There are 6 key components which should be integrated into the call centre operation:
- Location, building and facilities
- Finance and business management
A change in any one of the above components will have a direct or indirect impact on every other part! Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Location, building and facilities
Where a centre is located is critical in terms of the cost of the building but more importantly the ability to recruit and retain employees to work in the centre. The ease and cost to get to a centre is important for those employed in the centre but also in the integration with the Head Office functions that the centre needs to work with. The facilities and working environment is more critical than for functional line departments because of the intensity with which the Agents have to sit at their desks and the need to manage resource patterns. Visiting a call centre and looking at how it might feel to work in it will be extremely telling as to how good the centres performance is, but also how the organisation view and treat their employees. If you walk into a centre would you want your job to be based in that type of facility? If not, then why are you any different from others?
Customers can be anyone, and the Agent needs to have the skills to be able to adapt their style and vocabulary to suit different customer types. The Agent talks to more customers in any one day that any other person in the organisation. If you want to know what is going on with customers, ask the Agents! With average call durations of less than 3 minutes, how do you form a relationship and build loyalty from a customer in that time. That is one of the biggest challenges that the Agents face, especially given many customers do not like the impersonal touch that call centres often provide.
There are significant amounts of technology available and it is very easy to be bamboozled by it all! It very much depends on the size and nature of your business as to what you require. The basic equipment to handle calls is the Automated Call Distributor but these can range from basic to a Rolls Royce! Many centres do not fully utilise the technology that they have. In addition there is usually a disjoint between what the technology can do and what it is actually used for!
Every centre has a multitude of processes, but the biggest challenge that it faces is to understand the end to end process from the customer perspective! The customer journey is what happens from the point in time when a customer decides to contact you through to the completion of that request or transaction. How long does this journey take and what does it feel like taking the steps along the way. How long is spent waiting? Does the agent have the customer details to hand? Can the agent answer the query first time? Does the fulfilment when expected? Is there the need to contact the organisation again because what was promised hasn’t happened on time?
One very easy but critical way of looking at the customer journey is to mystery shop the centre and to see what it really feels like to be the customer. Put yourselves in the shoes of your key customer demographic type and call your own centre today.
People are the most critical asset in a call centre as it is they who really deliver the business performance. Unfortunately the investment and perception of your staff may be rather poor. The people (Agents) often have to deal with difficult situations when things have gone wrong in your organisation and deal with a large volumes of calls that result, whilst not always having the necessary training or skills. However, the teams in Centres can be very resilient and are often very social, making the centre a great place to work. There are many different roles on offer and so they can a good environment to start and develop a career!
Finance and business management
There will be more management information statistics in a call centre than in any other part of the organisation. The centre is measured from every different angle but unfortunately, this does not always give a complete picture!
One of the most challenging roles is the planning, measuring and reviewing of performance because so many centres are under pressure from calls and other expectations, that being able to step back and take an objective view maybe difficult. Most centres are run to very tight budgets so factors such as turnover of staff will have a huge impact.
One alternative that you may to consider is outsourcing. Outsourcing has become a hot topic in today’s call centre business. What can outsourcing do for you as a business? What do you need to consider when outsourcing? What are the common pitfalls that organisations have to face? What things should you do to reduce the risk of outsourcing going wrong?
So as you can now fully appreciate, call centres are highly complex operations that can be mastered if you have the right advice and guidance.