What is the Difference between Call Centers and BPOs?
To many people, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and call centers are the same. There are emerging outsourcing destinations like Albania, where the industry started with call centers. Therefore, when you ask people about BPO they would ask, yes we have hundreds of call centers in the country.
Yet, BPO is about much more than just call center outsourcing. It stands for the growing industry of businesses located all over the world that help other industries to perform non-core tasks such as accounting, legal services, manufacturing, bookkeeping, payroll, data entry, customer support, etc.
Call center outsourcing focuses on performing a set of tasks that can be handled through phone calls such as customer service, lead generation, appointment setting, sales, emergencies, travel, etc.
Call centers are considered a subcategory of BPOs. BPO consists of back-office and front-office services. The first includes internal business functions like HR-related functions, accounting, bookkeeping, etc. Front office outsourcing is about functions that are customer-related.
The BPO industry during its early days has been associated with the manufacturing industry. Major companies started to outsource numerous processes related to manufacturing and logistics operations such as warehousing, transportation, etc. Those tasks didn’t require a highly-qualified workforce thus, they were also cost-driven given that most of the vendors were located overseas.
In the meantime, technological progress and the internet helped sophisticate the industry and grow it further. Compared to the early days, BPO now is the strategy to get a high level of expertise and talent from all over the world. Therefore, BPO requires highly skilled and knowledgeable experts.
The call center industry flourished the same way as BPO. The first call centers took advantage of the existing technology and established business models based on phone calls, telemarketing or telesales, appointment booking, and much more. Despite the profitable solution, business people started to think about less expensive ways of handling their customer base. Once again they considered process outsourcing as the best option available. There were many companies in other countries that could provide the necessary systems and workforce. Call centers required basic computer knowledge and foreign language fluency.
Call centers are no longer only about foreign language skills. The industry is trying to evolve out of the under-performing situation. Companies are investing in human resources and technology in order to improve job prospects for call center agents and create a win-win situation both for the customers and employees.
In a nutshell, call centers help businesses to get more clients and to retain the existing ones. Thus, customer satisfaction and happiness is the purpose of a call center. Besides, customer service, their objectives might include lead generation, marketing, and sales.
On the other hand, BPOs handle services or tasks that are related to management and administration. The seller company or startup can’t do those due to a lack of expertise or time. Hence, all the boring and time-consuming tasks are outsourced to a trusted provider.
In terms of functions, call centers handle only front-office processes, while BPOs can do both front and back-office processes. Different from call centers that are limited only to calls, BPO front-office services include a wide range of customer management services through email, chatbots, social media, augmented messaging, AI, etc. However, not every BPO provides both front and back-office services.
Every company, business, or startup that has a customer base must make sure to be always there when the customer needs support. They can either build an in-house customer service team or delegate the process to a call-center. The choice depends on various reasons, but the reasons why many go for call center outsourcing services include lower costs, trained staff, 27/7 customer service, guaranteed business continuity, etc.
On the other hand, BPOs handle processes that are essential for the management of a business no matter if it has a customer base or not.
Skills and workforce differences
The advantage of call centers when it comes to skill requirements is that they require a very basic skill set such as foreign language proficiency, computer knowledge, good communication, combined with soft skills including emotional intelligence. Experience has shown that countries with a multilingual workforce are among the best places for call-center outsourcing. However, that depends on the company location and especially on its existing or potential markets. Finding a country with a multilingual workforce can’t be that easy. For example, call centers based in Albania provide service in numerous languages including English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Russian, Arabic, and even in Chinese.
The above-mentioned skills guarantee an entry-level job, with flexible work hours, and salaries above the national median wage. People working in a call center are always trained before starting to work.
On their part, BPOs require a more qualified workforce, a specific degree or qualification in a given field such as finance, marketing, accounting, etc. They can receive initial training related to the workplace or the campaign/client, but they must have the skill set required for the position. As expected, salaries in BPO are higher compared to call centers.