Blended vs dedicated helplines: which should you choose?

Blended vs dedicated helplines: which should you choose?

29th October 2021

By Leaha James

Thinking of outsourcing a helpline? One of the key decisions you’ll need to make is whether to go for a blended or dedicated contact centre model. Let’s take a look at the key features of each.

Blended or dedicated?

Before we get stuck into the pros and cons, we need to nail those definitions.

A blended service is one where advisors handle calls for multiple clients. This service is also known as ‘bureau’ helplines.

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 (if you choose Connect Assist, anyway). Beyond that, though, there are major differences.

Blended helplines: pros and cons

In bureau 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 peak 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 bureau 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 bureau 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 your vulnerable service users with nowhere to turn. 

It can be tough on the advisors too, who have to jump between different types of call and adapt rapidly each time. That takes some 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 bureau 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’ll be given extensive training in the work of your organisation, and may also have relevant professional qualifications, such as in counselling or debt advice. They’ll go above and beyond, too: look at how hearing and Deaf staff are working together on our new Sign Assist service.

That expertise means they can handle more complex or emotive queries themselves, rather than routing them back to your in-house team. If they need to investigate something on behalf of a service user, they’ve got the tools and skills to do so.

What’s more, dedicated helplines can be omnichannel, combining phones, email, social media, video chat and so on. 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

We run both blended and dedicated helplines on behalf of numerous public sector and charity clients. We’d be delighted to chat through our services, and help you decide what approach would work best for you. Just drop us a line or give us a bell!