A call center is a centralized office used for the purpose of receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. A call centre is operated by a company to administer incoming product support or information inquiries from consumers. Outgoing calls for telemarketing, clientele, product services, and debt collection are also made. In addition to a call centre, collective handling of letters, faxes, live chat, and e-mails at one location is known as a contact centre.
A call center is often operated through an extensive open workspace for call centre agents, with work stations that include a computer for each agent, a telephone set/headset connected to a telecom switch, and one or more supervisor stations. It can be independently operated or networked with additional centers, often linked to a corporate computer network, including mainframes, microcomputers and LANs. Increasingly, the voice and data pathways into the centre are linked through a set of new technologies called computer telephony integration (CTI).
Most major businesses use call centers to interact with their customers. Examples include utility companies, mail order catalogue retailers, and customer support for computer hardware and software. Some businesses even service internal functions through call centers. Examples of this include help desks, retail financial support, and sales support. A typical call center worker’s desk environment in Lakeland, Florida, United States. A contact centre, also known as customer interaction centre is a central point of any organization from which all customer contacts are managed. Through contact centers, valuable information about company are routed to appropriate people, contacts to be tracked and data to be gathered. It is generally a part of company’s customer relationship management (CRM). Today, customers contact companies by calling, emailing, chatting online, visiting websites, faxing, and even instant messaging.
The History of Call Center :
The fastest growing area of the call center market nowadays is the home-based contact centers. It is an emergent change in the call center industry. In particular, the home-based segment has grown over the past few years. The profitable benefits continue to induce adoption of this capable and scalable service model. This is an effort to cut down cost and to provide quality service to its customers.
Traditional call center began soberly in 1980s. In that time, the call center location was only based mostly on the viability of a technical infrastructure and the need of young and transient workers. When telecommunication networks are widely used, the number of call centers was also enhanced. In 1990s companies engaged in outsourcing business but the expenses must be reduced. With predetermined connectivity and operating costs, less expensive labor can be a solution. Companies started to search for a cheaper labor force outside US which is now feasible using a reliable telecommunications network. With this, offshore outsourcing was done which gives satisfying solution to certain markets. The so called home-based or virtual customer service center was introduced in the late 1990s. This model had helped to reduce costs. The geographical hurdles for hiring service professionals were also removed. Now, clientele can pay a smaller amount but still calls will be answered by trained employees. In an analysis, the virtual call center was viewed as a solution to highly seasonal businesses such as selling of flowers for Valentine’s Day. Moreover, home shopping networks which need extra personnel who will serve their clients, found the flexibility of home-based centers.
The Home-Based Model:
Why do people need to come into an office to help customers? This question was answered by outsourced call center industry by improving business products, creating employment openings, safeguarding the environment and serving the people struggle globally.
Virtual call center can handle even the most complex transactions from financial institutions, healthcare corporations, information technology firms and other organizations.
Virtual call centers provide wide range of services that will help the businesses to avoid sale fluctuations in real-time. The new service feature is the high-touch offering being provided through home-based employees that include IT help desk support, collections, and sales.
At first, the workforce mostly composed part-time personnel. Some are performing home-based positions to complement their full-time jobs, while others stay-at-home. Now, virtual call centers suggest stable work environment with more than 80 percent full-time employees. The employees perform their job more seriously, which results to less turnover and high rate of customer satisfaction.
The at-home phenomenon was invented by analysts at Robert Baird & Co., the fastest growing area of the call center market. IDC ( News – Alert) reported that the number of at-home CCPs will triple by 2010. Baird said that the use of at home agents can connect to a 10-15 percent cost cutback and increased agent productivity of up to 10 percent for clients. Truly, home-based contact centers reduce costs while increasing the quality of service.
The following reasons Bangladesh can really be a Great Call Center one:
Bangladesh can be a very good outsourcing industry in terms of manpower, location and cost. Widening up the opportunity with proper Government initiatives and support of the private sector can build a strong infrastructure. Already several of Bangladesh’s work has proved the skills and standards in the Global Market. Call Center industry can add up another milestone in its global success. We have a talented young generation looking for jobs; they are also hard working and sincere enough. Let us strive to make this development a grand achievement for the people and country.
So we can say that, for this following reasons Bangladesh can really be a Great Call Center Zone:
1. Low Manpower Cost
2. Low Infrastructure Cost
3. Low Training Cost
4. Easy to set up
5. Availability of adequate resources required
6. Easy Government Policy
7. Good time zone for USA, UK, Australia etc .
Call Centers Technology:
Call Centres use a wide variety of different technologies to allow them to manage the large volumes of work that need to be managed by the call centre. These technologies ensure that agents are kept as productive as possible, and that calls are queued and processed as quickly as possible, resulting in good levels of service.
- ACD (automatic call distribution)
- Agent performance analytics
- BTTC (best time to call)/ Outbound call optimization
- IVR (interactive voice response)
- Guided Speech IVR
- CTI (computer telephony integration)
- Enterprise Campaign Management
- Outbound predictive dialer
- CRM (customer relationship management)
- CIM (customer interaction management. Also known as Unified solutions)
- Email Management
- Chat and Web Collaboration
- Desktop Scripting Solutions
- Third Party Verification (Third party verification)
- TTS (text to speech)
- WFM (workforce management)
- Virtual queuing
- Voice analysis
- Voice recognition
- Voice recording
- Speech Analytics
Call center business in Bangladesh :
The latest business news to grip the nation is the much-hyped about advent of the Call Center industry. With overall Call Center outsourcing market expected to grow steadily and reach $20.1 Billion in revenues by 2012 from $19.5 billion in 2005, this sector undoubtedly offers many opportunities for Bangladesh but it may just fall short of revolutionizing our country’s economy overnight , as some rumors would have us believe.
To get a rational view on the prospects of this industry very new to Bangladesh , star Campus decided to consult saif Mahmood, CEO, LiveBean Bangladesh Ltd. His company has recently initiated joint venture with USA and India to open up a training academy in collaboration with Call Center School, the leading company in the world for the professional development of individuals in the Call Center industry. It has been claimed that Bangladesh can take advantage of the rising costs of operating call Canter in phillipines and india in recent years by utilizing its law wages and large labour force a claim that was critically examined by Mr. Saif. While he doesn’t question the fact that there is man power available for employment in Call Centers at much lower rates here than in neighbouring India, he does question capability of the existing work force of carrying out the complex responsibilities of Call Centers. Besides fluency in English and basic computer literacy, a persons needs to possess sound customer service skills to be an effective Call Centers operative .
But because of lack of exposure to the extremely competitive standards of Call Centers Mr. Saif fells that there is an acute lack of human resources in our country with the specific set of skills that are required to excel in this industry. That is why, although a Call Centers operative can be hired for 20,000 rupees a month in India, he estimates that a salary of moor then 50,000 taka’s will be sufficient to induce a person with similar sets of skills to become a call center operative in Bangladesh under current circumstances Mr. Saif vehemently negates the belief held in certain quarters that the call center is a dot.com phenomenon which may soon die out like its predecessors. On the country, he believes that this is a HR intensive industry which uses IT as a support mechanism. He points out that Bangladesh has access to the same technology available in the United States and India, i. e . Avaya lucent technologies which are deemed to be the best in business .
The differentiating Factor in this industry is not the technology, but the quality of service provided thought the usage of this technology. Because of the current worldwide trend of retaining existing customers, he believes that this industry has a long way to go. That is why, although Bangladesh is a late entrant in the market, he is optimistic about the long run possibilities for Bangladesh. But for this possibilities to materialize, he believes that Bangladeshi organizations need to have a major time commitment and make investments in developing the man power to meet the international standards. Comparing the many training academies for call center that have sprung up like mushrooms near Farm Gate.
How call center Technology work :
Call centre technology is subject to improvements and innovations. Some of these technologies include speech recognition software to allow computers to handle first level of customer support, text mining and natural language processing to allow better customer handling, agent training by automatic mining of best practices from past interactions, support automation and many other technologies to improve agent productivity and customer satisfaction. Automatic lead selection or lead steering is also intended to improve efficiencies, both for inbound and outbound campaigns, whereby inbound calls are intended to quickly land with the appropriate agent to handle the task, whilst minimizing wait times and long lists of irrelevant options for people calling in, as well as for outbound calls, where lead selection allows management to designate what type of leads go to which agent based on factors including skill, socioeconomic factors and past performance and percentage likelihood of closing a sale per lead.
The concept of the Universal Queue standardizes the processing of communications across multiple technologies such as fax, phone, and email whilst the concept of a Virtual queue provides callers with an alternative to waiting on hold when no agents are available to handle inbound call demand.
A typical call centre telephone. Note: no handset, phone is for headset use only. Premise-based Call Centre Technology Historically, call centers have been built on PBX equipment that is owned and hosted by the call centre operator. The PBX might provide functions such as Automatic Call Distribution, Interactive Voice Response, and skills-based routing. The call centre operator would be responsible for the maintenance of the equipment and necessary software upgrades as released by the vendor.
Virtual Call Centre Technology With the advent of the Software as a service technology delivery model, the virtual call centre has emerged. In a virtual call centre model, the call centres operator does not own, operate or host the equipment that the call centre runs on. Instead, they subscribe to a service for a monthly or annual fee with a service provider that hosts the call centre telephony equipment in their own data centre. Such a vendor may host many call centers on their equipment. Agents connect to the vendor’s equipment through traditional PSTN telephone lines, or over Voice over IP. Calls to and from prospects or contacts originate from or terminate at the vendor’s data centre, rather than at the call centre operator’s premise. The vendor’s telephony equipment then connects the calls to the call centre operator’s agents.
Virtual Call Centre Technology allows people to work from home, instead of in a traditional, centralized, call centre location, which increasingly allows people with physical or other disabilities that prevent them from leaving the house, to work.
A predictive dialing system running out of numbers to dial.Cloud Computing for Call Centres Cloud computing for call centres extends cloud computing to Software as a service, or hosted, on-demand call centres by providing application programming interfaces (APIs) on the call centre cloud computing platform that allow call centre functionality to be integrated with cloud-based Customer relationship management, such as Salesforce.com and leads management and other applications.The APIs typically provide programmatic access to two key groups of features in the call centre platform:
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) APIs provide developers with access to basic telephony controls and sophisticated call handling on the call centre platform from a separate application. Configuration APIs provide programmatic control of administrative functions of the call centre platform which are typically accessed by a human administrator through a Graphical User Interface (GUI).
Call center Management
The Need for Automated Systems
The changing mix of contact volume, coupled with the growing complexity of staff scheduling (longer operating hours, weekend shifts, mixture of full- and part-time staff, etc.) make the problem of workforce management ideally suited for the computer. Workforce management (WFM) software, combined with the historical and real-time statistics of the ACD, is an essential tool for today’s professionally managed call center.
The basic functions associated with a workforce management software system are as follows:
1. Call volume forecasting. A WFM system uses historical and current call information from the ACD and other contact center systems to predict future call volume based on overall calling trends, seasonal factors, and other predictable calling patterns. Forecasts are automatically updated with new information about contact patterns through a direct interface with contact center systems such as the ACD, outbound dialer, or email/fax servers.
2. Staffing calculations. A telephone traffic engineering technique is used to determine the required number of staff based on the forecast workload for incoming calls. This technique, called Erlang C, takes into account the random arrival of calls into the center, as well as the “hold for the first agent” queuing that typically takes place. Other mathematical models are used to factor in the sequential workload of emails and/or outbound calling.
