Call centre services in the UK have seen a resurgence in demand. Several factors have been driving this, some of them economic. The financial turbulence of the last ten to fifteen years has changed the dynamic of the UK economy, and alongside the decline of the industrial sector, service economy businesses like call centre services, have—often responding to state and local government incentives—stepped up to offer both their services and employment. Meanwhile, businesses aware of the need to deliver superlative customer service have embraced the option of outsourcing.
“Services represent just over 80% of the UK economy, and in some ways, it is surprising that call centre services have not been more dominant, both domestically and internationally. This may be partly down to the economic pressures leaving their potential clients reluctant to take what they perceive as an outsourcing risk. More recently, though, the call centre outsourcing sector has once again been growing,” says Ralf Ellspermann, CEO of PITON-Global, an award-wining outsourcing provider specialising in high-performance in- and outbound call centre services.
Businesses, whatever their service or product, have always had to meet the contradictory demands of investor and customer pressure. Investors, whether private or institutional, want to see a return on investment and demand healthy profits. Customers, on the other hand, want low prices and good customer service. In a difficult economy, these pressures increase, and this has resulted in call centre outsourcing being reconsidered by those who might have previously resisted it.
One of the advantages of using call centre services in the UK is reduced overhead. Running an in-house customer support operation is expensive. Aside from the cost of hosting and running the function—even with the efficient use of space in a call centre, it carries a major estate cost—in-house call centres demand a price elsewhere. A company running its own call centre is, by definition, fulfilling a function that is (often) not part of its core competencies.
The consequence is that these businesses not only need to fund the premises, staffing, and ongoing expenses of a call centre, they are also shouldering the non-financial costs. Customer service carries a significant management cost, soaking up leadership capacity that could be better focused on what the business excels at doing.
A call centre service in the UK can typically offer savings of 10 to 15% when compared to the costs of in-house provision. These savings come from several areas. A key one is the overhead costs of premises and equipment. While call centre workers, whether outsourced or not, need somewhere to work, providers will typically have anywhere between 20-50 clients, and the costs are therefore shared. They may also be based in lower-cost areas of the UK; a northern call centre will have lower costs than a London-based, in-house operation simply by virtue of the lower property and living costs there.
Outsourcing providers also offer savings because of their specialisation. Even functions that might be considered generic, such as HR and finance, can be run more efficiently and cheaply when outsourced because of the relatively limited set of staffing and issues they will have to manage. And because of the focus, the outsourcing vendors can more effectively manage and supervise their staff, focusing on their support programs, and in many cases, being able to shift resources when needed.
As companies begin to outsource again, they might also consider the option of offshore outsourcing. Major call centre destinations can offer the same benefits as domestic providers. The Philippines boasts an unusually high level of English fluency, often with little or no accent while providing even more significant cost savings, around 40 to 50%. The key to outsourcing call centre services is always to consider the customer service quality the company can offer.
“Time and time again we have clients come to us because their previous provider didn’t offer a great customer experience,” says Ralf Ellspermann. “Wherever you are looking to outsource, ensuring your provider can provide premium call centre services that lead to enhanced customer experience should be the first thing on your checklist. Once you’ve got that, then you can look at the bottom line.”