For organisations thinking of outsourcing a helpline, one of the key decisions is whether to go for a blended or dedicated contact centre model. Leaha James of Connect Assist takes a look at the key features and implications of each.
Blended or dedicated?
A blended service is one where advisors handle calls for multiple clients. A dedicated service, as you might expect, involves advisors working for just one client or on one contract.
In either case, you’ll get well-trained advisors using great systems and tech to provide the very best service they can for your users). Beyond that, though, there are major differences.
Blended helplines: pros and cons
In blended helplines, advisors switch seamlessly between calls for different clients. That makes for a fast-moving, highly flexible set-up, so you don’t need to take on a huge team to handle a spike in demand.
It’s an approach that works best for routine queries or simple transactions, where in-depth knowledge isn’t required. For many organisations and their customers, that’s just the ticket.
You can take a blended approach with overflow services too, routing calls away from your in-house team at times of high demand or out of hours. That keeps customer hold times low, reduces the call abandon rate, and gives your staff a welcome break.
For low call volumes, a blended approach is often seen as the most cost-effective. However, there’s typically a service level agreement (SLA) in place between the provider and client, with any calls above the agreed level charged per minute. This can quickly add up.
There’s also the risk that advisors won’t have the capacity to handle calls above the SLA, potentially leaving vulnerable service users with nowhere to turn.
It can be tough on advisors too, who have to jump between different types of call and adapt rapidly each time. That can require greater resilience.
Plus, advisors will pass any trickier queries back to the client. And that can be where the chief problem lies. Often, organisations find that blended helplines just can’t provide the level of expertise their customers require.
Dedicated helplines: the pros and cons
With dedicated helplines, advisors are more like an extension of your own team.
They’re given extensive training in the work of your organisation, and may also have relevant professional qualifications, such as in counselling or debt advice.
That expertise means they can handle more complex or emotive queries themselves, rather than routing them back to you’re an in-house team. If they need to investigate something on behalf of a service user, they’re equipped with the tools and skills to do so.
What’s more, dedicated helplines can be omnichannel, combining phones, email, social media, video chat, among others. More and more, service users expect to be able to switch between channels and receive a prompt, personal response each time.
For high call volumes, it’s often the most cost-effective approach. And as everything’s included in your contract, you know in advance what the cost will be.
So, if you want to deliver your KPIs, provide an all-round excellent customer service and boost outcomes for your service users, you should be considering a dedicated helpline.
Contact Connect Assist
Connect Assist run both blended and dedicated helplines on behalf of numerous public sector and charity clients. Contact our team to discuss the approach that would work best for you.