3. Staff scheduling. “Bodies in chairs” staff requirements along with non-productive time estimates (for breaks, trainings, meetings, etc.) are used to determine a schedule requirement for each half-hour or quarter-hour period. A set of optimal schedules is then created based on these requirements and a call center’s unique scheduling rules and constraints. These schedules are then assigned to staff based shift bid rules and employee preferences.
4. Day-to-day performance tracking. Perhaps the most critical component of a workforce management system is the intra-day comparison of actual performance against the plan. Call center management must actively compare actual workload by half-hour to the forecast, and actual number of staff on the phones to the schedule plan. The call center manager needs to see these changes as they are happening, in order to make necessary adjustments to meet service goals.
Cost Justifying Call center Management Tools
Not all call centers need an automated system to accomplish workforce management tasks. Need is a function of size and operating complexity. Generally call centers with more than 30 agents with an increasingly complex scheduling environment (round-the- clock operations or an increasing volume of emails/faxes, for example) can cost justify automating these functions.
An automated workforce management system generally produces measurable improvements in the following areas:
1. More efficient scheduling. The savings associated with more efficient scheduling can take many forms, including reduced overall staff hours, reduced need for overtime, and identification of overstaffed periods to offer time off without pay. Workforce management system users generally experience a minimum reduction of staff hours of 2 % and average potential is in the 5 – 10% range.
2. Automation of workforce management tasks. Depending on how often forecasting and scheduling tasks take place and to what degree they are currently automated, there is a wide range of potential savings in staff time by automating these tasks with a full-featured workforce management system. It is generally expected that at least 25% of administrative and managerial time currently devoted to the manual performance of these tasks can be saved.
3. Reduction in workforce shrinkage. Many hours of staff time are lost in most call centers due to excessive amounts of non-productive time (time spent not handling calls). An automated workforce management system can provide historical and real- time information on schedule adherence and schedule exceptions for better management and control of staff, reducing workforce shrinkage by 2-5% in most call centers.
4. Reduction in network costs. By creating a set of schedules that minimizes understaffing as well as overstaffing, implementing workforce management results in a more consistent level of service to callers and may reduce queue time and toll-free network costs.
5. Increased revenues. For call centers that realize revenue by answering calls (catalogs, reservations centers, etc.), workforce management automation can help reduce queue times and improve service, thereby reducing the number of abandons and increasing the number of revenue calls completed.
To determine an estimated payback period, take the estimated savings from Items 1-5 above for estimated annual savings or divide by 12 for an estimated monthly savings in the first year of implementation. The payback period on such a system can be calculated by dividing the one-time purchase price by the average monthly savings.
In addition to these measurable cost savings, there are many intangible benefits. Perhaps the biggest of these is the addition of a sophisticated “what-if” planning capability that allows management to forecast and plan staff needs for the short term to respond to unexpected changes, as well as long-term budgeting and planning.
Organizations considering a workforce management purchase should heed the following guidelines:
1. Cast a large net. Invite all qualified vendors to present their products. Insist on a detailed demonstration and ask lots of questions about how the package would work in meeting your center’s specific mode of operation. Remember you’re looking both for full range of functionality in addition to ease of use.
2. Talk to others that have done it. At a minimum, talk to four or five other organizations similar to yours (in size, type of operation, ACD brand) that have implemented a system. Visit at least two of these and talk to managers about the benefits they’ve received as well as the day-to-day users about ease of use and customer support.
3. Consider the support capabilities of each vendor. Workforce management software systems are not simple, off-the-shelf packages. They typically require specialized training and ongoing consultative support to make the most of their capabilities. Ask about documentation, training, and access to customer support. It’s also important to understand what to expect about future upgrades and enhancements.
4. Don’t suffer “sticker shock”. Prices for workforce management systems cover a wide range, depending on whether you are considering a single module, or a comprehensive integrated system. Some of the more comprehensive packages may seem expensive, but don’t lose sight of the fact that each agent employee may have a fully burdened cost of anywhere from $30,000 – $50,000 annually. Saving just a couple of employees’ labor expenses can quickly justify the most expensive package.
5. Plan for a successful implementation. During the purchase process, it is critical to communicate and motivate everyone in the center to participate in the process. While implementing workforce management results in a more efficient operation and a less stressful environment in the long run, it is important to realize that such an implementation may mean a cultural change for agents, supervisors, and management in the short term. The largest potential benefit is more efficient scheduling, but in order to accomplish this, some agents’ schedules will have to change. It is important to devise a strategy to accentuate the positive effects and to include all involved in the workflow and schedule planning.
Call Center Recruitment
Usually call center recruitment follows a simple three-step process, which is very stringent and allows no loopholes or chances for any slack during the process of choosing the right people.
Set on a fast growth track, the Call Center Industry is faced with an unprecedented entry of young, educated talent. Statistics prove that attracting the right candidates, training and most significantly retaining them is one of the main challenges faced by the call center business. Good call center recruitment and training process ensures that our call center is staffed with world-class personnel, and manages one of the lowest employee turnover levels in the business. Call Center’s team of customer service agents empowers clients worldwide towards consistent business growth and higher operational efficiency.
Three-step call center recruitment process involves:
Selection of Customer Service Agents
The channels we have identified for agent selection are:
- Internal Employee Referrals
- Internet Job Sites
- Campus Interviews
- Press advertisements
- Job Fairs
- Tie-ups with strategic accounts
- Official Website/online applicants
- Bill Boards
- Direct Mailers
- Visibility and Branding
HR – The candidates’ track records are verified and references, attrition risk, no hire zone and salary fit are checked.
Group Discussions – Candidates are assessed for verbal communication skills with a focus on accent, diction, clarity of speech and thought, and their overall confidence.
Operations – Highly effective methodologies have been developed to evaluate candidates on teamwork, initiative and ability to work under pressure. Basic tests are administered to check written English, numerical and analytical skills. Based on their assessment and skills inventory, candidates are assigned roles ensuring the best fit.
Induction – The final step of the call center recruitment process is an induction for the team members, where they would be imparted information on:
- An introduction
- Basics of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Industry
- Company Code of Conduct
- Security & Data Integrity
- Benefits & Perks
- Joining Formalities
- Baseline Evaluation
- Pre-Process Training
- Process Training
Call Center Training
- The phone skills and techniques that your team members use are essential to your organization’s image and its bottom line. Without a proper phone training program in place chances are that your customer’s telephone experience with your organization isn’t being maximized.
- Your customers deserve top notch telephone customer service. Anything less and you are missing out on a golden opportunity to develop long term, loyal relationships with customers and potential customers.
- You only get one chance to make a first impression. Effective phone answering skills are essential to creating a positive first impression that sets the tone for the rest of the customer’s interaction with your organization.
- If you are seeking a customized phone training program to improve business, phone etiquette in your business office or call center contact the experts who offer training for Call Center. Experience help organizations establish telephone etiquette excellence. Training Experts help customer service call centers, small medical offices, and all types of organizations in between create powerful and lasting telephone based customer experiences.
- A telephone call is often your customer’s first impression of your organization. Don’t leave it to chance! Implement an effective telephone etiquette skill training program.
Call Center Career The call center industry has been huge for many years, employing thousands of people in the world. Furthermore, the global call center technology market has been said will grow to an astonishing industry. The advancement already proves so.
The reason for so much growth when it comes to call centers is because of the many companies that are choosing to move part of their business into the call center world. This isn’t a bad thing, as it provides many avenues of opportunity with these companies when looking for a call center career.
There is a wide range of possibilities when choosing to work in a call center.
First of all, there are different kinds of customer service call centers to choose from. Some may deal with answering customer questions and handling customer problems, while others have a certain sales aspect to them. Handling complaints or providing technical support are other options available in call center careers. However, regardless of the type of call center you choose, customer service will play the biggest role in how you perform your job.
It is important to keep in mind what type of call center will fit your personality. If you aren’t much of a salesperson, or you aren’t comfortable tackling troubleshooting issues, you shouldn’t pursue this avenue as it will only make you miserable in the long run.
No matter the type of call center you choose to work for, there are many benefits as well as negatives to choosing a call center career which will be outlined here.
1. Some great perks to working in a call center is the ease of being able to move. If a call center company is located in different areas throughout the country, there is usually a process set up for transferring within the company from area to area. What this means for someone who chooses a call center career, is the opportunity to many times keep their job while relocating for whatever reason, even if it’s only to engage in a new living experience. Of course, this will depend on the size of the company and policies for transferring will differ from one to another. If the call center is a smaller business, and only located in one area for example, you won’t see the opportunity to transfer within the company when moving. However because of the numerous different call centers that have a high demand for customer service agents, there is a strong opportunity of quickly finding a new job in the same field of employment when it’s time to move.
2. In addition to the benefit of being able to transfer or easily get work when moving, rapid advancement opportunities are a huge plus in call center careers. Most companies like to hire for their management positions from within, giving every customer service agent the opportunity to prove themselves right for the job. This means there is no real “dead end” for a customer service agent. There are so many different departments within a call center that the possibilities are endless and are a big plus to working in this business. This is a great way to learn new skills that will help you in your call center career whether you are staying with a particular company or plan on moving on to another company with different aspects of customer service.
3. It is common to see not only a call taking department but a training department, quality department, management department, and even an IT department. Because these are all housed in the same call center, it is very possible to learn skills in these different departments easily giving you an edge in your call center career.
4. Depending on the type of call center you work in, the opportunity to make money can be very lucrative. If the call center deals with any type of sales, there is a good chance you can make more than just an hourly wage. It will also depend on whether a company does outsourced work, as an outsourcing company tends to pay less per hour. And looking further into this, a non profit organization will probably pay the least. But many call centers pay a competitive salary to keep employees as the competition to hire is high.
Negative side of a call center
On the flip side of benefits, there are always going to be negative parts of having a call center career.
The biggest issue call center agents tend to deal with is burnout. It can get tiresome taking the same calls day after day, performing the same functions so often you could do it in your sleep. There will always be calls that aren’t fun either, dealing with complaining customers or customers you just don’t click with and this adds to the burnout. Believe it or not, a lot of stress comes with having a call center career. Leaving personal issues at the door is a huge challenge for most people, but a necessity when working in this business. Your job as a call center agent is to provide the best customer service possible no matter the type of call center you are working in. This cannot be done when you carry your own personal luggage around.
The last notable negative aspect of working in the call center industry is constant change. It’s hard enough to do what is required of you to stay positive at all times while working and dealing with customers, but keeping up with change in policies and procedures as well as informational changes can be a challenge.
Another aspect of constant change is the possibility of your position being eliminated at some point. If a call center decides to start outsourcing to India, there won’t be any work for you unless you want to move with them. This is something everyone who works in a call center career must be aware of and prepared for if it were to happen.
All in all a customer service career can be lucrative, fulfilling, and overall beneficial with the addition of a few negative things to worry about but the benefits can definitely outweigh the cons if this career is something you are serious about.
Need Call Center Service?
From small to large companies, all require a call center support to boost up its bottom line today.
A call center has its advantages and benefits. Prominent among them are the advantage of having a customer service representative (for some it’s a luxury, but believe you me, the return far exceeds investment in the short as well as long run) who can communicate with the customers and prospects. Employing an experienced (or somewhat) call center or customer service agent is like having a workforce that can represent your company without you moving even a bit from the chair.
In the past, getting a readymade but custom call center service was not viable, especially for small or medium scale businesses. But now, for the Internet telephony technologies advancement and competition between different vendors even small mom-pop shops can have desired numbers of call center agents.
Call Center Tips
We all know that the customers are the king. They are never wrong. If you provide them good service today they will remember you and the customer’s return is very much probable. To Provide them with the best service follow the following:
1. Address customer by name. Caution is necessary in pronouncing names. Know the name, know the spelling and if necessary know the pronunciation the first time.
