How to set up a call centre
Author: Justin Tippett
Author: Justin Tippett
Welcome to my guide on how to set up a call centre. Whether its growing your business from a few people on the phones and transitioning into a ‘real’ call centre or you are planning on building one from scratch, it can be a daunting process even for someone who’s done it before!
From where to locate your contact centre through to what type of reporting you need there is no shortage of information to be digested and decisions made.
To assist you in the process I’ve compiled a general overview of some of the things you need to consider when you set up a call centre. Just click on the + symbol to expand each section.
You may also find the following links useful:
Update: This guide will soon be updated with a downloadable eGuide. To stay across this and other great articles and tips subscribe to our newsletter. For more information click here.
One of the initial big questions you need to determine when you set up a call centre is of course location. Elements include:
If you looking for options on what country, check out our Offshore Call Centre Guide.
Always a contentious issue in contact centres!
Sadly there has been issues with aggrieved customers seeking revenge with the contact centre often a focus point. Keeping your staff safe is of paramount importance so make sure you consider:
Often an area that is overlooked until you actually need it! When you set up a call centre, make sure you consider the following:
Contact Centres often are at the limits of density quotas for the building that can lead to a strain on some of the services.
Is the building ready to move straight into? What about noise absorption materials so its not too loud for staff? Are the desks ergonomic? Are there stand up desks? Are the sufficient appliances in the kitchen areas? Even the colour scheme can be important – what is the ideal palette choice? All these elements can be critical when you set up a call centre that is going to be enjoyable and safe for all workers.
Its no longer a requirement to spend millions of dollars on your telephony platform with Cloud Solutions offering all the ‘bells and whistles’ at a low monthly price per agent (so its easily scalable!). So for the majority of call centres, a cloud solution is now the key recommendation when you are considering how to set up your call centre with regards to the technology platform. For more information on technology definitions please refer to our Ultimate Contact Centre Glossary and for providers of Cloud Solutions please refer to our free business directory.
How are you going to keep track of the conversations you are having with customers? And what happens when a customer initially contacts you via email and then its followed up with a phone call with a different agent – how do you keep the conversations consistent? You need a CRM tool! Search our free Business Directory for suppliers of CRM & Helpdesk software.
There is typically a lot of information agents require to service customers. Are you going to have a paper folder on the desk, an intranet site or a Knowledge Management Tool that provides information to an agent in real time?
Are you agents going to be making a lot of outbound calls? If the answer is yes you may benefit from a dialler. But is predictive or preview better? And how easy is it to load the data into the dialler? Will it interact with your CRM tool? What type of reporting is available?
With Cloud Technology so prevalent, the humble PC becomes a very important decision when you set up a call centre. As it handles all the voice and data channels it needs to have enough processing power to handle it all with ease. And make sure you look at the start up time of each PC. If staff are booting up in your time then a few minutes here and there can really add up.
These days customers want to interact by more than just phone. So what other channels to you want to support? Social Media? Emails? Web Chat? Whilst stand alone systems can be purchased for each channel, there are a range of benefits from having all channels supported through the one system.
Looking for a supplier than can help you? Find technology providers in our free Business Directory.
Will all agents be able to handle the same call types and support all channels? If not you may benefit from Skills Based Routing. If you are unsure what that means check out our Ultimate Contact Centre Glossary or for providers of Workforce Optimisation software check out our free Business Directory.
Already support by governments in both Australia and New Zealand the future of Voice Biometrics is well and truly here and promises big savings.
With so much information available to frontline agents, when you set up a call centre make sure you give due consideration to the screen size. Having to constantly minimise programs and switch tabs etc can be both frustrating and time consuming for agents.
Providing them with the ability to see all the information easily will lead to a better customer experience and happier agents. For some roles, a dual monitor is also becoming more commonplace.
Its now possible to analyse recorded calls even further by using voice analytics to dive into all the data and only present calls that contain certain words, changes of emotion etc.
There are a range of different headsets in the market all with varying levels of quality as well as different connection types (e.g. USB) and different features including noise cancellation and protection against high frequencies. Search for headset suppliers in our Supplier Directory.
When you set up a call centre it will obviously need staff! What employment mechanism is best for your organisation? Both Industrial Awards and Enterprise Bargaining Agreements have their Pro’s and Con’s. The Contact Centre Industry in Australia is covered under the Contract Call Centre Award 2010. You can access it directly here
You would be amazed about how many roles have just ‘evolved’ without a clear Job Description! Its important for both you and the staff member to be very clear about what is expected from someone performing the role. Of course writing a good Job description requires an understanding of the tasks needing to be completed, what constitutes good performance (what is the minimum benchmark?) and what skills the person requires to successfully fulfil the required duties.
