Communication remains to be a key component of business operations. Just as intercompany communication is vital in running the business, communication with your customers or the direct consumers of your products and services is very important. This gives way for the company to assess which aspects of their outputs are satisfactory from the point of view of the customers and which ones need more improvement.
The sales funnel model of a business starts from generating leads to converting leads to loyal customers. However, this conversion will not be possible unless the customers find themselves safe, secured, and satisfied not just with your products but your company operations as a whole. You may fall short with some of your products and services at times, but consumers will appreciate businesses that go the extra mile to provide satisfactory and excellent customer services despite the mishaps.
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As a business, you may prefer outsourcing business functions like call center services to better-skilled professionals. Or for small businesses, you may want to set up your call centers through call center software and do away with high outsourcing costs.
Whichever point of view you are in— looking to establish a call center outsourcing company or a business wanting to establish an in-house call center to provide customer service personally to your customers, here are a few practices you need to look out for when setting up a call center.
1. Identify business need
When you started your business, it may have been too small to warrant the need for a call or contact center. However, you realized that there are some things your current team cannot handle which include handling customer services.
Purpose and goals
The needs of your customers grow together with your business. If you’ve assessed that it’s finally time to set up a separate service for your customer care needs. As you decide to grow your business and create a call center department, ask yourself a few questions first:
- Is satisfying my customers one of my priorities?
- Are my customers getting frustrated over the lack of communication between us and them?
- Are my current services overwhelmed by the number of customer contact we are getting every day?
If your answer is yes to all of these, then it’s finally time to consider creating a separate service team to handle customer service. Think about the core problems you and your customers are experiencing because of the lack of an adequate service team and make it your starting point. Set your goals and purpose through this anchor.
Call Center Setup
After identifying your purpose and goals, it’s time to assess what kind of call center you need depending on the type of business you have:
- Onsite Call Center. Do you need to establish an on-site call center where customer service agents work in the office and all work will be handled there? This is usually common for large companies whose companies are at a fixed location with a large team.
- Virtual Call Center. For businesses that operate remotely, virtual call centers are a good option for employees working from home. This way, overhead costs like rent and utilities are also eliminated.
Don’t limit your call center software. Customer contact should not only service phone calls but also expand to multi-channel platforms. Here are some services you can consider:
- Inbound Contact Center
- Outbound Contact Center
- Voice channels
- Interactive Voice Response
- Social Media
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There is now more than one way to provide customer service to your customers. The world has evolved and companies must address this by allowing more channels to communicate. Some customers may prefer traditional voice calls why some millennials to Gen Z’s may find it more comfortable to talk through chatbots or web chat or social media.
Allowing a more diverse and multi-channel contact center allows for a 24/7 support system and increases the company’s competitive advantage over peers. There is flexibility for both customers and the business and addressing customers through channels like social media is beneficial in building a better brand identity and satisfaction from consumers.
2. Decide where to locate your call center
In deciding the location for your call centers, you must consider the overall aspect of your customer service operations.
Are you going to use virtual contact centers or in-house contact centers? Will your location be accessible for target employees? What costs will you incur concerning the location of your contact center?
Deciding between virtual and in-house contact centers can make a huge difference in terms of communication and overhead costs.
Onsite vs. Virtual Contact Centers
Virtual contact centers allow you a more cost-effective solution to providing customer service. Why? This eliminates the need for various overhead costs like room or building rent, furniture, utilities, and the like.
However, having in-house or on-site contact centers can also have its benefits. Communication and in-person discussion is easily made between team members when needed. At the same time. technology updates are easily made in pc hardware and employee training is immediately made.
3. Create a budget
As with any new business venture, creating a budget is necessary for starting a call center. Planning your budget gives you the necessary overview of how you’re going to operate your call center and decide which options to choose to fit your budget,
Knowing your limits in any venture allows you to make sound decisions in terms of operating bounds. Does allotting a physical location and additional overhead utilities fit your budget? How many additional employees can you hire? How much money will you be able to allocate for technology? What kind of equipment can you provide for your employees to assure better operations?
Start with the most necessary costs like employee wages down to the items you can do without, and start plotting your budget.
4. Establish business goals and KPI
Your call center can have various services and tasks like customer support, lead generation, cold calling, marketing, and the like. Depending on your focus, it is important to set your goals early on.
These goals will eventually decide the KPIs or key performance indicators that your call center will have. These KPIs will help you quantitatively measure how your call center and the agents are doing in terms of service, speed, and quality of work.
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Having a detailed set of goals and subsequent KPI measures early on in the business development stage will help your call center services be as effective and efficient as possible.
Some of the top call center KPIs are as follows:
- Average Time in Queue. To maintain customer satisfaction, one of the most important things to monitor is the wait times of customers. Ensure that your client’s wait times are at an acceptable range.