2. Don’t sound mechanical. Keep the state of art conversation when you communicate.
3. Don’t vomit the sales pitch as it is written. Always be innovative in expressing data and information.
4. Personalization helps. Instead of talking to an unknown unnamed customer service agent, customers feel comfortable speaking with someone already they have spoken with. Not meant for auto dialer call centers though
5. Make them feel important. With both words and works, make them feel they are important.
6. Try to exceed their expectations. This is one thing you can always do through being very soft spoken and willing to help more.
7. Seek feedback from your customers. This can always put a positive impression on you if you seek feedback from your customers.
8. Keep them in the loop. Product development, new products launch, up gradation in the process, they should know.
9. Be transparent. Try to be honest and reveal safe ‘secrets’ about the product or service.
10. Thank your customer. They call us and we reply or we reach them to meet our target or to sell new things. Go beyond that and establish a relationship. Letting your customers know that they are important always help.
Call Center Pros and Cons
1. High basic salary
2. They accept undergraduates (for those who are working students to augment tuition fees)
3. Fast promotion
4. Cool colleagues (if you don’t get along with them, you can always quit your job) .
5. You get to sit in a cubicle in front of a computer all day. In free air conditioning or heat. That’s better than some of the stand-up-run-around jobs I’ve had with barely functioning heating and cooling systems.
6. Call centers are open for longer hours to serve several time zones. If you’re a college kid, or prefer working something other than a 9-5, call centers have many available shifts for you to work.
7. If you’re trying to transition from food service or retail jobs to something more white collar, a call center is a good place to start. They will hire you if you possess the skills they are looking for, regardless of previous experience
8. Low start-up cost, small cash outlay.
9. Relatively small monthly payments that come out of the operating budget instead of the capital budget.
10. Vendor is responsible for system installation, implementation and ongoing maintenance.
11. Up and running quickly with a full-featured implementation.
12. Cost effective and feature-rich support for a small shop.
13. Many browser-based offerings that require little on-site technology.
14. Ongoing technology refresh without forklifts or major disruption to the operating environment.
15. No need for in-house contact center technical expertise.
16. Few in-house technical resources required to support the switch.
17. Easy to scale up and down.
18. No network costs
1. Whether you’re taking customer complaints, answering tech questions, or screening potential employees for other corporations, you’re going to be
dealing with people. Some of these people, simply because they are people, will be rude to you. It’s hard to take other people’s crap when you really are trying to help.
2. It’s a long, boring day. Really boring. The job is about as repetitive as it gets, and your phone calls have a very finite set of possibilities. It gets so bad that a prank call makes your day significantly more interesting.
3. It’s a thankless job. Unlike many other cubicle jobs, you probably won’t see any health insurance or paid vacation time. You won’t get rich, either.
4. You don’t get to use what you’ve studied for at least 4 years in college.
5. Highly stressful environment
6. Weird sleeping habits
7. You’ll get fat
8. No social night life
9. Highly prone to robbery (robbers think agents are rich)
10. Hosting for an extended period of time, approximately three to four years, eventually costs more than purchasing the technology outright.
11. Total dependence on the vendor to provide a high level of service reliability.
12. Not all of the switches are as functionally rich as the leading premise-based offerings.
13. Need to find a service provider that is capable of meeting your organization’s requirements .
14. Quality of service, cost and speed of enhancements are subject to changes in the hosting vendor’s financial position or business strategy.
15. The service provider may not be as responsive as an in-house team and it may take days to make simple changes.
16. Must depend on vendor to implement new features as you require them.
17. Hosting vendor may not be willing to support unique requirements.
18. May be challenging to integrate the hosted solution into your operating environment.
19. Data security and backup are no longer under your direct control.
What Is Your Major Challenge Right Now?
Be it for research, making sales, or providing after-sales service, companies heavily rely on their call centers. Call center managers face daily challenges in balancing targets provided by management with the basic operations involved in running their call centers. A few of these challenges are described below.
Find your major challenge here and see how one of our programs may put you back on the road to success.
Floor Management Challenges
There is no Accountability on the Floor
A lack of Accountability can have many different looks, but here is a description of one of the most common set of circumstances we see. In general, agents “do their thing”. Supervisors put out fires and keep everyone updated on the numbers, and most of their time is spent solving floor problems, doing reports and participating in meetings.
The Core Problem
With everyone being so busy doing the same old thing, no one is pushing the floor to do its best. Everybody is too busy to stop and change things for the better. By this time, many bad habits have developed at the agent and supervisor levels that there are no simple answers. The center will have a hard time digging itself out of the hole.
Solution: The Call Center Floor Management Workshop Creates Accountability
CCFM is much more than a training workshop. Prior to the training, we work with senior management to identify the roadblocks to better performance. We work with your supervisor team to build a more effective floor-coaching plan and strategy. We help you analyze current levels of performance to determine how much better the center can be. We help you build the right communication with the agent population so they know the needed changes are coming and why. Once these changes have been implemented and supervisors are conducting their regular floor-coaching, you will achieve a level of Accountability that is easily sustainable.
Supervisors prefer to Problem-Solve, not Proactively Coach the Floor
This is much more prevalent in inbound sales and service, but we even witness it occasionally in outbound sales. Every center knows exactly how long the supervisor is required to be on the floor each day in a coaching capacity, but few provide any coaching at all. We find that as little as 5% of a supervisor’s time is spent floor-coaching. What are they doing instead? Floor problem-solving. All supervisors will have to solve problems during the day, but there must also be designated times for floor-coaching.
The Core Problem
This makes sense, when you think about it. Everyone is happy when the supervisor comes over and solves a problem. When the supervisor comes over, however, to tell an agent that he/she needs to start closing for the sale much more assertively, the fear is that the agent is going to feel bad. Now that supervisor feels like the “bad cop”.
Solution: The Call Center Floor Management Workshop Changes Paradigms
Centers with this Challenge are screaming for a paradigm shift, one that presents floor coaching in a positive light, which is where it should have always been. In the CCFM workshop, supervisors receive extensive training and proven principles on why floor-coaching is good for the agent, despite how he/she may initially feel. Additionally, the more we provide clear, accurate floor-coaching, the easier it is to receive. After CCFM, many agents start asking for feedback so they get better and they forget all about how they are supposed to feel badly about it.
There is no Consistency in the way Supervisors Provide their Coaching
In some centers, every supervisor does his/her own thing when it comes to coaching. This never leads to a better, healthier center. The longer the center waits to fix this Challenge, the harder it is to accomplish. Supervisors will dig their heels in, claiming that they know what they are doing and that the boat should not be rocked.
The Core Problem
When supervisors do their coaching independently of each other, there is no recognized system. Systems are easy to tweak and improve and keep healthy. Individuals doing their own thing are much more difficult to adjust and shape for the better. An absence of a floor-coaching system usually means that far less floor-coaching takes place. Agents may prefer the anonymity, but it will not help their telephone performance (or their income). This type of problem must be tackled by senior center management. Asking the supervisors to “clean things up” will only prolong the problem.
Solution: The Call Center Floor Management Workshop Builds Consistency
For supervisors, there is nothing better than having great relationships with their agents in which the supervisor holds a high level of respect from the agents and is recognized as the authority figure. During the CCFM workshop, we help your team build a quality floor-coaching system. After implementing this system agents will love their supervisors for all the right reasons and the results will increase.
The CCFM floor-coaching system implements between one-two hours per supervisor of dedicated floor-coaching time each day. The amount of time depends on the call center. During this time, there are no interruptions of any kind for floor-problem solving (the system polices this issue with the agents). Within two weeks, your floor-coaching time will rise exponentially from where it is today and the consistency your supervisors have been lacking will become a great strength.
Supervisors have so many Observations to do that they Never Have Time for Coaching Discussions
When there are no Quality Assurance personnel, supervisors do their own observation work. This is usually done by listening to banks of recorded calls and scoring them. Unfortunately, this takes so long that supervisors run out of time and do not give the feedback and coaching to the agents.
The Core Problem
The problem here is more than just a lack of time. Listening to calls is an antiquated way to find coaching opportunities. Supervisors usually have to listen to entire calls because they never know when a coaching opportunity is going to surface. If a center does not invest in the staff or technology needed to complete all these observations effectively, the problem will continue to get worse. In centers with high agent-to-supervisor ratios (above 17-1) the problem will be compounded. Somehow, supervisors must identify coaching opportunities without crippling the center.
Solution: The Call Center Floor Management Workshop Improves the Floor-Coaching System
One goal accomplished during a CCFM workshop is to build a new floor-coaching strategy and schedule. Every center is different, but we shoot for between one and two hours per day of dedicated floor-coaching per supervisor – with no interruptions for problem-solving allowed (the strategy takes care of this, too). In one-two hours per day of genuine floor-coaching, we have seen call centers transform completely, from average-at-best to best-in-class.
In CCFM, supervisors learn that the best use of this floor time is to “wander”, to walk the floor, listening for the best stuff (or worst) and finding coaching opportunities. A quick hand sign to the agent lets him/her know to flag down the supervisor when the call is over. The supervisor does not have to listen to the entire call and can move on. Coaching takes place right after the call is over. Supervisors can get between 10-20 quick coaching conversations done in their floor-coaching time, which dramatically reduces the need for formal coaching one-on-ones, and the need for so many remote observations. Problem truly solved!
Supervisors are Stubborn and They Won’t Get Out There and Drive Sales
Many centers have veteran supervisors that will not provide the right amount of floor-coaching for any number of reasons. In our Call Center Floor Management workshop, we stress that there is no substitute for floor-coaching. No amount of remote observations, QA reports or team motivational meetings will sustain strong performance without supervisors being out on the floor, coaching and driving sales. Even compensation plans do not inspire every agent, so floor-coaching is a must.
The Core Problem
The problem usually boils down to one of two. First, veteran supervisors may never have done the job the way the agents do it today. Many centers, for example, used to be service only and are now service-to-sales. These supervisors feel that their coaching would be inferior or that the agents may push due to the supervisors’ lack of experience. Second, if supervisors are able to make their numbers without consistent floor-coaching, they would feel it is unnecessary. These situations are a dead giveaway that the center could actually perform much better, and perhaps now is the time to raise the targets.
Solutions: The Call Center Floor Management Workshop Changes Supervisors’ Mindsets
By the end of the CCFM workshop, supervisors are ready for any problem or agent issue. They all leave the workshop convinced that floor-coaching is their number one priority. Throughout the workshop, they learn new floor-coaching skills, practicing each one individually before moving on to the next. They are so immersed in floor-coaching that they are able to experience how valuable it is and how most center problems are solved by a strong floor-coaching strategy. By its nature, the Call Center Floor Management workshop will eliminate your supervisors’ resistance to floor-coaching. The sky is then the limit for how much your center can achieve.
Telephone Sales Agent Challenges
Our Agents are Too New to Recommend Products
“We have so many new agents. They have completed New Hire and have a pretty good sense of our call flow, but they are not capable of selling products. We have so many different products and the clients know more about many of them than these new agents do.”
The Core Problem
Most often, this is a strategy problem. The belief that newbies cannot sell is understandable, but not practical. One of our clients has over 15,000 medical products. The agents will be speaking to nurses and doctors. It is very easy to believe that they cannot sell because they are new (the medical staff could talk circles around them) but at what point do they start selling? The problem here is a lack of an effective strategy. The waiting game is dangerous because newbies will start to believe that their developmental progress will have to take a long time. This depleats confidence.
