What Type of Contact Center Agent Makes Sense? (Dedicated vs. Shared)

Call volume has skyrocketed. Customer experience is plummeting. Technicians solving problems in the field are doing their best to manage the phone lines (which isn’t panning out).

After the incident played out and after a sharp jab to the bottom line, your company decided to outsource call support with a contact center.

Through casual research, you find every contact center (or call center for that matter) is comprised of agents. Each agent carries a degree(s) of expertise to enhance the call support team. Each agent also serves as a dedicated or shared agent.

Those teams support the end users of service providers and operators with varying escalation paths determined by the processes and procedures outlined in the onboarding process. The goal is to find solutions to everyday problems within the network to uphold customer satisfaction.

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But, before any procedure is ever executed, how does your company know if a dedicated or shared agent is right? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two types? Are there any similarities? What is the real cost-benefit here?

CCI Systems’ U.S.-based contact center serves 50+ companies from service providers to hospitality to manufacturing. Within our contact center, 70% of the agents are shared resources, while the other 30% of agents work as dedicated resources.

CCI’s support services team enables your company with the ability to scale into the future.

Here are 5 things you need to know about dedicated and shared agents before diving into a contact center.

Start with knowing the differences between a shared and dedicated agent. Then, assess what agent type works best for your business. Next, know the advantages and disadvantages of both agent types. Finally, understand where the contact center is located and what that even means.

What is a Shared Agent?

A shared agent supports various lines of business. On average, they may be supporting 20 to 30 different customers and their end users or subscribers.

As a result, a shared agent will not be well-versed in every aspect of each business they serve. Instead, they will be reliant on thorough documentation during troubleshooting protocols

A traditional shared resource is typically about $10 per call. Generally, it is estimated an agent takes approximately 4 to 5 calls per hour.

If a company is managing a customer base with only a handful of applications, as opposed to 10 or 20 applications, a shared agent will work in most scenarios.

What is a Dedicated Agent?

A dedicated agent supports one line of business. They are subject matter experts of that specific business, and they can answer every question a normal customer service representative (or agent employed by that company) would be able to answer.

Dedicated agents will handle high-level billing and troubleshooting support. Also, they can dig deeper without immediate escalations and solve complex problems independently.

A dedicated resource can range from $45 to $55 per hour for onshore outsourcing. Given the complexities that come with a dedicated agent’s responsibilities, they may only take 2 to 3 calls per hour. *This is due to the number of applications being used to thoroughly troubleshoot.

In the dedicated agent arena, some companies will travel to the contact center they’ve chosen. This allows the company to work with its dedicated agents in a classroom environment before the go-live date.

Typically, this involves additional onsite training and spending time with the company’s in-house team. This facetime only enhances the dedicated agents’ understanding of the business needs.

However, the most cost-effective way to onboard a dedicated team is remote training with well-documented practices and procedures.

How to Choose Which Type of Agent Works for Your Company

The frequency with which a dedicated or shared solution is recommended becomes a matter of complexity within the customer environment.

For instance, take a customer who is using one or two applications to assist in troubleshooting and managing their customers. Traditionally, they are better suited in a shared agent capacity because it's not overly complex.

In the case of a company that is using 15 to 20 different applications to support its customer base, a dedicated agent is much better suited.

The sheer number of applications introduces a high level of complexity. As an agent troubleshoots or assists a customer, they will jump from system to system to system within a variety of technologies.

Does Cost of an Agent Outweigh Value of an Agent (or Vice Versa)?

Dedicated agents do have a higher cost associated with them, and the cost per call (CPC) will go up with a dedicated agent versus a shared agent. However, a higher value can be attributed to a dedicated agent because of their enhanced skill set and knowledge of the company they’re supporting.

Plus, a company is given the ability to scale with those dedicated agents specifically, depending on the demand and need. Higher-level issues will be resolved on the first call, which heightens the possibility of higher customer satisfaction and reduces the risk of customer churn.

By comparison, a shared agent has a lower cost association, but a shared resource will not have the ability to help the end user. Rather than troubleshooting a difficult problem, a shared agent is instructed to escalate the issue.

Simply put, the entire discussion and the inevitable decision boils down to the complexity of the environment an agent is working in. More applications require a dedicated resource, where fewer applications may only require a shared resource.

How to Court a Contact Center with Dedicated and Shared Agents

Finding a contact center that will vet the complexity of a prospect’s call volume, troubleshooting needs, and frequently asked questions from end users will provide valuable insights into what agent will be appropriate to maintain customer happiness.

Expect a contact center to ask things likeheadset-icon-contact-center

  • How many applications is your company using?
  • What is the level of complexity that comes with those applications?
  • What is your average call volume?
  • What is your total number of subscribers?

