Boutique vs the Big Guys: What Kind of Contact Center Outsourcer Is Right for You?

by Blue Ocean News in Contact Center Outsourcing


Let’s start with our obvious bias: we are a small player in the global outsourcing industry. So, while you’re thinking that this is just going to be a promo piece saying boutique is better than the big guy, hear us out. Our position is: one size does not fit all when it comes to customer care. There are scenarios where one of the Big Four multinational outsourcers is going to be the right choice AND there are scenarios where a smaller partner could be the best option. If you are thinking of outsourcing for the first time, or if you’re ready to go to market either to test the waters or to find a new partner, you’ll want to read on. 

When you’re outsourcing your customer care program, the partner you choose, and the relationship you have with them, will have significant impact on your customers, your brand’s reputation, and your bottom line.  

So which kind of contact center outsourcer is right for you? 

If You’re Looking for Strategic Partnership… 

Fulfilling the Service Level Agreement is a must, but you need a partner who does more than simply check the boxes. You’re looking for outsourced agents who consider themselves part of your team, a partner who’s interested in joint process improvement, and a program that takes an innovative approach to increasing customer satisfaction.  

A boutique customer care outsourcer is much more likely to deliver these benefits, especially if you are planning to outsource fewer than 500 seats. Their smaller size naturally allows you closer access to their leadership team (at Blue Ocean, our president and senior leadership team attend every client QBR) and more opportunity for customizing your program. This provides a strong foundation for a strategic partnership that takes your customer care to the next level.  

A boutique partner has the same level of commitment to your vision as you do. Your core values and culture should be closely aligned, and they’re committed to helping you grow. Partnering with a smaller contact center often means that your customers don’t even realize they’re talking to an outsourced agent.  

The advantage here lies with the smaller provider: when there are fewer layers of bureaucracy and a closer connection to key decision makers on both sides, it’s easier to get things done. One of our clients was with a Big Four provider for more than two decades. When the client, with 25 outsourced seats, embarked on a journey of transformation, they just couldn’t get their outsourced to get excited about change, let alone to go on the journey with them. That’s where the boutique partners shine – your 25 seats are just as important as the client with 1000 seats or more. 

Curious about what a strategic partnership with your contact center really looks like? Check out this article. 

If You’re Looking for Extreme Flexibility… 

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to customer care is the issue of peaks and valleys. Most well-designed contact centers can handle a reasonable range of variability in call volume, whether it’s seasonal or daily or something in between. But if your customer care requirements can easily ramp up and down from 50 to 1500 seats for a short burst like Black Friday to Christmas, for instance, you’re going to need a vendor who can take those extreme peaks in stride.  

In these types of situations, it’s the big guys who have the resources to handle extremes in peak call volume. The boutique providers, smaller and more strategic in nature – and deeply committed to a positive employee experience – can’t realistically tap into their labor markets for hundreds of extra employees for just a few weeks at a time and don’t have the existing resources to simply transfer hundreds of agents from one project to the next. In this situation, their usual strengths just aren’t the right fit for your needs. 

Big, multi-national contact centers typically employ tens, or even hundreds of thousands of agents, often with offshore options to support extreme peaks and valleys as well as high-volume programs (more on that below). This will ensure that your customers avoid long wait times stuck on hold, connecting them with one of hundreds of agents ready to resolve their issue within a realistic timeframe.  

If You’re Looking for Agents You Know… 

This one may seem a little counterintuitive – how can you get to know the agents on your program if they’re employed by your outsourcer? But in our experience, with time and attention, it’s entirely possible to build a relationship with your outsourced team, from their senior leadership team to the frontline agents. This is another serious benefit of choosing a boutique contact center.  

It’s a relationship fostered on both sides of the table – we work hard to ensure our agents live and breathe your brand and know your leaders and key contacts by name. We’re committed to nurturing an exceptional employee experience from the moment an agent walks in the door for the interview, and our agents know their feedback is heard and valued – by us and by our clients. When these efforts are reinforced by a client’s regular site visits, video conferencing, and clear communication, a strong foundation is set for you to get to know your agents. 

In fact, we’ve happily watched four or five clients recruit for their key positions from our own people – agents they’ve seen thriving on the frontlines and recognized their potential to grow. It’s not a coincidence that this happens regularly – our commitment to our employees and the strategic relationships we build with our clients sets the stage – and our clients view us as the “farm team” where top talent can learn the game and hone their skills to get to the big show. 

If You’re Looking for 1000s of Seats… 

You have high-volume needs for your customer care program. If you need 1000+ agents working around the clock and across global time zones to handle transactional contacts largely transactional, low-value, low-complexity interactions, what you most likely need is a low cost solution to simply keep up with volume without subjecting your customers to exhausting wait times.  

If that’s your scenario, then you likely need to call in the big guns – the global contact center that can fill hundreds of seats in multiple time zones, all while keeping overhead costs low and prices affordable. Usually spanning multiple locations, and even countries, they have global labor markets from which to source agents and ensure your high-volume program is fully staffed at all times.  

Is There a Mix and Match Option Between Boutique and Big Box? 

There sure is! Choosing a smaller or mid-size contact center solution provider who is part of a network of similar organizations is a great way to get global breadth with that boutique strategic partnership. Many organizations, like Blue Ocean, work in collaboration with other providers whose values, culture, employee experience, and service offering are aligned. In this model, you’ll have one strategic partner who manages the global delivery through the network. You can access a “follow the sun” approach with agents in the locations that make sense for your customer base, leveraging not just time zone advantage, but also local language support, without the expense that comes from supporting global customers from a North American base. At the same time, you’ll have that high touch, high value client relationship you want from your smaller partner. If you have 500 seats or fewer, with a need to support customers in multiple theaters, this is the model we highly recommend. 

What Kind of Outsourced Contact Center Is Right for You? 

Your customer care requirements are unique to your business and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Boutique outsourcers and global contact centers both have their strengths and benefits, but the right choice depends upon your specific needs.  

We’d love to share more insights. Grab a free copy of our Contact Center Solutions Buyer’s Guide here. 





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