Solution: Telephone Sales Mastery Promotes a Proactive & Limited Sales Offer Strategy
We believe that new agents are very capable of making a limited amount of product offers. During the analysis/customization phase of our Telephone Sales Mastery program, we regularly encounter this situation. What are newbies capable of when they first hit the floor? We ask, “Do you have fifteen or twenty common products that most buyers can use and are not that difficult to explain?” The answer is usually, “Yes”. This is where we begin.
Telephone Sales Mastery provides skills for every part of the sales call. Questioning and Product Presentation are two key areas. For newbies, we will build a series of questions for four-five common products and have them present these products only. As they achieve success, we bring in five more, and so on. Within a month (that same month when they would not have been selling at all) many newbies are reaching sales results that veterans would be proud to own.
We Have Too Many Cancers in the Agent Population – Lots of Negativity
Negativity can ruin an otherwise pleasant center. Most of the time, these are veteran agents who start negative conversations about the organization or the job. Perhaps unconsciously they are trying to sabotage the work of others around them so no one else can enjoy themselves. Often, other agents avoid sounding cheerful and working hard with clients for fear of the cancerous agent criticizing them. Some of these cancerous agents even hold the mute button down and swear at clients. “I’m happy to help you with that Mr. Stevens (mute button on) you absolute moron! (mute button off). Can I start by getting your address.” This impacts everyone within earshot, stifling performance and eliminating the fun that could have occurred.
The Core Problem
This is primarily a management problem. Supervisors may have let the problem go way too long without holding agents accountable to basic behavioral standards. Sometimes HR is too employee-friendly. They keep moving bad agents around, from supervisor to supervisor, giving them a dozen “last chances” or more. From a skills perspective, cancerous agents may do just enough to keep themselves from being fired for performance issues. The bottom line is that they need to go or need to change drastically – today.
Solution: Telephone Sales Mastery Can Bring Negative Agents Back from the Dead!
Centers with this problem likely need stronger accountability at the floor management level, which our Call Center Floor Management workshop provides – in a big way. Additionally, our Telephone Sales Mastery program can make a huge improvement in the negativity. TSM provides a core set of skills and a series of behavioral expectations for every part of the call (and for in between calls). Every participant agrees that the skills and standards make more sense than what they are doing today.
Here is the best part. We have seen many negative sales people come back around after TSM. Once they see the potential for making more money and increasing their marketability, they usually jump on board. They refocus their energies on doing smart things instead of doing disruptive things. Finally, for those that want to hang onto their cancerous ways, TSM’s standards will make it easier to hold them accountable and move them out of the company. Either way, you win. Hopefully, they will win, too.
Agents Always Offer the Lowest Priced Products and Never Up-Sell
Stephen, a computer sales agent, has the choice to offer the 19” monitor for $169.00 or the 21” monitor for $260.00. The company hopes he will offer the 21” monitor because there is slightly more profit margin to be gained and the client will surely be happier with his honkin’ big display. “So, we also have to decide on a monitor, Mr. Peters. We have the 19” flat screen that is one of our biggest sellers, and that’s only $169.00.” “Yeah, that’s fine.” Booh! Yuck! There is your challenge. The client never even heard about the better monitor.
The Core Problem
The core problem is that sales agents are not thinking strategically. They are thinking with their own wallets in mind, which is the big problem. We have several international airline clients. Using the “my wallet mindset”, imagine trying to get agents (college kids) to recommend First Class to London rather than Business, for only $3800.00 more. It will almost never happen. The sales agent thinks, “I would never pay $3800.00 more for anything, let alone something that will be over in less than 10 hours!” With this mindset, sales agents will always fear offering the higher-priced product. They worry that they will lose the sale.
Solution: Telephone Sales Mastery Redefines the Paradigm on Up-Selling
We cannot list all the reasons and techniques here, but Telephone Sales Mastery is exactly what these sales agents need. TSM tackles this issue in three ways. First, we prove to every agent that money is completely subjective. Customers who are willing to pay $650.00 for a computer are usually glad to pay $741.00 to get the upgraded, big-honkin’ monitor – if we can show them the value. Agents learn that their mindsets cost them (and their companies) big bucks every year. (Those airline agents are not talking to people with no budget if they are already planning to fly Business Class.) Second, TSM gives agents the skills to uncover the needs and issues that will justify the larger product. “Oh, you’re a graphic designer. That’s great to know.” This guy can probably use every bit of screen space he can get his hands on.
Finally, TSM points out that price concerns (from possible Late-Call Objections) are easier to overcome than agents think. If the client objects to the price of the larger monitor, the agent does not have a $741.00 objection. He has a $91.00 objection (the difference in price between the 19” and 21” monitors). This seems obvious, but many agents do not realize that the objection is about the price differential. TSM skills, combined with the “price differential mindset”, can overcome these objections much more often than agents expect. Your clients will be happier with bigger/better and you will increase your profit margin.
Agents Sound Weak When They Make Their Product Recommendations
We have all heard it before. We hear an agent sleepily read through a product offer that would never get us excited to buy – unless we were already planning on buying. For a sales center that has to meet high sales goals, these agents are taking up space and not giving very much in return. Weak sales offers are painful to hear and they never work. Soon enough, agents will begin telling management that the product does not sell or that the price is too high. This is not the problem.
The Core Problem
The core problem here is the agent’s mindset. Any agent that is willing to make sleepy offers does not “get it”. Successful selling is a combination of a pretty decent product with great selling skills. The main problem for these agents is that they believe the sale begins at the product presentation. The sale actually begins at the beginning of the call, when the agent says “hello”.
Solution: Telephone Sales Mastery Presents a Complete Selling Mindset
There is just no way to make it through an entire Telephone Sales Mastery workshop and still conclude that sales success comes from great product presentations alone. TSM equips sales people with a unique selling approach. The workshop provides a great process for connecting with clients so they open up, uncovering hidden needs/issues that most agents miss, and the ability to tie those needs/issues back in when making the product presentation. But TSM goes a step further. TSM’s skills are so client-friendly that customers will feel like the agents are not selling at all. Rather, they end up liking the agents and appreciating their “curiosity” about the client’s interests.
Try TSM and watch your sales increase while never having to hear a weak offer again.
In B2B Outbound calling, Our Agents Do Not Make Enough Calls
Most people do not realize that two and a half hours of average daily phone time is great in a non-dialer outbound environment. The Challenge for supervisors is to get all their people to levels above two hours. It seems incredibly unproductive to watch agents hit averages of 1.5 hours daily or even less.
The Core Problem
The core problem is the absence of a productive outbound calling strategy. Agents waste many hours fiddling with research on potential clients they may call. After-call notes seem to take forever to write. Lots of extra conversations occur with other agents. Pre-call planning and note writing takes up time. It all boils down to a lack of urgency to make calls and not feeling like hearing “No” again, so soon after just hearing it. When a dialer is present, of course, this is not a problem. This only occurs in non-dialer business-to-business sales centers.
Solution: Telephone Sales Mastery Introduces a More Effective Outbound Strategy
Telephone Sales Mastery Outbound overcomes this challenge in two ways. First, TSM Outbound introduces a great new strategy for making the most of every day. Agents can easily achieve three hours or more of talk time when they apply these proven strategy and planning techniques. Second, TSM Outbound provides much better selling skills in areas like Greetings and Initial Objections (“Look, we’re just not interested.”) so agents do not suffer from call reluctance. Combine these two elements and you have a winning strategy every time.
Our Outbound Agents Always Rush Through the Greeting and are Hard to Understand
Agents that rush the beginning of their outbound calls, for whatever reason, are very hard to understand and often sound like they are mumbling. Even with perfect speech, they can still be difficult to follow. The client’s brain is not ready to analyze so much speech, so quickly after picking up the phone.
The Core Problem
Some agents are just “fast talkers”. This is usually due to nervous energy. Most of us have some level of nervous energy. These folks are easy to coach with daily goal-setting. The tougher agents are those that rush through the opening deliberately, so they can get to the product offer before the caller objects. They conclude, “Hey I may be rushing, but at least this guy heard the offer and knows what he is objecting to”. This is a false belief. Most of these callers will not hear the offer’s details. They are just waiting for a pause so they can object or hang up.
Solution: Telephone Sales Mastery Will Change the Speed-Talker’s Paradigms about Selling
Telephone Sales Mastery Outbound stresses that most clients are won over in the Greeting. Clients assign a certain level of respect to the agent based on what they first hear. If they assign more respect, they will listen to the details of a sales offer. If not, they will listen only long enough to object. TSM Outbound offers a great approach to the Greeting and even builds in techniques (e.g. Preemptive Statement) that actually prevent clients from objecting. With more clients listening, there are more opportunities for sales. Employing the skills from TSM Outbound, and slowing down to use them right, will pay big dividends; more respect, more clients listening and more sales.
Too Many of our Outbound Calls end at the Early-Call Objections (e.g. “Too Busy To Talk Right Now.
The Initial Objection is the greatest challenge in most outbound environments. Hearing “I’m just not interested,” seventy-five times each day can bring down some of the brightest agents.
The Core Problem
This is, of course, the nature of the beast. Outbound and early-call (Initial) objections are like hot dogs and buns. You usually get both. The problem is two-fold. First, most agents do not have enough techniques to break through Initial Objection. Second, most agents sympathize with clients when they say “I’m right in the middle of dinner” and, therefore, become deflated.
Solution: Telephone Sales Mastery Provides Tools and Principles for Handling the Initial Objection
Telephone Sales Mastery Outbound prepares sales agents in two ways. The first is by Reframing the Initial Objection. Rigorous training goes into changing agents’ mindsets about client claims of being too busy to talk. After all, why did they pick up the phone if they were so busy?
The second is by training skills for starting calls better. Improved Greetings – with more energy, clarity, charisma, purpose and value – mean more clients are going to listen to the agent. Agents learn about the Preemptive Statement. This technique makes most clients feel a bit guilty about hanging up – it “preempts” the client before being able to object. These proven techniques are very flexible and can be employed on all calls, and that means more sales opportunities. Change the way game is played and watch your sales results soar.
Customer Service Agent Challenges
Our Agents Sound Disconnected and Rarely Build Rapport with Clients
This is the most common Challenge we find in our work with service centers. Agents sound like they are merely going through the motions when they greet the client, making no effort to seem happy the client called or eager to help. Clients pick up on this immediately. Some clients even say, “How are you doing today?” Too many of these agents will only offer a weak “Fine,” or “Okay,” back to the client. I have actually heard some agents say “(sigh) Well, not so good”. You can bet clients are not very happy the routing system dropped them in this agent’s cube.
The Core Problem
The problem is two-fold. It always involves management because, ultimately, management has to own the responsibility for center performance (if you think your management problem is the more critical one – see our Call Center Floor Management workshop). From the agent’s perspective, the problem is that they do not realize they are causing many of their own difficult callers. Through an entire day, friendly, proactive agents always have many more easy going, patient customers. Disconnected agents will always have more problem callers.
Solution: The Superior Service Workshop Puts Life Back into Disconnected CSRs
One of the biggest winners from better servicing and more lively interpersonal skills is the CSR him/herself. Throughout the Superior Service workshop, we discuss how each individual skill will impact the client, the company and the CSR. By the time participants are done with this workshop, they have a new tool box of proactive skills. They can tell you how each skill will keep clients calm, patient and happy and how the CSR personally gains from using the skill. The most compelling argument is that, at 5:00pm, CSRs will not be burned out. Rather, they will have energy to burn and will go home in a great mood (not to mention what this does for Customer Sat scores).
Too Many Angry Clients Exhaust the Agents Every Day
Too many irate callers each day. Typically, “too many” occurs at about 30% of all calls received. By the end of their work day, agents feel beaten down, frustrated and angry. They are angry at callers for being so rude and inconsiderate. They are angry at the company for not doing enough to bring them relief.
