Regardless of your specific industry, business process outsourcing (BPO) is a term you’ve likely heard when discussing ways to make an organization run smoother. Most businesses thrive when they’re able to improve their efficiency in key areas and BPO provides just such a solution to those who can wield it properly.
If you’re thinking outsourcing might hold some answers for your home services business, here’s what you’ll need to know about the specifics of BPO services, why they’re popular, and how you might be able to use them.
Business process outsourcing, simply put, is the action of subcontracting specific business operations to third-party providers. Typically, these are non-primary functions of the business — human resources (HR), accounting, and payroll. But they can cover more than that. For instance, there are even BPO call centers to support companies in sales and customer service. These various third-party services generally fall into one of two categories — front-office and back-office operations.
Front-office operations refers to those functions that are customer-facing, such as sales, marketing, and technical support. Back-office operations, on the other hand, are internal business functions that don’t involve the customer directly, like quality assurance, payment processing, and information technology. Outsourcing is sometimes categorized based on the kind of service a company is seeking, for example:
- Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO): Third-party providers offer not only the ability to perform a process, but knowledge and expertise about the process as well.
- Research Process Outsourcing (RPO): This is a subset of KPO that performs research and analysis duties.
- Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO): LPO is an additional form of KPO that includes a wide range of legal services.
You can further divide BPO into three categories based on the location where the outsourcing of labor is taking place:
- Offshore Outsourcing: This type of BPO involves sending a contract to another country (typically one with lower labor costs and tax burdens) for services.
- Nearshore Outsourcing: Here, a company outsources a contract to a neighboring country, such as a U.S. company sending work to Canada or Mexico.
- Onshore Outsourcing: Also known as “domestic sourcing,” when a company keeps the BPO contract within the same country, but not necessarily in the same city or state.
With more than half of U.S. based companies using at least one third party for support, companies are deriving tremendous benefit from their BPO arrangements. So, what are the benefits they gain from using BPO?
The Benefits of BPO
The advantages for businesses that set up BPO arrangements start with the bottom line. Outsourcing can help companies reduce their costs and improve sales by:
- Limiting the need for in-house services such as onboarding, training, and hiring
- Reducing the amount of physical space a company needs to operate
- Taking advantage of the lower costs of labor in outsourced markets
- Leveraging the expertise of a third party who specializes in their field
Beyond these direct cost benefits, BPOs help businesses indirectly as well. They free up internal resources to focus on core competencies and business strategies Allowing companies to improve employee satisfaction, along with the quality, speed, and efficiency of their products and services, giving them a competitive advantage.
For companies who utilize BPO effectively, the result is a chance at expansion within their industry and increased growth fueled by a newfound capacity for innovation.
Answering Service for Home Services Providers
Along with larger industries like banking, healthcare, and retail, you’ll find that many companies in home services with high and low seasons such as pest control, lawn care, and HVAC companies use outsourcing to handle sales, customer service, accounts receivable, and more.
Answering services for sales and customer service is a popular form of BPO that many home services providers have implemented. An answering service can help alleviate staff so they can focus on other critical tasks without being swamped with back and forth phone calls and tracking down email threads or web chat conversations.
No matter the size of the business, if you’re onboarding, training, and hiring employees while managing a business that is ramping up or down by the season, growing at a rapid rate, or finding employee retention challenging, outsourcing to a third-party expert in customer engagement can be extremely beneficial.
Selecting a BPO Call Center
Which answering service is a good fit for your organization? It’s important to consider the service’s focus and skillset, flexibility, implementation strategy, credibility, and technology. Not all answering services are created equal.
General or Specialist
Some providers are generalists, meaning they offer a wide range of services in a wide number of fields without concentrating on any one industry. Specialists, on the other hand, will often be experienced with the ins and outs of a particular field, allowing them to offer more personalized services because of that insider knowledge.
While generalized services might suit your purposes, it’s more likely that you’ll need support from professionals who have a firm understanding of the complexities of your industry.
For example, Slingshot offers a 24/7 answering service specific to pest control, lawn, and other home services industries. Their U.S.-based agents specialize in home services and are no strangers to the nuances of scheduling and routing service requests, emergency response, and sales. With Slingshot’s specialized strategy, they’ve been able to increase sales for their clients by up to 40%.
It’s important to research the pricing structure of the third party you’re working considering. You should be asking yourself these questions while looking into the flexibility of the answering service:
- Do they offer demos of the product and free trials?
- What does their pricing plan look like?
- What does it take to make adjustments to your plan?
- Can you outsource some of the calls to their agents and take some calls in house?
With the seasonal nature of many home services businesses like pest control or snow and ice management, flexibility is crucial when looking to outsource the sales and customer support of your business. Some answering services specific to this industry allow you to pay by the minute and increase or decrease your minutes by the month, allowing you to adjust your monthly minutes and payment with the seasons.
Look for a third party service that can work as an extension of your team. This means you’re in control when it comes to when and how much support you need from them. Slingshot, is able to provide full coverage sales and customer service for their clients. However, they also provide different coverage options that can be customized.
If you prefer to handle calls during business hours, you can choose to have Slingshot cover afterhours offering your customers 24/7 support. If you’re focused on customer response times, you can assign Slingshot agents to pick up after so many seconds or minutes have gone by to ensure no customer is kept waiting. If you’re having connection issues or any unexpected emergency that causes disruptions for your work, you can send all calls to Slingshot for a temporary amount of time… all with a few clicks in their online dashboard.
Once you’ve figured out which vendor is the best fit for your business, you’ll still need to go through the process of making the change within your workplace. Make sure you look into the implementation support the third party offers to aid adjustments in existing workflows, updating your staff, and more to help the transition go smoothly.
Word of mouth is still king, even in the digital age. Be sure to take some time to speak to references and check out customer case studies or see if there are any articles in the news about the company with whom you’re looking to partner. A quick Google search can say a lot about a company!
Finally understand the full offering of every answering service you consider. Do they have a dashboard where you manage their service that’s user friendly or is it clunky and has you banging your head on the keyboard after a few minutes? Do they go beyond answering phones and offer any support in other communication channels like text or webchat? And finally, do they integrate with any other technologies that you already use or are contemplating like a CRM?
The Bottom Line
Generally, you’ll see benefits from outsourcing if there’s an area of your business that takes up considerable resources. In these cases, BPO can provide you with the flexibility to reassign those resources and flourish by focusing on your core business.
Ready to grow your business with a 24/7 sales and customer service BPO? See Slingshot in action here.