processes.
A helpdesk is a tool that organizes customer communication to help businesses respond to customers more quickly and effectively. Using a helpdesk allows your support team to offer the best possible experience to your customers, reinforcing customer satisfaction and can positively impact retention rates. Helpdesks offer features to provide context and insight into customer experiences and also provide internal features to benchmark the performance of your support team.
When compared to a call center, a help desk is more reactionary in nature, focusing on inbound customer interactions rather than accommodating prospective clients. Plus, as it is manned by agents with IT backgrounds, they do not perform any sales-related tasks such as offering promotions, upselling or encouraging repeat transactions.
Functions of a Help Desk Outsourcing Service
Help desks serve different roles, depending on who will be using them. For instance, if you intend to outsource your help desk operations for your customers, then the agents will most likely focus on accommodating tech-related customer concerns such as website and app glitches; routing service tickets to appropriate tech specialists; quickly troubleshooting customer problems; keeping tabs on frequent customer concerns.
On the other hand, if you will be investing in help desk services for your employees, it will still provide the services above, but there are additional functions. These include preventing employee downtime in the event of technical difficulties, monitoring potential tech-related risks, and ensuring quick adoption of new office technologies.
Benefits of Hiring a Help Desk Outsourcing Service
Help desk services require a considerable amount of time, expertise, and manpower. That said, managing an in-house can be an expensive and difficult endeavor. This is where partnering with a solid BPO outfit can be advantageous. Outsourcing your help desk operations can provide you with a range of benefits such as:
- Reduced Operating Costs. By outsourcing this aspect of your business, you can spare yourself from the hassle of setting up and maintaining a facility while ensuring that you provide top-notch help desk support for your clients.
- Faster Response Time. BPO companies often have rigorous training for their help desk representatives. In addition, these IT professionals are constantly exposed to a range of technical problems. This puts them in a pole position to provide high-quality customer service.
- Access to Tech Experts. The process of recruiting and training an employee is expensive. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost per hire as of 2016 is $4,129. Plus, if you don’t have in-house tech experts to onboard new employees, you might compromise the quality of your help desk services. Outsourcing eliminates this risk as BPO companies can give you access to IT specialists who can adequately meet your help desk needs.
- More Time for Core Business Processes. By outsourcing, your in-house tech team can focus on maintaining and improving core business activities that affect your bottom line.
Find Out Which BPO Service Best Suits Your Needs
No matter the type of business, it’s likely that you have multiple people interfacing with customers directly every day. If this is happening across several different platforms with multiple people, it can be tricky to have context into who speaking to customers, what is being said, and how the information is relayed.
Call centers enable you to facilitate phone-based customer interactions, making your company more accessible to customers, while help desks let you provide fast technical assistance to clients, enabling positive product and service experiences. That said, the choice between a call center and a help desk service ultimately depends on which aspect of customer service you want to address.
Whichever route you end up taking, it’s critically important to partner with a reliable BPO company – an entity like Helpware with agents to provide a concierge level of customer service—in over 20 different languages—via phone, chat, email, in-app, and social media support. Helpware will assign you a dedicated onboarding manager who will help to build your team using a detailed project management approach from road mapping, to recruiting, processes, training, and launch.
Helpware has the required outsourcing expertise infused with the dedication and commitment to building customized teams for modern businesses. Schedule a call today and discover how you can enhance your customers’ experience while saving on operating costs.