What is a call center?
A call center is comprised of people called “agents” who answer and make calls and the technical infrastructure through which these calls pass.
A call center can be internal or external to a company
Concretely, a call center can be internal, having dedicated infrastructure within a company (phones, workstations) for call processing. It can also be external, with calls handled by an organisation outside the company.
When we talk about creating a call center for a company, we must define who will be handling company calls as well as what tools they will be using to do so: telecom solution, CRM, etc.
What purpose does it serve?
A company may put a call center in place for the following reasons:
Customer support and service
Respond to questions from customers, keep them informed on order status
Technical assistance, After Sales Service or CSM
For technical support and follow-up
Sales and SDR
Sales reps need a satisfactory technical solution that will allow them to generate leads through phone prospection as well as respond to inbound queries.
There are different types of call centers
Inbound call centers: made up of teams in charge of a company’s customer service call reception or general assistance by phone.
Outbound call centers: made up of teams of agents who mainly make calls (prospection, sales contact, telemarketing).
In practice, for SMEs most call centers are a mix, handling about as many inbound calls as outbound calls. Customer service agents answer and return client calls, while sales reps must manage calls to and from leads.
The distinction between inbound and outbound calls is important when selecting an adapted technical solution.
For inbound calls, it is preferable to opt for a solution with efficient call routing; in other words, one that ensures that callers reach the agent best equipped to deal with their question or problem as quickly as possible. An optimal solution should offer an improved IVR, personalised call queues, and refined call distribution.
On the other hand, making outbound calls requires above all else tools that improve agent efficiency and allow them to make more calls, such as call automation.
A specific vocabulary
As with any organisation having a technical aspect, call centers have little by little developed their own jargon. Here are a few examples:
Agent: a person taking calls.
Position: location from which an agent processes calls.
Call blending: alternating inbound and outbound calls according to call volume to increase agent productivity.
Supervisor: the person who oversees and coaches agents with the help of real-time call monitoring or detailed statistics on individual performance.
KPIs designed for call center evaluation
Answer rates, service level, call abandon rates…call centers are disposed of a wide range of key indicators for measuring agent performance and overall quality. Supervisors may choose the most pertinent KPIs depending on activity, or set objectives based on these.
Examples of outbound call KPIs (sales campaigns, lead generation, etc.)
Number of calls made
Examples of inbound call KPIs (customer service)
FCR (First Call Resolution) rate
NPS (Net Promoter Score)
What tools do you need to build a call center?
A telecom solution – and more specifically, call center software such as RingOver’s – is indispensable.
Unlike a classic business phone system solution, call center software provides everything you need to oversee and evaluate agent performance.
A successful call center is equipped with the following tools:
- IVR and smart call routing: critical for establishing who will answer inbound calls while keeping track of activities and agent availability.
- Advanced statistics on agent calls, service level and availability.
- Call supervision and monitoring, allowing supervisors to listen in on calls and participate directly in conversations.
- Features such as call automation and click-to-call for simplifying and automating phone campaigns.
Call centers also generally possess a CRM for contact management. The ability to link call center phones to the CRM is vital for better productivity. Agents must automatically be able to access contact files, and call logs and other information must automatically sync with these files, centralising all interactions with a given contact in one place (calls, texts, chats, emails, etc.).
Can a small business establish a call center?
Traditionally, phone system solutions require lengthy setup with complex “on-site” installation – not to mention expensive maintenance. But today’s new 100% cloud (dematerialised) approach has made setup easy and management more user-friendly than ever, eliminating the need for installation so that a company of any size can have full control.
Solutions like RingOver’s provide small teams (minimum 3 people) all the same features of the largest call centers (call supervision, performance statistics, automatic file retrieval, etc.) at attractive pricing. Our packages from €40 include unlimited calls, while more traditional packages can cost €100 - €200.
Call centers and A.I.
There’s a great deal of discussion regarding artificial intelligence and the human and technological upheaval it could cause in call centers. In truth, applications for advanced optimisation have existed for several years, improving agent productivity as well as the customer experience.
Here are two examples of current practical applications:
Thanks to Speech-to-Text technology, conversations are automatically analysed for keywords and put in context, allowing the application to offer agents personalised tips and adapt other responses to assist them.
Voice analysis (spectra analysis) or semantic analysis (with keywords) measures the emotional content of a conversation, identifying indicators that allow supervisors to make live assessments of call quality.
What does the future hold for call centers?
From a technical standpoint, call centers are becoming increasingly efficient:
- in call routing, which is more refined, effective and better able to take the context of a call into account;
- in enabling agents to immediately respond to client needs.
For instance, let’s say a Spanish speaker looking for a lawn mower on your gardening company’s website calls your support number. He or she will be put in direct contact (without entering the call queue or having to navigate your voice menu) with an agent who not only speaks Spanish but is an expert on the product of interest.
It’s simpler than ever to put in place a high-performance call center within your organisation, with access to cheap and efficient CRMs along with the emergence of simpler and more accessible call center cloud solutions. This is why we’ll be seeing many more of even the smallest teams using high-performance telecom solutions to manage their customer service and sales calls in-house.