Former customer service manager here.
You can’t compare the per-minute cost of having a CSR offsite by an outsourcer with what you actually pay the CSR per minute. That is a substantial part of the cost, certainly, but it isn’t the only one.
Firstly, keep in mind that you’re only paying while the CSR is working, but in most situations, CSRs are paid hourly. While the company should be trying to make sure to minimize the time a CSR is free, this is an easier task than it sounds, and it becomes orders of magnitude more difficult the smaller the shop is (hence the local thing being relevant).
Let’s say you have a bunch of clients and you’re pooling their calls to all your agents. You get a total of 800-1000 calls per business day. Each agent can handle about 100 calls per day. Does that mean you need ten agents on any given day? Ha, no. You need a lot more than that because individual peaks can occur and phone calls are an immediate need; unless you want peak times when people will be waiting in queue for a representative for an hour until a dip occurs, you need to overstaff that number significantly.
This is harder than it sounds. Take for example the following. Let’s say for example the calls work out like this:
8 - 9am 200 calls
9 - 10am 100 calls
10-11am 50 calls
11am-noon 300 calls
These sorts of variances are not atypical based on normal differences throughout the day. Usually opening, lunchtime (depending on how local vs national your calls are) and before close are busiest. But even from there, if you drill down, you tend to get large variances, which are larger the smaller you are. For example, taking a part of one hour:
8-8:10am 50 calls
8:10am-8:20am 40 calls
8:20am-8:30am 20 calls
…and so on. Now, you can’t say, “well, you 5 CSRs will work for ten minutes, then 3 of you not work again until 8:40am…” It just doesn’t work that way. You have to pay them to be there and to handle all the peaks. In a small shop, that can be hard without a lot of offtime. If you’re lucky, you can find other things for them to do in their spare time - but the more skilled that labor is, the more you must pay them, as well. Unless you have some really basic tasks like envelope stuffing, a basic low-tier CSR probably isn’t qualified.
You also need to consider lots of overall costs. You have to pay for the CSR’s time off. You have to pay for a facility for them to work in and all of the overhead costs with that. You have to pay for management to oversee the workers. And so on.
All totaled I don’t think the quoted cost is unreasonable at all.