Things your company should be thinking about:

  • How will this interaction affect my customers?
  • Is a seamless interaction better for my customer experience?
  • Will a dedicated agent improve customer sentiment?
  • Will a shared agent solution negatively impact their experience?

It is important to acknowledge how much a contact center wants to get to know your company. This courting process will allow for a realistic assessment to be made on whether shared or dedicated agents will be the best option. Figuring out whether you are going to pay a high premium for a shared agent versus a team of dedicated, subject matter experts is the goal.

By having written documentation (i.e. policies and procedures) outlining the needs of your company in advance, the onboarding time will typically be cut down. This, in turn, reduces onboarding overhead.

Notably, both dedicated and shared agents require about the same amount of training.

One thing to note is companies who seek call support tend to approach a contact center without policies or procedures. Without documentation, costs potentially increase because the contact center will likely work with your company to develop the right materials and put together the training.

Finding and uncovering each difference and distinction within a company is vital for how a contact center comes to understand what your end user needs.

Examples of Advantages and Disadvantages with Agents

Picture this: During an unexpected network outage, hundreds of end users are left without service, and a massive call volume spike ensues.

One disadvantage of a dedicated resource is an agent comes with more complex scaling.

For example, if a company requests three agents to handle their calls, each agent will work 8-hours per shift. Assume each agent receives 3 to 4 calls per hour, which after doing the math, comes out to approximately 72 to 96 calls per day.

When the contact center experiences a spike in call volume and receives 150 calls in one day, the average speed of answer and other key metrics will likely suffer. *For a service provider, this call spike is typically the result of an outage.

Under these circumstances, the three-person team of dedicated agents is going to be stretched, attempting to get on and off calls as quickly as possible to receive the next incoming caller. Simply, there's not much flexibility.

Now, flip to a team of shared resources. If 10 shared agents are trained, and 150 calls suddenly come in from an outage, the contact center can easily train, adjust, plan, and scale to accommodate the sudden influx.

Going forward with shared resources, the contact center will have the availability to train additional agents, as needed. This will ensure the scaling and procedures are appropriate for future growth.

The biggest disadvantage of a shared agent is they are NOT subject matter experts. They are not as deeply in tune with the business compared to a singular focus on one business, every minute of every single day.

Understanding Onshore, Nearshore, and Offshore Support in a Nutshell

Understanding where agents are located is key to keeping your company’s finances in check when searching for an outsourced contact center. It is critical to understand how this call support will affect your customer sentiment, too.

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The 3 types of support are onshore, nearshore, and offshore.

Onshore is within the U.S. or close by the U.S. in Canada.

Nearshore is typically in Mexico, Columbia, or South America. They’re near the continental United States, but not quite, and commonly speak English as a second language.

Offshore will always be overseas in India, the Philippines, Guam, and smaller island countries where the economy has been built around large-scale call centers. *It is common to see a high attrition rate among offshore call support providers.

Why Location Matters from Shore-to-Shore

One of the biggest struggles for a company outsourcing to a contact center which is nearshore or offshore is thelanguage barrier. This is a commonality shared between the two.

With nearshore support, agents will speak relatively good English when compared to offshore support, but there will be some agents who are not as fluent as others. An accent can be a challenge, which greatly depends on the customer base of the company seeking call support. (*Heavy accents can also play a role in certain regions of onshore support.)

However, if a company has a strong multilingual customer base, a major advantage of nearshore support is a higher percentage of multilingual agents. If an agent speaks Spanish, and a customer base has a large network of Spanish-speaking end users, those agents can work independent of a translator, thus saving the company money. Further, nearshore support will be a more attractive and more cost-effective solution than hiring an entire bilingual staff.

Out of the three (onshore, nearshore, and offshore), offshore support will always be the cheapest solution, and nearshore support will always be cheaper than onshore support.

Offshore support is almost exclusively the call center arena. Troubleshooting is very minimal if any troubleshooting is offered at all. It is a very basic service with very low costs because of high turnover and attrition rates.

Onshore and nearshore call support will offer benefits offshore services simply cannot provide.

An Agent Will Become Part of Your Team

Both dedicated and shared resources have advantages and disadvantages, but the most important point is to understand how either type of agent can improve your customer base and their happiness with your service.

Call support agents will become trusted members of your team. They will always work in the best interest of your end user through every issue, no matter how easy or complicated the problem is.

Part of the process in finding a good contact center to outsource to is building that trust through a strong relationship. Both the contact center and the company purchasing the support service should always have the common interest of enhancing key metrics, growing the supported company, and raising the sentiment score of the end user.

CCI Systems has built a strong, trusted team of agents through ongoing training and a commitment to excellence. Our ability to improve the reputation of companies seeking reliable, experienced agents is upheld by a turnover rate below 20%—lower than the industry average.

If you’ve decided what type of agent is right for your company, let’s jump into how to prepare for and what to expect during the contact center onboarding process.