- Percentage of Calls Blocked. Calling a customer service line and being answered back by a busy line indicates that there are no available agents to answer the line or the software cannot handle the call volumes coming in. The percentage of calls blocked is an important measure in call center KPI as it affects a great deal of customer satisfaction and allows for a missed opportunity to connect with a customer.
- Average abandonment rate. Customers who wait in line for their turn often hang up before reaching an agent. This means that a customer is not satisfied with the call turnover rate and therefore affects their satisfaction.
Meanwhile according to Fonolo, here are the 5 popular call center KPI benchmarks.
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5. Procure equipment and hardware
When you’ve got your budget down, it’s time to buy the hardware and equipment needed for your call center. All call centers for different kinds of businesses require almost similar equipment.
The most basic call center equipment is as follows:
- Desktop, computers, or laptops. Investing in good quality computers is an important investment in call center services. After all, computers are what your agents use in identifying how to help your troubled consumers.
- Headsets and microphones. Getting the best quality headsets and microphones will allow. better communication between you and your agents.
- Business phone services. When choosing the right business phone services, it should be scalable in case of expansion and must be easy to set up, configure and maintain.
- Data handler. This acts as a key software to efficiently manage multiple data of a call center.
- Software to maintain call records. It is important to maintain records of calls between you and your customers. This will help managers verify commitments made on the call.
- Predictive dialers. Predictive dialers save agents time by automatically dialing calls, removing unproductive and unanswered calls, and eliminates disconnected and answered calls.
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It is important to not underestimate choosing to invest in good quality equipment and hardware. Good quality equipment saves you a lot of money in the long run and gives you a better return for your investment compared to cheap hardware that can easily bag down after a few years.
6. Apply technology
As the digital world is evolving, so must call centers. There has been a wide range of development in terms of communication and customer service over the past few years that all call centers should not ignore to reach a wider number of customers on different platforms.
A multi-channel call center allows you to communicate with your customers on their desired platform. Your customers can reach you through chat, email, text, call, or even through an app.
You have “multiple” channels of communication between the company and the customers. This allows a wider reach and ease of communication since some customers may not be comfortable talking through the phone, or some may find it more reliable to be able to talk to an actual agent.
An omnichannel call center is much like a multi-channel call center. The only difference is that there is ease in the sharing of data with the use of an omnichannel call center.
This means that even though there are various means of communication, coherent conversations take place across various tools, Customers who contacted you the first day through email won’t need to repeat the same answers he or she has given. a previous agent in case she calls for a follow-up the next day through the phone.
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Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Traditional landlines may still be used, but investing in technology like VOIP will allow you to make voice calls through the internet. Often dubbed as internet-based calling technology, call centers are now converting to VOIP technology like RingCentral and other RingCentral alternatives due to KPI visibility, customizability, better data recovery & backup methods, and lower prices with advanced services.
With cloud-based calling, call centers do away with on-site servers and equipment. The data is stored in a “cloud” where your agents can access data through the web. A cloud system is very important for virtual call centers since you can have phone numbers in various locations globally. This also allows for better scalability and more agents to answer the lines without additional cost.
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7. Hire and train people
What good are technology, budget, advanced software, and a business goal if you don’t have the right people to lead your services?
Remember that customer service is all about people. It starts and ends with a person on one line and another person at the end.
To give an outline, in this Harvard Business Review, American Express transformed the hiring process of their call center division. They recognized how call centers are the front line of their business and that they needed to hire people who understand their brand, love to build relationships and can empathize and connect with customers over the phone. They decided not to worry so much about previous call center experience but instead, focused on abilities and emotional quotients that cannot be taught in 4 walls.
Hiring the “right” people sometimes means letting go of the technicalities. Focus on what matters most when your call center services are the front and center of your customer communication.
Empathy and the ability to genuinely help and speak with people at the other end of the line is something most call center businesses should focus more on.
Once you’ve found the right employees, employee onboarding and training them is one of the key components of your operations.
Think about what kind of training you’ll need to give your prospective employees. Hard skills training? Call etiquette seminars? Technical onboarding? Team building activities?
You should be able to train your employees from technical skills down to etiquette and emotional management training. Covering all your bases from the get-go will give you wholly competent employees in return for customer satisfaction.
A call center is not just a cost-inducing section of your business. If you don’t have one, you should consider and reassess your business processes and performance if you need to set up a call center.
Call centers are the front line of your customer communication with the company. A business not having any communication with their consumers and downplaying the importance of customer service will eventually find themselves losing more customers—and not gaining any in the long run.
With the right processes and steps enumerated above, you’ll be able to set up a call center and start getting to know your consumers, addressing their concerns, and further develop your brand identity.