The Core Problem
This very common Challenge occurs for three main reasons. First your products or billing have been unreliable lately and more clients than usual are upset when they call. Second, the process by which clients contact your center is faulty, filled with long hold times for the client. This may be due to being short-handed or from a confusing IVR. The third reason is that the agents themselves are causing many of the clients to become frustrated and lash out at them. We will focus on the second and third reasons for these critical problems.
Solution: The Superior Service Workshop Can Bring the Needed Relief from Irate Callers
No one likes to believe that they are the cause of a problem. Unfortunately, in some centers, it is the reality. If clients are already frustrated with their product, they will have a short fuse. If we know we are going to receive a lot of these calls, it is imperative that we expect them and use the right skills to prevent them from escalating.
Superior Service introduces a proven, Single-Call Resolution process that begins with a great greeting, calming, proactive responses to client problems and analysis skills that accurately diagnose problems (so clients do not have to repeat themselves). Follow this up with a proactive, eager explanation of how we will solve their problem and most clients would never consider becoming angry. Employing Superior Service’s Single Call Resolution steps brings a higher level of problem-solving and professionalism to the dialogue, and that will keep clients from becoming irate.
If your center has a confusing IVR or a long queue due to being short-handed, act quickly to solve these problems. Agents can make an impact on some of these callers, but management must step in and generate real resolutions as quickly as possible. Confusing IVRs are an easy fix. Your supervisors probably have great improvement ideas. If your center is shorthanded, chances are very good that it is time to direct lower value calls to the web site (e.g. “I need directions to your building.”). Every day you wait will increase attrition. In this economy, every client matters more than ever.
We Give Away Too Much when Clients are Upset
Agents are giving away far too many credit dollars because clients are upset. Credit dollars come in the forms of free months of service, refunds, reductions in a bill, or even upgrading clients to higher end products/services for free. Although we are all for giving credits when they make sense, doing this too frequently can drastically reduce overall profit margin. It also trains clients to call in, pretend to be upset, and try getting a credit any time a small problem occurs.
The Core Problem
This one usually boils down to control. Agents need to immediately take control but they may not know how. Untrained agents are in a bad position. They believe that giving something will pacify the caller better than anything else. The more they do it, the more it seems like the right thing to do. Left untrained, these agents will become convinced that this is the only solution until “management gets its ____ together!”
Solution: The Superior Service Workshop Will Bring Control and Better Responses
These agents need a better way to respond. Superior Service offers a complete strategy for working smarter with the client. The first thing participants learn is to seize control, become proactive and empathetic (not sympathetic) and show the client how eager they are to fix the problem. Many clients will be satisfied with the sound of an agent who “gets it” and their product being fixed, and will not expect credits. For those that say, “Well, I think I should get something for my problems,” Superior Service offers a unique process for starting smaller. That way, if a credit is necessary, it will not always be costly to deliver.
Superior Service provides these skills and agents practice them thoroughly during the workshop. After participating in Superior Service, your agents will have a more financially sound method for making clients happy.
Every Call Sounds Completely Different – No Consistency and, therefore, No Quality
At a time when a quality customer contact is more critical than ever, your agents all handle calls differently. If you were to tap into twenty phone calls, you would hear twenty very different ways agents are responding to your clients. This becomes a quality problem because supervisors cannot manage to a specific expectation. You either have to be masters of hiring the very best people or your customer satisfaction will decrease, little by little, every month.
The Core Problem
Besides being an Accountability issue with management (see Management Challenges), this may mean that your current, endorsed customer service skills are not robust enough for the types of calls agents handle today. Perhaps the skills have been around for so long that no one remembers what they are, but everyone thinks they use them. “Yeah, we all practice ‘Customer-Focused Service’ here. After all, CFS is our core servicing strategy.” If you cannot pinpoint specific examples of CFS on most calls, it means there is no current strategy. One more problem could be that your current service skills are not really skills, but guidelines. “Step One: Greet Caller With Energy.” That is a guideline, not a skill. Skills provide the expected wording for each step.
Solution: The Superior Service Workshop Provides Real Skills that Will Work Right Now
Superior Service provides the actual things agents should be saying on calls. We do not believe in scripting, but we are huge fans of specific steps that include multiple examples of how to deliver the step on the phone. Superior Service introduces a proven formula for proactive customer service as well as skills and steps for everything an agent will encounter, both common and uncommon. Implementing Superior Service will give your center a set of skills they can be proud to use on calls. And that will bring you much more consistency, no matter which agent you tap into.
Ways to Better Call Center Management
Want to be a good manager for call center? It’s a grueling work but the rewards are great. Here are some ways to better call center management.
If you are a business man and want to diversify your portfolio by putting up a call center, please know that such business venture requires a significant start up capital. Study your options well and take stock of your funds before engaging in such costly endeavor. If possible, do some appropriate researches. Drop by and arrange interviews with call center owners. Leave no stone unturned.
A call center basically needs, office space,phone lines, computers, dedicated servers, and a broadband connection. It also needs a specialized software. These costs money. Anyway, equipments can be tailored to the growing needs of your proposed call center. You can start up with a small office space, invest in four computers or so, some telephone lines and equipments. Just remember to get reliable equipments or your call center will suffer an early demise. Then you can upgrade these devices as the need arises.
Call centers requires staffing. And staffing means hiring people to do the job. In other words, call center rely heavily on people manning their jobs. It’s the backbone of the call center industry. It’s labor-intensive. A large chunk of your investment will go to wages. In addition, remember to give the right training to your call center agents. Your personnel can spell the difference between success and failure of your call center.
To supervise effectively a team of employees in a call center, you must provide the right leadership to them. You see, being a call center agent is a demanding job. Employees gets tired easily. For a start, you should design your office space so would be conducive for workers. Plus, you should build rapport and goodwill between you and your call center agents. Tempers can run high in any given moment and as a manager, you should be knowledgeable enough how to diffuse such situation before it could escalate into a big scenario. Keep your cool. And always strive to talk softly, amiably, but firmly so you will respected. Otherwise, you will get a high turn-over volume that could drastically affect your investment.
If you can, select top-notch, high-end call center software because it incorporates an excellent employee monitoring features. Pick the best. You can make a choice because there are many of them in the market. Again, this type of software costs money. The good thing is , it offers you monitoring tools and real time access to call center agent’s conversations with their customers. Thus, you can track their performance as well as institute needed improvement in weak areas.
7 Reasons To Get The Right Call Center Management Software:
Call centers are labor and capital intensive investments. You should procure ample building space , provide proprietary hardware requirements like computers and broadband connection, and then invest heavily on people who will serve as call center agents. But these factors alone could never guarantee success of a call center. You still need an important component and that is a call center management software. Without it, your call center will not function properly. Here are some of the functions of a call center management software:
a.) it records all phone conversations
b.) it tracks customers calls
c.) it display various metrics
d.) it provides relevant information at a glance for supervisors
It is therefore necessary that you should equip your call center with the right management software for these important reasons:
1. IT IS THE HEART OF YOUR INVESTMENT
The management software plays a pivotal role in the success or failure of the contact center. It is the driving force behind your investment. Call centers operate at maximum efficiency because of it.
2. MONITORS PERFORMANCE
The right call center management software monitors not only the performance of your agents but as well as the day-to-day operation of a call center. With it, you can immediately determine if you are getting the expected returns of investment
3. TRACKS DOWN CALLS
In the call center industry, it is imperative that you should know who called, how many, the time of the call and the results of such calls. The right call center management software provides all these information at a glance.
4. REPORTS WORK LOADS IN GRAPHIC FORMS
The right call center management software offers the capability to furnish real time work load reports in a graphical format without interrupting the work flow. This could prove helpful to call center supervisors to gauge the profitability of the call center.
5. FACILITATES LEARNING
Let’s face it. There are many software in the market today. You can avail some real fancy call center management software at a high tag price. But if it does not have a clear, understandable interface to begin with, what good will it’s deployment be? It would be of no use whatsoever and could potentially jeopardize critical operation. The right call center management software therefore offers user-friendly intuitiveness and facilitates learning in less time.
6. OFFERS WEB-BASED SERVICE
Supposing a long-standing customer would like to ask his / her purchase transaction records for the past 12 months. The call center contains the particular record but it would take a long time for the agent to enumerate it to the customer. With the right call center software management, all the agent has to do is to direct the customer to an online database. The customer can then search for it during or after the call.
7. PROVIDES THE NECESSARY STATISTICS
The right call center management software provides the necessary statistics regarding the day-to-day operations. You can look up and know who are on board taking the calls, how long the calls lasted, the agent who receives the most call, those who were not able to report for work, etc… These statistics can help in the formulation of policies and directions of the call center industry.
Proper Phone Etiquette When Calling A Call Center
Suppose you are a customer. You see a certain electronic product—- say, a brand new cell phone— from a certain store outlet. It looks good. You are interested on it.. So you go inside the store, and ask the saleslady about it. The accommodating clerk hands you the cellphone. You subject the device to a cursory testing while inside the store to find out if it functions properly. It does. Satisfied, you make the purchase.
Back home, you use the newly-bought cell phone the whole morning when it suddenly conks out. The screen goes blank. No matter what you do, it does not power up.
At this point, you have three choices. One, if you are rich, you can simply throw the cellphone into the river and buy a new one. Problem solved. Two, you can bring back the phone to the store outlet and have it replaced or fixed. If you opt for this one, it would entail canceling your scheduled tasks for the day to make the trip. Three, you fume mad over this defective product and angrily call up the cellphone company’s help desk .
Most customer choose the last option. They dial the company’s phone number expecting that someone from the company will respond to their needs. Indeed, someone would take the call. But too often, that someone does not originate from the phone company office.
The person at the other end of the line answers from a call center.
If you are fuming mad and feel cheated with the product, you tend to dump your anger at the call center agent who answers your call. You rant and shut. You make demands. But remember that if you do this, the customer service representative will most likely hang up the phone.
What should you do? Better practice good phone manners.
To get the desired results, here are customer’s phone etiquette when calling a call center:
1. BE CALM
Stay calm and do not shout. Realize that the call center agent did not manufacture the defective cell phone you just purchased. He or she is a lowly employee paid to answer your call. If you come up with ranting disgust, you are just barking at the wrong tree. So remain calm.
2. BE COURTEOUS
Before a call center can attend to the nature of your call, he will first ask you certain questions like your name, address, birthday, etc. This is for verification purposes. Call center management requires this protocol. Don’t curse the call center agent. Instead, answer the questions properly.
3. BE SPECIFIC
Since you are complaining about a defective cellphone in this instance, kindly state your problem clearly. Give the necessary details like the name the product, model number, name of the store outlet you purchased it from, the date and time,etc. Giving this information will greatly help and speed up the kind of help you need.
4. LISTEN WELL
As soon as the call center agent process your issue, he or she will respond appropriately. Listen well. In this particular instance, you bought a defective cellphone and you either want it replaced or repaired. If you want it replaced, he or she will give instructions on how to proceed. If you want it repaired, she will then set the necessary appointment. Whatever it be, it’s a good idea to listen well.
5. CONFIRM AND SAY THANK YOU
After giving you instructions on how to proceed, kindly confirm what you understand. Most customers simply hang up the phone after hearing the call center agent’s instruction, not knowing the the basic information given to them. They fee lost afterwards. Under these circumstances, customers will have to make a repeat call. This is a waste of time. It would be best if you confirm the instructions given to you before ending the call. You see, this is proper call center management. Say something like, “ Ma’am, let me see if I get you correctly. I will bring the purchase receipt and the defective cell phone to Barn’s Electronic Store at 3:00PM today for repair? “ If she says yes, then that’s it. Your issue’s solved. Say thank you and end your call.