Although overrated by a lot of people, there is also the other half of the population that need to understand the big picture and why they come to work each day. Make sure you are clear on what your Mission and Vision are to keep everyone working in the same direction. As a very brief reminder of the difference:
Are you going to recruit directly yourself or will you outsource the function? And if you do outsource, will you outsource everything (candidate just shows up for work) or will you outsource components e.g. reference checking, skills testing etc.
These days there really are a lot of options when it comes to ensuring you have the right candidate. And with the cost of replacement one agent estimated to be close to $35k it pays to get it right in the first place!
When you set up a call centre it can be easy just to focus on the infrastructure but you will quickly realise that without the best people, have the best looking centre and the greatest technology in the world still won’t guarantee a great experience for your customers.
I’d take great people over great technology any day of the week. So how are you going to reward outstanding performance? There are a range of established programs where you can earn reward points that can be cashed in for prizes (like FlyBuys but you can brand it as your own) through to gift cards, movie vouchers, time off, extended breaks etc. Either way its critical to make sure you have a mechanism to say thanks for the super stars in your team.
We only have limited space here but the other critical component of an R&R program is making sure its fair, equitable and achievable.
Despite the best laid plans unfortunately there are times when you will need to have a robust performance management program in place. This will ensure you provide the adequate support to assist staff who are underperforming and if the performance doesn’t improve, that you have sufficient protection to ensure you don’t end up in a legal battle.
There are some specialist providers who provide software to make managing and monitoring performance easier. Please refer to our free Business Directory for more information.
Just like in life nothing stays the same! Products change, systems change and of course people change. Continuing to support your staff improve their skills will lower your attrition, improve employee morale and it will also make your staff more efficient. Don’t skimp in this area! Our Business Directory has a range of categories that can assist:
Not surprisingly contact centre staff like to be paid for their hard work. But working out how much each agent should be paid can be quite complex. From multiple shift penalties, different rates for different skills, High Duties etc working out the correct pay can be a nightmare. If you have an existing payroll system make sure yours can handle the multiple scenarios that can exist in the contact centre or hit google for a payroll provider in your country.
Also I’d advise against monthly pays for contact centre staff – in my experience monthly pays will make it harder to attract and retain staff. Weekly is best and at a stretch, fortnightly.
An LMS (Learning Management System) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and deliver of electronic educational technology (also called e-learning) courses or training.
Having a robust LMS will ensure that mandatory and voluntary training is not missed and its a great tool to ensure that you are meeting all your training obligations. Smarter systems can also link in with your Workforce Optimisation Tool to automatically push training content during low call volume periods. Clever.
Search our free Business Directory for providers of Learning Management Systems
Contact Centres are complex beasts and having clear processes will be crucial to success.
Unfortanately a lot of contact centres simply ‘evolved’ and with them their processes. When establishing a new contact centre however its critical that everything is mapped out clearly in advance as the processes can determine your customer experience, your efficiency, your ability to report and ultimately your bottom line. So just mildly important…
When you set up a call centre I’d love to think its just to handle customers calling to compliment your business. Reality is though that there will be calls for a myriad of reasons where the customer will be demanding an escalation or perhaps the agent just isn’t sure what to do. So what does the agent do? To make it easy for all concerned its important to have a clear guideline/process on what to do in the event of an escalation.
From transferring the call to a more senior person or taking the details and promising a call back there are a number of things to consider when designing your process.
From internal quality programs to Mystery Shopping programs a quality customer experience doesn’t happen by accident.
Determining what defines quality for your organisation can be a surprisingly difficult process, let alone measuring it! And then there are formal quality standards like ISO, COPC etc to consider.
There is no shortage of data in contact centres! From the number of calls, average wait times, abandonment rates etc there is literally hundreds of metrics to choose from. But which ones are important to your business? Which ones will drive the right behaviours in your staff?
And what frequency to you need your reporting in? Real time? Hourly? Once a week?
And what about cross channel reporting? Will you know that a customer first contacted you via Facebook and then called you up?
When you set up a call centre centre, setting up the right performance metrics typically comes down the capabilities of your systems and good old fashioned experience knowing what works and what doesn’t!
What happens when wait times start creeping up? Do you stop letting calls into the queue, allow customers to call back? Just leave them on hold? Outsource the calls?
They go by different names including Line of Business Codes and Reason codes but essentially they are the same thing – capturing the reason why customers are contacting you. Typically entered by staff they can form a critical component to your reporting to understand key trends, training requirements, optimisation opportunities etc.
Whilst most systems will allow an unlimited amount, the reality is any more than around 10 and you will find that the agents just won’t use them correctly and therefore making your data useless!
So when you come to determining your key LOBs try to show some restraint and stick to what really matters.
So what should the opening hours be for your centre? Consumers now are expecting a lot more than 9am to 5pm but what is realistic when balancing the cost of opening verses the level of support you want to provide?
Thankfully there are a lot of options now available to keep your centre ‘open’ using outsourcers to cover the off peak period, live chat etc through to allowing customers to leave a voicemail.