Whenever a business needs to set up a call center for their sales or customer service department, they will need a lot of preparation to do the setup as it is not an easy feat due to the great demand in the planning of manpower, logistics and technology involved. While starting a call center business is an effective and efficient way to earn a good income while running their business. It is quite possible to run a call center business without renting an office space and hire call agents to work in their home remotely.
Below I will list down the top 10 tips in setting up a call center as a guideline for those companies who are interested to set up one.
- What type of call center do you want to start?
Is the call center meant to take inbound/outbound calls and email for the purposed of customer service, sales support, web-enabled or telemarketing? This is an import factor to consider as it will determine how the call center runs the operation.
- Inbound calls will usually involve in answering enquires and feedbacks from customers, taking sales orders or providing tech support.
- Outbound calls will involve in selling a product or service, setting up sales appointments or taking surveys.
- Telemarketing calls which are outbound with the agenda to advertising a product or service to potential customers.
- Web-enabled service is an online base to assists clients when they press a “call” or “talk” button in the company’s website which the call will connect to the call agents via the computer online. It is a useful feature for customers to get the relevant information before placing a sales order online.
- Planning for the number of call agents required for the operation.
Planning of the required amount of call agents and the management personnel involved are based on several factors such as predictions and forecasting of the expected call volumes, average call duration and the nature of the business. It also depends on whether if the call centers are handling inbound/outbound calls or emails and other services such as webchat.
- Write out a business plan for the call center
Depending on the nature of the call center, it is vital to have a business plan which includes sales projections over a specific period of time, any marketing or investments involved, expenses such as the cost of office equipment, employee salaries and benefits and so on.
Having a good business plan for the call center will serve as a good reference as the business grows.
- Location of the call center
While it is convenient to set up the call center in the same proximity within the same compounds to the company headquarters. It is important to consider other factors while choosing an office space such as the rental for the office space, is it based on industrial, neighborhood or prime location as this will greatly affect the rental fee and how accessible is the call center location.
- Logistic cost for the call center
The logistics cost for the call center usually factors in the daily items and equipment need to maintain the call center’s daily operation. Items such as desktop computers or laptops, headsets, phones, telephone lines, servers, high-speed Internet connection, office supplies and so on. This also includes the call center software which may be expensive depending on what kinds of service required by the business for the call center operations.
- Choosing the best technology to matches your business needs
Choosing the best kind of technology choices greatly depends on the nature of call center business and the services provided to the customers. Below are a few sets of questions that are essential to take into consideration before investing in the call center technology.
- What are the channels that the customers are using?
- What kind of knowledge do the call center need and how will it be stored?
- Is the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system required to build a case for each and every individual customer when they call in the hotline?
- Is it necessary to offer a segmented service to the customers and how the calls are route upon request?
- How to integrate all of the systems and software needed for the daily call center operations and how the user interface is created for the call agents to use.
- Time and resources factors to consider before setting up the call center
While the average timeframe to set up the contact center operation is around six months. It is still possible to roll out the contact center in three months but will usually put those involved in the project a great deal of pressure due to the deadline.
Besides the timeframe of using three to six months to set up the call center is only possible if the business processes are well-developed and the operation’s responsibilities have been mapped according to the business requirements.
Normally, It can take up to two or even three years to set up a call center from the start to finish as the planning stage usually takes up to eighteen months which is followed by a six month rollout period.
- Hiring and training period for the call agents
Before the call center even starts the operation, the management will need to hire suitable candidates to work in the call center. This will include the operation manager, team leaders and the helpdesk officers.
After the hiring process, the next step is to arrange for the training sessions to prepare for the job and this alone will take one or two months depending on the nature of the business and the types of services provided to the customers when they call in.
- How to build and maintain a good working culture in the call center
This will require a strong management team to support and motivate all the employees that are involved in the call center. While building and maintaining a good company culture takes serious commitment from the top management to the ground level, it is important to have the right team leaders and managers who are involved in guiding, mentoring, motivating and supporting their call agents who are working hard to fulfill their daily duties.
- Virtual or on-site call center
Last but not least, it is a deciding factor on whether to set up a Virtual call center which is cloud base or a traditional call center. While both have its pros and cons, it will be good to have a more in-depth understanding of the operational aspects between this two.
Setting up an onsite call center requires the company to put in time and effort to choose, configuring, setting up and maintaining the infrastructure of the call center which is the hardware and software necessary to run the operation. This usually means that the call system will be using the VoIP software through an IP PBX. One thing to note that the implementation can be costly and slow during the process. It also requires the upkeep of the office space for storing the server, upfront cost for the equipment plus a specialized IT team to maintain. It can be either be an advantage or a drawback depending on physical hardware which is the phone server especially during the downtime or disaster recovery period.
A virtual call center is different from an onsite call center as it allows the company to the run the call center’s operation more smoothly as the hardware and infrastructure are provided and maintained by a third party service provider. Which means that the management only needs to install the call center software provided by the service provider to their computer online. This in turn saves the company on the office space and upfront costs for run the call center operations.
The other advantage is that it is easy to add or remove the appointed users for the software when the manpower needs to be adjusted for operational reasons. During an outage, the service providers which is cloud-based can assist the business to recover faster and more efficient as compared to an on-site call center. The only inconvenience is to find a reliable service provider that has a good reputation, technology and experience to handle the virtual call center operations on a large scale.
In Singapore, there are few companies and beyond that can offer reliable service to assist their clients to set up and manage a virtual call center. One such company is known as Converged Solutions which is a leading Cloud-based call center provider since 2009. With their expertise in cloud-based call center software. Converged Solutions can help companies to handle their call center operations with the hassle of maintaining the software themselves and save on cost.