Secrets To Good Call Center Management
Managing any business, especially a call center, is no easy task. The job requires the best people-oriented skills and disposition. It demands the highest form of leadership. With so many challenges facing call center management today, no wonder that most CEOs tend to shy away from this industry. Only a handful succeeds in this endeavor.
If you are in the call center industry and get promoted as manager, then consider these tips for good call center management.
1. BE OBSERVANT
Basically, this means that you should be aware of what’s going on around the call center. Are the employees following policy guidelines? Do workers know about performance metrics? It’s your job to ensure that they do. Being observant implies that you take note that little details of indiosyncrasies, attitudes and habits of your employees. This goes without saying that you should not spend most of your days in your cubicle. Mingle with your employees and attend to those workers that need your immediate assistance.
2. BE PROMPT
Show leadership by example, even in reporting for work. If work begins at 9:00 am, then come 20 minutes before the time. How can you demand promptness when your people see you coming late for office? You should be the first person that your employees see when they report for work. In the same way, make it a point to leave minutes after closing time, not before.
3. EXPRESS COMPLIMENTS OFTEN
So one of your agents successfully resolved a difficult customer’s concern. Be there and compliment that agent in the presence of others. Recognize them for a job well done. Make it a habit to look for the positive things in an employee and praise them. It could be a fitting haircut, a well-chosen dress, a good fit pair of shoes, etc.. This will boost the moral of the work force and show employees you care for them.
4. INVOLVE EMPLOYEES IN SOLVING CONCERNS
Some call center managers have the notion that, since they are the boss in the office, they know more than their employees. Nothing is farther from the truth. Managers should realize that there are employees who know better than their boss. With this in mind, try to involve your employes in finding solutions to call center issues. Ask for their input and feedback. You would be surprised by their intellect and grasp of the situation, and thus, offer a better solution than you can think of. Moreover, it would make them feel appreciated. If employees feel appreciated, they would strive for a good job performance and stay in the company.
5. GIVE FEEDBACKS OR PERFORMANCE RATINGS
Each of your employee should know what is their job description is and work within the framework of that description. It would help if you give performance assessment and provide feedbacks as far as their job performance are concerned. You can then provide the necessary coaching or assistance to those employees who perform below par.
6. RESOLVE CONFLICTS IMMEDIATELY
Office breeds a number of conflicts. You should try to resolve those conflicts in the early stages before they get out of hand. If you have successfully earned the respect and admiration of your workers, then it would be very easy for you to resolve office conflicts. Just a word of caution, though. Never, ever be the subject of conflict yourself. You can avoid this by treating everybody fairly and not resorting to favoritism.
7. DISCIPLINE DISCREETLY
Let’s face it. Some workers are bound to violate company rules or policy. Good call center management requires some form of discipline for these erring employees. Here’s some advice to help you with the discipline process:
a.) Be gentle and discreet with first offense. A simple but firm reminder will do wonders for first-time offenders.
b.) Repeat offenders should be called in for a private discipline session. In this session, emphasize that the issue is about the offense, not about the offender. Try to let the offender paraphrase the offense in his own words and how he plan to correct the mistake.
c.) End the session in a happy and positive tone.
Managing a call center is tough job. However, you will surely succeed and make a lasting good impression as a manager if you adhere to these proven strategies of good call center management.
Call Center Outsourcing Plan
Once you’ve realized that you need a call center, you might be surprised at how much it costs to maintain and run it – coming up with a call center business outsourcing plan might be a good idea.
The first step in a call center business outsourcing plan is assessing where your company is at right now. Do you need a large call center, or can your business handle their volume of calls within one of the company’s offices? If you seem to be doing fine with the call center situation that you already have and do not need to expand, you may not need to look into outsourcing. Look at the people you have working for you and how the center or office is performing as a whole. Are you where you want to be?
You also need to assess cost benefits when looking at a call center business outsourcing plan. Tally up the costs of the salaries that you pay your call center employees now. Are they prohibitive? Are you going to need to add so many more employees in order to handle your call volume that you will end up spending too much on employees? If the answers are yes to these questions, you may want to look into outsourcing your call center outside of the United States, as many other companies have already done.
How much outsourcing do you want to do? Some companies outsource all of their call center needs, from technical support to representatives. Others only outsource the representatives handling the calls themselves. You’ll need to decide what level of hands on control you will need in your call center, and which parts of the center must stay close to headquarters. You will also want to decide if you want your supervisors to be in your office, or at the outsource location.
Finally, you will have to come up with a contingency plan in case your call center business outsourcing plan does not work. Figure out when and where you will evaluate whether or not your call center outsourcing is working for you. A modest thirty day marker for evaluation is a good start, after that you can see how often you will need to look into checking on your outsourced work.
Many companies have opted for a call center business outsourcing plan. Look into the costs and benefits of these plans, check out how they have behaved for similar companies to your own – and then make a well-informed decision.
Call centers are an important part of many different business models, but in order to make sure that they are efficient parts of the business, call center industry standards must be implemented.
Call center industry standards are very similar throughout all different types of businesses. Health insurance call centers will have many of the same goals and standards of sales call centers – and much of the equipment, training and supervisory tactics will be the same. One of the biggest standards that is across the board is quality control, something that covers a wide range of different things. Supervisors are most directly responsible for quality control, although random checks by other departments also can be used.
Most call center industry standards call for a queuing system – that is, calls come in via an automated system, and are “queued” up waiting for a call center representative to answer them. Much of the quality control part of the call center happens here, as call centers tend to have standards for how long incoming calls can wait in the queue. These standards can also be applied to seeing how many people hang up while waiting – the goal may be to keep that under a certain percentage.
Other standards can be directed related to the calls themselves. Call center representatives can be judged on how much of the day they are logged in to take calls, how long they spend on each call and how long they take for “wrap-up”, time spent after the call writing down information or relaying additional information to other center employees. The representatives may also have standards for how many outgoing calls they must make and how long it takes for them to answer each call when they are logged in.
Finally, call center industry standards can be based on the type of call center that is being surveyed. For instance, if the call center is a marketing center that is based on research, standards will be different than for a call center based on selling items. Representatives will be judged for things such as surveys completed in the first scenario, and items sold in the second. These standards are not cross-applicable because the aim of each call center is drastically different. However, they may share goals of answering calls quickly.
Making sure that a call center is up to standards can make sure that your company itself is up to it’s best performance. As the call center is often the face of the company that most people “see”, it is important that they are working to present a good image.
Keeping Clients Happy Keeps them Coming Back
Whether you are a seasoned small business professional, or you have just opened your doors to new clients, your marketing strategy should not only involve bringing in new business, it should also include keeping your current clients, your most important asset, happy and coming back for more or referring your services.
Top-notch customer service is the most important contributing factor in the success of your business. Unfortunately, there are some business professionals who don’t live by that sentiment. I’m not sure if they don’t understand the advantages of making clients feel like number one, but let’s see if we can’t keep ourselves from forgetting those that have helped our businesses get where they are today.
Providing exceptional customer service centers around ensuring your customers are happy. They need to feel that you improve your business to help improve their business. There are several processes that will prove your dedication to exceptional customer service and are a must for all business professionals.
Provide the best service and provide it on time. Keeping customers happy means you give them your very best and you make sure to deliver when you say you will. If for any reason you have to delay delivery, be honest with your client and inform them of the situation. If the delay will be of any inconvenience to your client, be sure to compensate them or offer to help alleviate the crisis.
Really listen to your clients and their needs. You may be able to provide expert advice but they usually know what they want. Work WITH them to give them exactly what they need and that will help improve their business. And, the same holds true when reversed. If your client makes a suggestion to you to help improve your business, consider their opinion. After all, they are the experts about what they need from you.
Strive to always improve your services. With the advancements in technology, it is always a good idea to update your skills. But, that shouldn’t be the only reason. Enhancing your services allows you to offer more to your clients and thus keeps them happy.
Provide a guarantee. This is a vital aspect of exceptional customer service. Satisfaction is something everyone wants. If they are 100% happy with what you have provided them, they will be your biggest contributor to future business. If they aren’t happy, make sure your rectify the problem.
Provide prompt responses to all communications & inquiries. Don’t keep your clients waiting. Try to return phone calls within 24 hours, or at least 36 hours. People become impatient and will move onto the next business for what they are needing. Respond to emails on the same day if possible and answer all written inquiries within 3 business days. The longer inquiries wait to be responded to, the greater the chance of losing their business all together.
Always say Thank You! How good do you feel when someone says thank you to you? That sentiment should be shared. Send out thank you cards to those who request a quote and when a new client comes on board. To save costs, send e-cards or emails of thanks.
Customer service is vital to ensuring your business’ successful future. By keeping your clients happy, you are adding to the value of your business and the services you offer and proving to others that your are the person they should be talking to when they are in need of your services.
New study proves value of headsets
SOURCE- Call Center Helper: New research carried out by the University of London has shown that headsets produce dramatic improvements in productivity, sound quality and user experience, when compared to handset use.
Key findings include:
- 81% agreed the sound quality of headsets leads to better customer relationships
- 95% of participants found it easy to switch between UC functions during calls, compared to just 43% with handsets
- 84% said they could hear callers far more clearly with a headset compared to a handset
- UC-optimised headsets reduce overall time taken to handle a call by 33%
- 90% of headset users wouldn’t go back to using a handset given a choice
The research was carried out at Newport City Homes, a multi-site, not-for-profit organisation, following the implementation of Unified Communications with Microsoft Office Communicator system at its three sites in Wales. The study evaluated the performance of customer-facing employees using a handset and a UC-optimised headset for a period of four weeks.
The study – available to download at http://www.jabra.com/Satisfaction – found that the UC-optimised headsets significantly increased both user productivity and the quality of customer engagement as a result of users’ ability to switch between the real-time UC communications channels and collaborate with colleagues during calls; 95% of participants found it easy to switch between different UC functions during calls, compared to just 43% with handsets. With both hands free, users can quickly utilise functionality such as conference calls, instant messaging and shared desktops.
Andrew Doyle, Jabra Sales Director at GN Netcom, commented:
“We believe this is an important study and a valuable resource for any organisation wanting to optimise its UC investment. Our aim is to produce a high-quality headset that is fully-optimised for the UC environment and we are obviously delighted with the outcome of this study, which proves that superior sound quality produces important business benefits.”
Call Center Hiring
A call center is operated by a company whose function is to handle volume of calls for different companies. Being a centralized office handling considerable volume of calls, a call center is usually housed in an open workspace that could handle individual work stations for each call center agents. A call center’s main product is the service these call center agents deliver, needless to say that the most important staff in a call center are the call center agent themselves. The demands of the job require specific skills and since an agent is expected to handle different cases together with the different personalities of the callers, patience is a requirement. With this condition it is necessary to handle the staffing and hiring carefully.
The enormous demand for call center service is the reason for the increasing growth of the industry. However, one of the most difficult and crucial part of call center management is finding and keeping the right people for the job. This is the industry that has the highest record of turnover rates. Some estimates say that it suffers more than 50% turnover. Filling up vacancies, immediately or in a rush is not a solution to this kind of problem. Some call centers employ agencies to do the hiring for them, while some are handled by their human resource department. But since these people are going to work under the call center manager, hiring is still his primary responsibility. It is therefore imperative that a manager participate in the hiring process.
Here are few helpful guidelines in hiring that may help reduce if not avoid the large turnover rates.
• Clearly define the skills needed for the job.
Emphasize on the great need for excellent communication skills, customer service skills and sales.
• Interview and acquire evaluate overall personality.
