How to Choose a Call Center Service
The top performers in our review are All West Call Center, the Gold Award winner; TeleDirect, the Silver Award winner; and Specialty Answering Service, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 call center services.
Call center services provide personnel to handle some of your inbound and outbound calls, freeing your employees to do other important tasks for your business without distractions or interruptions. Call centers can provide variety of services, including appointment setting and order processing solutions. You can use call centers for lead generation services, cold-calling, customer assistance and more. These services can be especially helpful in handling after-hours phone traffic, as most are available 24/7.
If you're simply looking for inbound call services, a basic answering service, which tends to focus on smaller businesses, may be more what you're looking for. Call center services typically offer both inbound and outbound call options, and you can learn more about other features by reviewing our articles on call center services.
How Call Center Services Work
Call center services have features geared toward making your customers' experience the best it can be. All of the services we reviewed allow you to decide how you want your phones to be answered, and you can provide a script for agents to follow so that your customers are given accurate information every time they call in. Most call center services also give you online access to your account where you can check your messages. With some, you can view call reports or listen to recordings of calls, as well.
It is important to be sure that you're eligible for the services offered by these call centers. Some call centers have minimum call volume or invoice requirements you have to meet in order to work with them. These requirements may be too high for the call volume your company has, so be sure to check that your needs are in line with the requirements of the call centers you're considering. Some services, like Xact Telesolutions, don't have minimum requirements, so it's a better option than some if your business doesn't have a large call volume.
Most of the services we reviewed charge per month, and the plans work on a month-to-month basis. This means that if you purchase more or fewer minutes than you end up needing, you can change plans when a new month on your service cycle begins. TeleDirect lets your minutes roll over from one month to another, so if you buy more minutes than you need in a month, you can use those minutes in the future.
Call Center Services: What We Evaluated, What We Found
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
When we researched and reviewed call center services, we looked at various criteria, such as features, services and support. We also evaluated inbound and outbound call center services offered by each of the companies, including lead generation, order processing, appointment making and more.
Support to Your Customer
When you hire a call center service, you're trusting the service to treat your customers with respect – just like you would treat them. To see the level of professionalism each service's agents offered, we called each company multiple times to evaluate a caller's typical customer service experience. Our rankings are based on our wait times, the knowledge of the agents we spoke with and our overall experience of calling in and speaking with an agent.
For the most part, we found the test calls to be positive. We generally found that the agents who answered the phones sounded enthusiastic and were professional when answering our questions.
Xact Telesolutions offered top-notch service, and All West Call Center and Specialty Answering Service both provided the best customer service we tested, with no hold times, no automated answering, and knowledgeable agents. This level of customer service helps you build positive relationships with your customers.
All of the services we reviewed offer automated services. This means that automated systems, such as voicemail and answering menus, are available if you'd like them – usually for an extra charge. All of the services have agents that speak neutral English and fluent Spanish, but some offer other languages as well. The availability of languages other than English factored into our rankings because bilingual agents can be helpful in building and maintaining your clientele, no matter what language your customers speak.
Inbound and Outbound Services
There are two different basic types of call center calls, inbound and outbound. All of the call center services we reviewed offer both types of services.
Inbound call agents provide customer assistance with a main goal of giving your customer a positive experience. All of the services we reviewed offer order processing, meaning that their agents can take orders from your customers and process them, including credit card orders. They all offer appointment setting, as well. They can also dispatch calls to you, so that if there's an emergency or a customer needs to speak with someone directly inside your company, it's easy to bridge the gap and connect you with your client.
If you're relying on a call center service to answer you inbound calls, it's important to make sure that agents are available 24/7, and that this includes every day of the year, even holidays. All of the services on our lineup function 24/7/365. The best call centers also offer disaster recovery, meaning that if your own phone lines go down due to an unforeseen event, like a violent thunderstorm, flash flooding or other emergency, the call center can automatically answer all phone calls for you.
Outbound call services include options for agents to call others on behalf of your company, which can be especially helpful for your sales team. Outbound service options include survey taking, cold-calling and lead generation services. Some also schedule call-back times for you or the company's agents to follow up with customers who made inbound calls in order to make sure the customers don't need more help.
Whether you need inbound or outbound services, or both, it's important to make sure that the call center company you choose has all the features you need, whether that includes setting appointments, taking orders, or having agents who speak English, Spanish and other languages.
Naturally, all of these services offer solid phone support to you when you call in with problems or questions. They all offer 24/7 service to both you and your customers, as well as email and live chat support for your benefit. We also scored each call center on the level of service the company's representatives provided to us as potential clients. We especially looked at how easily the agents were able to answer our questions, whether we had to be transferred around and how willing the representatives were to help us. AnswerConnect provided especially helpful service in this area.
Verdict & Recommendation
In determining which call center service works best for you, be sure to look at the quality of customer service agents provide and other features that will best help your sales team and your customers. GO-ANSWER offers every service we looked for, including agents that speak many languages, strong support options and a variety of services for both inbound and outbound calls. Specialty Answering Service and All West Call Center offer some of the highest quality customer service to their client's customers. Specialty Answering Service and Xact Telesolutions stand out because they have no minimum requirements for you to meet in order to work with them, which can be more cost-effective if your company has a relatively small call volume. While all of the businesses we reviewed are solid choices, your business needs will ultimately determine which service is best for you.