What is a Call Centre – 10 Things to Know
Before Paul Weald provides a list of 10 key things to know about call centres, we specify how they should be defined and what separates them from contact centres.
Call centre definition
A call centre is a department or an office in which incoming and outgoing telephone and voice calls from new and existing customers are handled by a team of advisors or agents. It is a traditional set-up for companies of a larger size.
Call centres can provide a service to customers, handle queries, offer product support, carry out telemarketing, or market research. Yet, these functions have developed greatly over the past few decades, as you can discovered in our aritcle on the history of the call centre.
What’s the difference between call centre and contact centre?
A call centre differs from a contact centre in that it traditionally only deals with voice calls and no other form of channel of contact. However, the terms call centre and contact centre have become interchangeable in usage.
It usually consists of a large team of agents who carry out call handling. Call centres can be flexible in size and set up, so can be utilised by many companies in different sectors. Virtual call centres are built up of either smaller teams of agents or individual agents who are not working at the contact centre, but more typically they are working at home. The call centre has seen many changes in its set-up, from a large centre of agents, to homeworking, to use of quieter branch offices.
Call centres are valuable to companies because they provide a platform to customers where the company has the opportunity to enhance its image, resolve problems and to create a stronger customer base.
There are certain factors which can be used to measure the customer experience and function of the call centre. These include metrics of average handling time, customer satisfaction, service level, cost per call and many other parameters.
Call centres use many technologies such as queuing systems, automated scheduling, speech recognition, multichannel call routing and workforce management.
Follow the link for a greater introduction to call centres.
1. People account for around 70% of the operational costs
This makes them a key asset of an organisation. It is the people in the centre who are the real impact on the customer not the technology or the processes. Investing in the right people with the right training will provide the right results, but unfortunately many organisations do not view it like that in part because of their view that with high turnover they are not worth investing in. One of the key reasons why individuals leave is because of lack of training or progression.
Whilst this mostly relates to call centre agents, there are many other positions in the calls centre. If you wish to discover more, read our article on typical roles in the call centre.
2. People are challenging
Where there are large groups of people working together you will get problems – call centres have a reputation for turnover and absenteeism. These challenges make managing the centre especially difficult when you think that the managers have to forecast and plan their resources very tightly against predicted call volumes. If a centre is under resourced for any reason, then queues will form, customers will become dissatisfied and agents will be put under more pressure.
So, if you feel are working for a call centre, which you believe to be under resourced, it is important to know how to properly interact and deal with angry customers.
3. Monday is typically the busiest day of the week
We have all had the weekend to sort our bills or decide on that holiday so now we are back to our normal week, so we pick up the phone and call the call centre! If you need to call a call centre, try to do it on any day but Monday!
4. More customers call between 10 am – 12 noon than at any other time!
Why? Typically because those calling have either got into work and are settled into their day, so will make their personal calls (managers usually go for meetings during this time so it is easier) or, they have returned home after doing the school run and are getting on with the things they need to do.
5. Technology does not always fully support the agent in doing their job!
There can be a lot of technology in a call centre, but for a variety of reasons it may not help the agent to do their job effectively. Each technology component may be built separately from each other so like a cake mixture, when all the ingredients come together it may not be perfect. The key factor is to understand how the agent will use the combination of systems to handle the customer enquiry.
Other ways of supporting agents without using technology could also involve providing them with a list of empathy statements to help build customer-agent rapport or positive scripting.
6. The agents are the voice and ears of the company!
Agents will talk to more customers in a day than most other people in the organisation do in a year. They can tell you what is happening with customers, what is important to them and what competitors may be doing. Agents are an invaluable research tool and can provide a multitude of ideas on how to do things better or what will or will not work. The best call centres use their agents as a means of providing feedback to all parts of an organisation.
For more information about this, read our article that advises you on how to involve agents in operations and strategy.
7. Call Centre Managers do not have crystal balls
The demand on Managers to reach service levels everyday with all the constraints placed on them is probably one of the most challenging jobs we know. For this reason most Managers spend their time fire fighting existing situations and do not have time to raise their head above the parapet to plan for the future. By getting into the detail within the centre, they are not able to think more strategically about what needs to be done to develop or improve current performance.
8. Team Leaders drive the business performance
The Team Leader role is critical provided it does what it’s name suggests and that is lead the team of agents that they are responsible for. The Team Leader should be present with their team in order to provide support and advice throughout their day. The Team Leader must be responsible for coaching and developing their agents because it will be these agents who deliver the service.
For helpful hints doing so, read our article on how to be a productive team leader.
9. The biggest critics of call centres are within the company.
Call centres are an easy target to criticise, because most people have had a bad experience of one! By criticising the call centre and highlighting it’s failures will enable others to detract attention from their own performance! Few understand the complexities of call centres and the issue that they have to manage, so it makes them a soft target. More importantly call centres may not have a senior sponsor and may be located remotely from the head office – this makes them vulnerable and open to attack.
To find clear evidence of this, see our report, which uncovers that a high percentage of businesses view the contact centre as a “cost centre”.
10. Call centres are a great place to work
With a wide range of opportunities to fit many different circumstances, call centres can be great as a first job to provide staff with experience or flexibility in the working hours
that are needed to meet family or other commitments. In addition, there is usually great camaraderie and friendships to be had.
Also as call centres are a microcosm of the entire organisation, the learning opportunities are huge. Within a single location you will have exposure to everything – people management, vast amounts of technology, operational management, cultural issues, team working, politics and processes!
To discover more of what goes on in the call centre, read our introduction to call centre processes.
Many thanks to Paul Weald for providing this information.
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