Excellent patience and good sense of responsibility are two essential factors a call center candidate must posses.
• Involve your managers and supervisor in the process of selection.
• Make the applicant speak his mind out. Know his expectations and endeavors. Know what he thinks about an ideal call center and what would satisfy him.
• Be an excellent an effective interviewer.
It would be helpful to understand by heart every job description in your organization. This would be your guide in the process of hiring and staffing. Basically the most numbers of turn over happens in the call center agent position. So it would be best to understand the details of the job of a call center representative.
Hiring and staffing costs. Executives and contact call center managers must be able to design a program that would enhance agent loyalty. They should also look into creating plans and implementing programs that would prepare regular agents to a call center professional. This would build the moral of the agent and enhance his loyalty to the company since he would feel their concern in his professional growth. This would save a lot of expenditures in recruitment and training, lost management time, training new staff and other training programs.
Finding Offshore Customers for a Call Center Startup
Finding offshore customers for a call center startup is a difficult proposition. The real challenge, however, comes afterwards – delivering and meeting the expectations of those customers!
First things first though – how to go about finding your initial customers? The first question that you need to ask yourself is why some organization should outsource work to you? For them outsourcing is certainly an attractive, but high-risk proposition. It is attractive not only because it lets them concentrate more on their core activities, but also because of cost-savings. Their risks are primarily quality and reliability related. As a startup you should be prepared to address these risks in a satisfactory manner.
For starters, you should be able to back the quality and reliability of your service. This can be done in many ways: you should try to do them in as many as possible. A standard device guaranteeing the quality and reliability is a Service Level Agreement (SLA). You should develop an SLA defining industry-standard performance criteria for your company.
You should also show the prospective customer some evidence about your track record (e.g. list of customers and testimonials) in the running of call centers. As a startup, you may not have such testimonials. In that case, you should highlight the call-center-related experience of your key team members.
Call center customers prefer specialists over generalists. Try to select a niche for yourself, e.g., order taking, helpdesk, telesales, etc., and try to build your whole selling pitch around that niche.
Before making a pitch to prospective customers, try to understand how their business work and be ready to tell them the following: how they can make-more-money or save-more-money or get-more-business or enhance-the-quality-of-their-service or improve-their-product by outsourcing their call center function to you?
Do tell them about the processes that you have in place to assure the quality of your services. An industry-standard quality certification will be invaluable in this regard. Do develop a disaster-recovery plan and share it with the potential customer.
Here are a few more suggestions: get in touch with your country’s expatriates in the target country for leads and other assistance. Register your company with country-specific organizations (like NASSCOM in India, PSEB in Pakistan) and international portals like offshorexperts.com. Write to other offshore companies in outsourcing powerhouses like India, Philippines, and Canada and see if they would like to develop a partnership with you.
Call Center Performance Management
Call Centers, or customer services receiving and transmitting multiple requests by telephone, were introduced as offshoots of telecommunications providing streamlined service for consumers of large companies with extensive customer support needs. Normally, a call center is able to handle a considerable volume of calls at the same time, i.e. to screen calls and forward them to skilled support staff, where most issues can be resolved. Organizations starting from mail-order catalog companies and telemarketing companies to computer product help desks use call centers. Typically, there are two types of calls ? inbound and outbound. The latter suggests the agent’s calling potential customers with intentions to sell or service which is amply used in telemarketing. Apart from it inbound calls are made by the customer to get information or ask for help reporting malfunction of the product.
That’s where the problem of management performance is acute. Performance measures and benchmarking are indispensable to any well-run call center to eliminate criticism of call centers on common themes such as non-expert operators, poor training of agents incapable to process customers’ requests effectively, automated queuing systems resulting in long hold times, operators working from a script, etc. Benchmarking, typically associated with strategic management, presupposes evaluation of business processes in relation to best practice and helps to develop plans with the aim of increasing performance levels. At large benchmarking reforms all the levels of the company ? from the state of mind of the employees to that of top managers, penetrating into the whole hierarchical organization of the organization. The gist of benchmarking is to break the resistance to change by employing methods different from the currently used ones that might be less effective in order to increase certain aspects of performance.
The most conspicuous performance measures include the mean conversation time, or Average Talk Time (ATT), the time of delay a caller may experience waiting while queuing, the mean dealing time, or Average Handling Time (AHT), the number of calls (%) answered within the limited period, or Service Level (SL%), the number of calls per hour the operator handles, the number of calls (%) with the customer’s problem completely resolved and others.
A variety of different technologies enables companies to measure and monitor the performance of the workers. The Balanced scorecard, introduced by R.S. Kaplan and D. Norton in 1992, is a concept for measuring a company’s activities to make managers focus on the important performance metrics that lead to success. It’s not only financial outcomes that are in focus, but the human issues that drive those outcomes. Thus, it is said to balance the financial perspective with customer, process and employee perspectives. Since the time of the original concept the scorecard metrics have been revisited by Kaplan & Norton with regard to more than a decade’s experience.
Typically the following processes are on the move when the scorecard is implemented: translating the vision into operational goals, linking the vision to individual performance, business planning, learning and adjusting the strategy according to the feedback. To improve the performance of call centers one should know what metrics are best qualified. The right metrics should be performed on a call center to fulfill the scorecard.
The hallmark of a good call center is the staff’s call management skills and that means interactive training can help achieve excellence at different levels ? for the agents, supervisors and managers. It is essential for managers to know how to recruit and train the staff to reach the strategic goals of the company, to manage the key metrics and consequently improve performance.
Different programs are designed to deliver training to call center teams. They might include practice, role-play, feedback and coaching. As keeping customers satisfied is a primary concern of any call center training courses feature quality programs which enhance the performance with respect to one of the most urgent demands? training skillful professionals. It means they employ different training methods to evaluate current training processes and measure and improve training effectiveness. Fertile training leads to reinforcing the appropriate skills for performance improvement and achieving higher levels of customer loyalty.
Call Center Headsets
For most companies, communication is a major prerequisite for maintaining good customer relations. And the most cost effective way to do this is through telephones. Call centers or contact centers specialize in the activity of communicating with customers over the phone for complaints or for sales. And most of the communication is done over the telephone.
Call center executives use the telephones for hours on end. This has been found to cause a lot of discomfort as well as health problems like neck, shoulder and back strain. This is the reason why most call centers are shifting to the use of headsets with their telephones. Headsets give them hands-free comfort and also the ability to multi-task. This has increased the productivity of call center executives.
The main aspects to be considered while choosing headsets for call centers are: the noise level in the office, the mobility required by the user, the cost of ownership, the product range, various options like the kind of ear piece (monaural/ binaural), the kind of phone or computer connection used with the headset (Bluetooth, USB, 3.5mm/ Analog), the compatibility to computer hardware and software, the kind of computer usage (VoIP, video conferencing), the range of bass or treble, the power of the speakers, the comfort in wearing the headset, and durability.
Advanced call center headsets have unique options like discriminatory noise cancellation ability that minimizes external noise and also improves the voice of the caller. They also have dynamic voice control options to keep the volume at a pre-set level. Other options include the conference call feature that enables internal conferencing of up to five people; intercom function, push-to-talk function with mute option, wall mounted system for space optimization, and so on.
To find the best headsets, locate a good vendor who understands call center requirements. The vendor should also be able to update your inventory whenever required and effectively minimize transaction costs. The vendor should also be able to offer training to the call center agents for using the headsets. Some vendors provide online support and training through videos and websites. Headset management is also an important aspect, which is best left in the hands of a specialist. Headsets, like any other electrical device need to be serviced regularly and maintained in good condition.
There are several websites over the Internet that offer advice as well as call center headsets for sale. Manufacturers update their web sites regularly to include special offers of warranties and discounts.
Call Center Best Practices
It is relatively simple to measure ROI i.e. return on investment with sales team but lots of call centers see their tech support teams operating at the loss to organization. Even though support centers do not bring in straight capital, they provide service to the association that can reap proceeds in the longer term. At very least, support center provides communication channel where you will be able to learn how customers interrelate with your products and strengthen the company brand. Here are given few basics and best call center practices that you can employ in your organization to make sure that you are not just gathering your goals however boosting your client relationships and productivity.
Identify Your Goals: Metrics are usually used in the call centers to calculate performance, however that is the incorrect place to begin. First, companies require knowing what they want to measure, and what they want to achieve. Metrics are only helpful if they notify the association something regarding its practices and assist them reach certain objectives.
Use Correct CRM Solution: If you are starting out as call center or reviewing your practices, right CRM solution will depend on the infrastructure. If you have negligible startup capital, or else you are not positive how long you will be in the business, then you might expressly desire to use hosted CRM solution, which will incorporate with your telephone system. This is best solution if you need temporary call center for short battle. Your CRM solution will increase your competence and customer service abilities, but if your agents can without difficulty bind those capabilities.
Plan for Employee Churn: The total annual worker turnaround is standard in the call centers, thus don’t wait to increase employee maintenance rates. As an alternative, you can recompense for this challenge by including training in your business plan. Plan regular training meetings to bring fresh employees up to the pace and progressively increase the older employees’ knowledge. For every training session, plan at least two separate sessions in order that not all agents work out the call lines at one time.
Direct Your Work Force: In small call center, administrator can look over cubicle walls as well as keep track of his staff. He might also be able to pay attention and watch them when they work and speak to them regarding their performance casually. However, in larger call center of more than 50 employees, a supervisor must employ CRM work force management abilities to sketch the schedules; replicate agent workloads also ensure that customers stick to the schedule.
Exercise Benchmarking: Companies can as well make logic of their metrics by evaluating them to business benchmarks and of their competitors. In adding up to monitoring calls, the secret shoppers or else anonymous callers will call in and rate the company’s own call center as well as that of its opponents.
Quality Assurance: Bigger organizations can meet the expense to maintain the dedicated quality organization group. In lots of small or medium sized businesses, the supervisor can efficiently direct quality assurance for their team of about 10 agents.
External Auditing: The final piece of suggestion is to consult the sources outside an association for the clues to fit in your plan.
Bangladesh Call centre industry growth faces hurdles
Mere ability to procure businesses and lack of skilled manpower are obstructing the promising call centre industry in Bangladesh to flourish.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has so far issued licenses to more than 270 firms, of which 33 are operational and the existence of the rest is merely on the BTRC’s list.
Furthermore, not all the operational call centers are making fortune; rather most of them are struggling to survive when only a few are maintaining their businesses at par.
According to the industry insiders and BTRC officials, less than 10 operators are doing good business.
Failure to find businesses both locally and internationally is keeping most of the license holders out of operation, they said.
Bangladeshi call centres are facing acceptability problems in getting businesses from overseas, as the clients doubt about the capability and standard of the centres due to absence of international certification. The overseas clients also want to be sure about the call centers’ IT structure and auditing.
Shakil Jowad Rahim of newly formed Bangladesh Association of Call Centre’s and Outsourcing told New Age that the industry is still at early stage. But the call centres could grab a good share of estimated US$ 600 billion global market should the problems of the industry are addressed.
Describing marketing as the key to success of a call centre, he said that the world would have to be informed that Bangladesh is a good place for outsourcing.
Shakil pointed out that call centre’s that have good foreign connections are performing well. ‘If you look at the well-performing centres, you will find at least one partner who resides abroad.’
He said that shortage of skilled and experienced manpower is one of the major problems faced by the prospective as well as serving call centre operators.
There should be adequate tanning centre’s to train up the prospective manpower in the industry, he added.
IT infrastructure-related problems also need to be addressed for the growth of the industry, said Shakil whose firm has both domestic and international clients.
Hello World Communications, a Chittagong-based call centre, has started operation about four months ago and is currently serving four clients from the United Kingdom.
