These are the top ten areas to look out for:
Is the call centre well established? How long have they been in business? Who are their clients? Do they keep clients? What is the average staff retention like in the business? What do their clients say about them? Can you access recommendations? Are calls actually handled in the UK? A genuine call centre will be able to provide all the information you need about their reputation and should be more than accommodating.
Are you assigned your own account manager with direct access to them? This will not be a problem for a call centre that manages projects professionally. You need transparency at all levels. Your account manager will be able to provide statistics and reports to give you greater insight into the progress of your project - there may be an extra charge if you want lots of information, but it should be made available to you.
Who are the people on the front line? How are they recruited? How are they trained? What attrition rates are experienced by the call centre? All of this information if you need it will be accessible. These are the people who will be representing your organisation to the callers - your first impression is in their hands.
The technology required to even open as a call centre will be good. If your project is highly web reliant you may want to check the broadband connectivity, is it a leased line? Are there contention issues? If the call centre will be operating on a VPN basis, you will want to run tests to ensure that everything is secure and that there is not too much of a delay with inputting information, particularly if the inputting is live when the caller is on the phone.
Don't drown in techie speak. If you want to talk through the processes with your account manager then that should be possible - again look for transparency. By understanding the processes, you may spot something that could be done better, or done in a different way, thereby averting a potential problem. The more you understand the better. It might be relevant to you that ISO accreditation is in place; if you need it, just ask.
Call centre technology these days will be able to provide you with a ream of reporting. Make sure that you get the right level of reporting for you, otherwise you could be overwhelmed. Standard call stats packages will tell you the number of presented calls, the number of answered calls, average durations, longest calls, lost calls. You may also be able to get regional call reporting, but ask for anything that is relevant to you.
Sometimes it's more about how a call is handled. Mystery shop your call centre and if you have any concerns bring them to the attention of the account manager. Does the call centre have call recording? Can they randomly record calls and pass them to you? Set some SLAs and agree them with your account manager. That way the call centre understands exactly what is expected of them.
Can your project be scaled up or scaled down? Can the call centre cope with large volumes of calls one day and very few calls the next day? Experienced call centres will have had similar campaigns and should be able to cope with fluctuations. You must get total honesty on this issue. Call centre resourcing is tricky sometimes and you also need to be honest about call volumes. If you genuinely have no idea, then say so, it's better than 20 call centre agents twiddling their thumbs and it could get expensive for you.
This should be fairly easy to check. Ask to see a copy of the call centre's data protection certificate and also the PCI-DSS certificate. Data protection is self-explanatory, PCI-DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. If your call centre has a PCI-DSS certificate this a good sign, and means that their systems will be independently 'hacked' in the nicest possible way by a company or body employed to issue such a certificate. So the certificate itself which is issued quarterly should provide you with the reassurance you need.
Last but not least, pricing. There are some things to look out for here. In most cases there will be a set up fee, and a monthly fee - please ask what each of these fees include. Then you will have call handling fees on top and this is where it can get complicated. If your project or campaign is likely to result in decent call volumes then most call centres will be able to be flexible. The choice is likely to be between price per call and price per second. Some call centres will do both but most do one or the other. Ask questions, see if you can get any inclusive calls, when do you have to pay and how can you pay. All these things are important.
Good luck and whilst you will probably want to shop around, you will always get a well-managed campaign at a fair price at Leadline.