Call Centers Buyer's Guide
Call center services pricing and rates
Table of Contents
Pricing call center services is fairly complex. The bulk of the cost is per-minute or per-hour fees for each agent or call, depending on how your contract is structured. The complexity of your script, volume of your calls, and any special services you require will also come into play. In addition, pricing can vary according to quality: call centers that employ highly skilled, experienced agents have higher costs and therefore charge higher prices.
When contracting for call center services, you can usually choose between shared or dedicated agents. Shared agents, also known as blended teams, handle calls from multiple vendors.
They may answer the phone for you one minute, and for some other company halfway around the world the next. With the right software and training, this approach works well for many common types of calls. For call center services pricing you will typically you pay between $0.50 and $1.00 per minute.
Dedicated agents work only for you - almost like an off-site employee. By concentrating only on your calls, the agents are better able to learn your business. Call center prices are per agent per hour, and can range from $10 or less for the lowest-priced offshore companies to $25 and up for larger U.S.-based firms. This gives you agents who are more knowledgeable about your company's products, but is more expensive overall.
There are many other fees to consider beyond the basic charges. Many providers enforce monthly minimums, which can drive up your costs if your volume fluctuates unpredictably. You should also expect a setup fee which may be several thousand dollars. Other costs, such as additional commissions, training, programming, and reporting fees, may be covered by your per minute or per hour charges - or may not. Make sure the provider spells out exactly what additional charges you will need to pay before signing a contract.
The best way to evaluate vendor pricing is to get several bids and compare them to each other. Just make sure the providers spell out exactly what charges you will be paying so you can make an apples to apples comparison before signing a contract.
Contracts, metrics, and SLAs
The contract needs to define more than just the contract term and call center services pricing. It should specify exactly what standards and procedures the call center is expected to follow, how their performance will be measured, and what penalties can be applied if they fall short of the requirements.
For example, a service level agreement (SLA) usually focuses on response times, such as guaranteeing that 80% of calls will be answered within 30 seconds. Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to pay extra to get a higher percentage in less time, or you may decide to save money by setting a lower goal. Some companies do not routinely include SLAs. You can probably negotiate one with any vendor, but some feel that their standard response times are sufficient or most customers.
Other contract options include exclusivity, translation services, secrecy/confidentiality, monitoring rights, and more. When creating contracts of this magnitude, almost anything is negotiable, but remember that you will pay more for special requests.
Contract length can vary from a few months for a temporary assignment (like for a product launch or special promotion) to several years. Some may discount their call center rates if you agree to a longer term contract - if you are confident in your choice of vendors, you might want to take them up on a two- or three-year term. Others may penalize you for canceling a contract within the first six months or a year, but allow you to cancel any time after that.