‘We are doing well. Our clients are satisfied with the services we provide,’ said Mejbah Uddin, the chief executive officer of the company.
Encouraged by the progress, he said that they are planning expansion. ‘We through our partner in UK are negotiating with some organizations.’
Many firms are not sure about going into operation due to lack of knowledge about the industry.
CPM Systems Limited was issued the license, but yet to be operational. About the delay, its general manager Iqbal Ferdous cited lack of technical know-how, failure to find businesses and skilled manpower.
‘Now, to some extents we have overcome these problems. We have applied for connectivity. Once, we get the connectivity we will start operation,’ he said.BTRC chairman Zia Ahmed sounded upbeat about the future of the industry.
Some 33 companies are functioning. Some of them are doing really well. You will have to wait one to two years for the industry to flourish. The future is bright,’ he told New Age.
Replying to a question, he said that many firms have taken licenses without having any understanding whatsoever about the business.
About issuance of licenses indiscriminately, the BTRC chairman said, ‘Whoever came licenses have been issued. If one cannot do it today, he will do it later.’
Responding to a query, he said there is no regulatory barrier on part of the BTRC.
The BTRC started issuing licenses in April, 2008 during the immediate-past caretaker government with a license fee of Tk 5,000.
One of the conditions of license issuance is that a call centre has to be operational within six months. Of course, the call centre’s can apply to extend the time.
According to BTRC officials, initially the commission was relaxed, but now it is strict in issuing licenses.
BTRC to join int’l call centre business
Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission will receive application for licensing a potential new-generation business in call centre from the first week of April, reports UNB.
Besides, the Commission proposed to facilitate the entrepreneurs of the potential new industry with tax holiday for three years in Dhaka and Chittagong and five years in the rest of the country starting from the licensing.
Moreover, the BTRC proposed only 0.5 percent revenue sharing after the termination of holiday period. The proposals came at the ”Public Hearing on Call Centre Licensing” organised by the Commission at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre Wednesday morning.
As a follow-up to Public Consultation on the Proposed Licensing Guidelines for Call Centre, BTRC invited the general public and call-center enthusiasts to attend the public hearing where the proposed Licensing Guidelines, and terms and conditions were discussed openly. Over 2,000 stakeholders took part in the hearing.
Presided over by BTRC chairman Major Gen (retd.) Manjurul Alam, the program was also addressed by BTRC Commissioner JM Munir Ahmed and Aliwardi Khandakar, director (legal and licensing) AKH Shahiduzzaman and senior consultant Abdullah A Ferdous. “There is no category for getting the call-centre license.
Any good citizen having trade license can apply for the license,” BTRC chairman Alam told journalists at the break of the daylong public hearing. BTRC would provide the license as long as there would be the market demand, he said, adding that there is no condition for getting the license at this moment.
Anyone could get the license at a cost of Tk 5,000 for five years, which was proposed Tk 50,000 earlier, and no renewal fee for the license. “The advertisement for applying for the license will be circulated on the BTRC website from the first week of April and also go on television and radio.
Meanwhile, we”ll revise the proposed licensing guidelines for call centre based on the suggestions of the public hearing,” Alam said. Licensing is a continuous process and BTRC would not stop it as revolution could be brought through establishing the call-centre industry properly, he said.
“The market size of the industry was 382.5 billion dollars in 2004, while it would be 641.2 billion in 2009… If we can attract only one percent, that is 6 billion dollars, then it would be even more than our current foreign-currency reserve,” the BTRC chairman said.
As the BTRC is proposing for the entrepreneurs to use IPLC (International Private Leased Circuit) for operating the call centres initially, the participants of the public hearing found it much expensive and asked the BTRC to look into the matter. Responding to the remarks, chairman Alam said the BTTB has discounted 25 percent bandwidth charge for IPLC to facilitate the promising call centre industry.
“If needed, the BTRC will request the BTTB to reduce it more,” he said, adding that the BTTB would also be requested to reduce the license fee of VSAT, as the call-centre entrepreneurs would also need it. To facilitate the industry, the BTRC is to take step for establishing a second submarine cable at the end of this month, Alam said, expecting that the submarine cable would start in next one year at the maximum.
Speaking to the journalists, he said the BTRC is planning to arrange a call-centre fair in the country after formally inaugurating the industry on a large scale. “Organisations concerned and clients will be invited to visit the industry here in the fair, like it was done recently in the Philippines,” he said.
Bangladesh to issue call centre licences
India may not have a great relationship with her neighbours, but her leadership in the outsourcing space has made them look up. Now they are trying hard to grab a share of the multi billion dollar outsourcing pie. While Pakistan and Sri Lanka have already set up BPOs, Bangladesh is gearing up to join the bandwagon.
Licences for the country’s first-ever telephone-based call centres are soon to be issued. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), which is the licensing authority has invited individuals and firms to apply. Reports suggest, the first licences maybe issued by end of this month.
Meanwhile, BTRC has posted its draft call centre policy on the website so that prospective operators can share their views and help finalise the policy. The policy, says, BTRC will issue two types of licences and the fee will vary between taka 15,000 to 50,000 based on the number of agents the centre has. Licences will be issued for 10 years on an annual renewable basis.
How to Start a Call Center Business
Many companies are investing in call centers, which are entities that employ a customer support group to handle the questions and concerns of the company’s clients and customers over the phone. Because both small and large companies are realizing the benefits of having call centers, starting a call center business of your own can be a very lucrative venture.
Instructions things you’ll need:
- Business mentor
- Business plan
- Start up capital
1. Study the call center industry. The Internet is a good starting point. The Small Business Administration provides a range of data from things to know before you start your business to the steps for executing an exit plan. Your local library is also a valuable resource. Consulting with current call center business owners may be useful as well.
2. Examine the four basic call center types: an in house call center is a group who caters to the customer service needs of that company alone,
outsource call centers provide client relation services for other companies, inbound call centers receive incoming communications from customers and outbound call centers attempt correspondence with clients via telephone. Learn the difference between the types and all that is required to establish each.
3. Determine the permits and licenses required in order to comply with state and federal regulations. Requirements for obtaining a business license may vary from state to state. Visit your state’s website or contact the appropriate government official to get this information. Not all businesses require federal licenses or permits, so check with the IRS.
4 . Compare prices of equipment and services such as Internet and telephone. Go to websites that automatically compare the prices of the needed products and services.
1. Reevaluate the similarities and differences between the four basic call center types (in house, outsource, inbound and outbound) and decide which fit the needs of your company.
2. Define your company’s strategy and the methods you will apply to measure productivity, quality, customer and employee satisfaction. Contracting a third party company to provide services that monitor these aspects of your company may provide long term benefit.
3. Create a business plan. Outline your business’s goals, financial needs, logistics and staffing plan.
4. Choose a business mentor. SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business offers business advice to entrepreneurs. This advice can be obtained online, via individual face to face meetings or through low cost workshops.
5. Secure capital to begin your business. If you are unable to provide the funds from your own pocket, banks and government sponsored agencies are good resources. Before you begin your quest of acquiring funds, create your budget and refer to it when deciding on the adequate amount to request. You can also obtain the capital from sources a little closer to home by asking friends or family.
6. Select a location. You have heard the phrase “location, location, location.” This decision can make the difference between a top performing company and one that does not survive. If you plan to conduct business from your home, contact your city to inquire about city codes and whether or not they permit home based businesses. Also, if you live in a neighborhood governed by a Homeowner’s Association, find out if this business is allowed in your neighborhood. If you are looking to buy or rent a property to be used exclusively for your business, hire a realtor who specializes in commercial property. The knowledge that your realtor brings to the table can prevent you from making a bad investment.
7. Get clients! There are several proven methods to attract clients, but as a new business, the key is to find a method that will not break the bank.
networking is a system that can provide that for you. A good way to begin this process is to develop relationships with people in decision making positions. Many cities offer free or inexpensive networking events sponsored by local Chambers of Commerce.
3. Set Up
1. Obtain the required licenses and permits. Many states are set up so that businesses may go through their website and apply online.
2. Purchase and install equipment. Secure Internet and telephone services. Look into technology contractors to assist with the set up of your equipment.
3. Hire and train staff. This step should not be taken lightly. Performing background checks on selected candidates is an advantageous way to aid in the choosing of high quality employees. If you would rather not perform this research yourself, consider hiring an employment agency.
4. Commence operation!
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What it takes to set up a call centre
Any entrepreneur getting into the call centre business today should be aware that he is entering a commodity-like business.
Anyone claiming that they will offer innovation with niche practices is clearly not in the loop of the industry.
One should accept the fact that this is not an innovative business. Given this how does one go ahead and make it a good proposition of investing in this pretty capital intensive foray.
After having finalized that you would want to get into the call centre business, it is imperative that you have the required infrastructure in place, the core team to propel the business and around ten call agents fully trained and capable of taking up a pilot project.
Says Avinash Vashistha, chairman and managing director of neo IT, an offshore advisory and management firm, “If one has to make a mark in the call centre business, the focus should be based on high-end quality and experience people at the helm to drive this extremely intense business. Accent neutralization and training in various situations should be absolute and the message should be pretty much clear on how a call should be handled. The business is in real time and there is no getting back after a call is messed up.” Next to this is to register under STPI so as to get the benefit of duty free imports for all the required hardware.
In addition to this the important requirements are carpet area, equipment, communication and manpower.
The carpet area depends on the number of seats. It can range from 55-155 sq feet per agent, depending on the services rendered by the centre.
Based on this, and the space planned for facilities, amenities and support areas, you can estimate the total carpet area.
Communication/connectivity depends on the volume of traffic and services rendered from the centre.
A 200-seat call centre will usually invest in a 2 Mbps international private leased circuit for inbound services, comprising two half circuits-one in India and the other in the US or UK through an international carrier.
Manpower deployed in a centre falls under two broad categories-operations or agents and support or management.
The ratio between the two varies depending on different parameters based on organization, services deployed and client requirements.
Technology needs: In terms of technical resources, a voice witch/EPABX, multiplexers (for data and voice transport), modems, routers and RISC/ CISC servers, headsets, desktops, E1/T1 circuits for the connectivity, IVR, CTI and ACD (Automatic Call Distributor) are needed.
Detailing further on the kind of investment, said Vashishta: “One would be surely looking at around $10,000 per agent for setting up the centre which includes all the trappings. The cost of maintenance of a seat will be in the range of $4000-$5000 per year. Usually most of the operators costs wil be two-thirds of their billings. As highlighted, one should deliver consistent value and should not be a generalist but should have precise vertical focus. In terms of getting a client signed on, the essential is to have a core team who has gone through the learning process in a call centre and the essential team of HR, Finance, Trainers, and Operations in place.”
Commenting on the returns from this business, he said, if the business is managed efficiently, the entrepreneur can look at breaking even in around two and half years.
“One more crucial aspect that one should accept and work it in the business plan is that the attrition levels in this industry north of 35 per cent. One should have a proper recruitment plan in place for such attrition levels and should not try to swim against this tide.”
Glossary of Terms:
IVR Interactive Voice Response
PABX Private Automated Branch Exchange
ACD Automatic Call Distribution
CATI Computer Assisted Telephone Interview
CBT Computer Based Training
CIS Customer Interface Services
CLI Caller Line Identification
CND Calling Number Display
CSR Customer Service Officer
CTI Computer Telephony Integration
ICR Intelligent Call Router
IDNX Integrated Digital Network Exchange
ISDN Integrated Services Digital Network
IVR Interactive Voice Response
PCS Personal Communication Systems
PSTN Public Switched Telephone Network
MCU Multi Point Conferencing Unit