October, 2014
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Questions to Ask When Hiring a Call Center

PAUL ZAK

Questions To Ask When Hiring a Call Center

By Paul Zak

As a home inspector, don’t you hate it when people think all home inspectors are the same? That you are the same as every other home inspector out there? Of course, you know that isn’t true. There can be a big difference between home inspectors…in skill level, services offered and price.

The same is true when it comes to hiring a call center to take your calls, book and schedule your inspection appointments, and represent you and your inspection company. There is a vast difference between call centers serving home inspectors…from how they represent you to your callers and the range of services they provide, to the staff they employ, the systems they use and everything in between. Some do a little, some do a lot. Some do it well, some don’t.

So how can a home inspector figure all this out and make the best call center choice for what he wants, for what meets his needs? That is what this list of questions is meant to do : help you become knowledgeable by asking the right questions so you have the information you need to make a good decision for your business.

Questions to ask when hiring a call center:

Category and Question

Why the Answer is Important

Home Inspection Focus & Experience

  • Do you serve home inspectors only?

· Focus - Understand home inspections, agents and clients, and the life of a home inspector = more inspections, less hassle & headaches for you

  • How long have you served home inspectors?

· Depth of experience, proven track record = more inspections, less hassle & headaches for you

· How many home inspection companies do you serve?

· Breadth of experience, successful track record with diversity = higher quality service to you

Extent of Services

  • What are your hours of operation?
  • Coverage to meet your needs

· Are all calls answered “live” or do calls go to voice mail during the day?

  • Voice mail during the day means lost inspections, call center understaffed

· Do you do follow up calls after the original booking call to get missing or additional information I need? Or is that left up to me?

· Fully ready-to-go orders for you (your time saved), or half completed orders you will have to follow up on to make ready-to-go (your time wasted)

· Can you book and schedule to my specific preferences and needs?

· Schedule/price/arrange orders to your preferences (more inspections, happier callers) versus all inspectors handled the same with no flexibility (less inspections)

· What room do I have for things to be personalized for me different than other inspectors' needs and preferences?

· Greater personalization to your preferences better serves clients, agents, and you = more inspections, happier agents/clients

  • Can you arrange my 3rd party services?

· Less work/hassle for you to have to schedule, reschedule, and handle exceptions = time saved, less headaches

· Can you confirm access for each order? Even if that means calling the selling agent or seller?

· Less work for you to arrange, plus impresses agents = time saved, less headaches

  • Can you arrange payment for each order?

· Automated options provide security to your clients

  • Can you handle my email leads?

· Fast response to email leads = more inspections

· Can you follow up on my online scheduled orders if I want that?

· Confirm details and arrangements, sell add-on services = higher revenue per inspection, less hassle for you

  • How do you handle my “shopper calls”?

· Educate, sell inspection. Done right = more inspections booked

· What is your close ratio for calls with an opportunity to book?

  • Higher close ratio = more booked inspections

· Can you send price quote emails to my inspection leads?

  • Turns more leads into booked inspections

· How do you handle my agent calls verses my client calls? The same or different?

· Both need separate treatment. Leads to happier agents, satisfied clients

  • Call Center Staff
  • Tell me about the staff answering my calls. Are they full-time or do you use part-time staff?

· Full-time performs better, more knowledgeable, you/callers benefit

· Does everyone there take my calls or a smaller group?

· Smaller group more personal. If everyone, sounds more like impersonal call center

· How many? The same staff all the time?

· Same staff more personal/knowledgeable for you and your callers

· Do they read scripts or is the call a natural conversation?

· Natural conversation more personal, better image to caller

· How much about my company and my needs and preferences will they know and be able to perform to?

· More personalized to you means more inspections and less headaches for you

  • What are their average age, experience and background ?

· Maturity & service experience yields more inspections and more satisfied callers

  • What is your staff turnover?

· Low turnover = stability = better performance for you

· What do you do to reduce turnover or keep it low?

· Low turnover = happier staff = happier callers = happier you

  • How do you find and hire your staff?
  • Pickier hiring means more qualified staff
  • What kind of training do you provide?

· Formal training, ongoing training = higher performing staff

  • Systems Used – Phone System

· How are calls to my business number transferred to you?

  • Your business number should not have to change
  • Does the staff answer with my company name?

· Have to answer with your company name, no generic answering

· What happens to my calls when everyone is already on a call?

  • Do you record calls?

· Needed for quality control, training, and issue resolution…you need to know

  • What caller ID shows to my agents and clients when you call them? Is it my business number?

· Outbound calls showing your business number more professional

  • Systems Used – Scheduling & Message Taking

· Do you use a business management system such as ISN to book and schedule my orders?

· Reduces re-entering of information by you into back-end systems, saves you time

· Does your system interface with ISN or other business management systems

· Same result – reduces re-entering of information by you, saves you time

· How does the system you use allow for personalizing to my needs and preferences?

· More personalizing to your preferences = things done the way you want = more inspections, less headaches and rework for you

· What kind of quality checks and procedures do you have to ensure accuracy?

· Double checking, triple checking, consistency = fewer errors, less hassle for you

· How do you handle calls that require a message be emailed or text messaged to me? Can you do that?

· Handling/delivering messages timely and professionally = happier agents/clients, less hassle for you

· Can you handle email correspondence with my agents and clients?

· Leads to more inspections and flexible communications with your agents/clients

· For email correspondence with my agents and clients, what “from” address will they see? Does it look like an email from my company or a general one?

· “From” as your company more professional and personalized = happier, less confused agents/clients

· Can you send me reports of calls received and what happened?

· Gives you visibility into number of calls, type of call, result, and close ratio

That’s quite a list of questions, huh! No worries, you don’t have to ask all these questions if you don’t want to.

The first thing to do is have an idea of how much help you are looking for from a call center. Do you want them to be as full service for you as possible, providing the most support and benefits for you? Or perhaps you want just a little help here and there when you feel overloaded, still preferring to do most of the work yourself? Or maybe you are somewhere in between those two extremes.

This will help you know how much support you want from a call center to meet your needs. The general rule of thumb is the more support you want from a call center, the more important becomes their depth and breadth of services, and skill level…in other words, the more important it is to ask more of the questions on this list.

So cruise the list of questions and based on how much support and benefit you want from a call center, circle those questions that fit what is important to you and ask those. Always[S14] expect good answers to your questions…no double talk answers allowed!

But regardless of the level of support you are looking for from a call center, be sure to feel comfortable with them (heck, if you are not comfortable talking to them, what about your agents and clients!), feel you can trust them, and ask for references so you can speak to other inspectors using their services for a good peer-to-peer discussion.

Not all home inspectors are the same, right? Skill level, services, price. Same for call centers. Prepare yourself with what level of service and support you need from a call center, have your questions ready, and you’ll be much more prepared to make a good decision on which one [S15] to use. And with that good decision should come more inspections and less stress for you!