Setting up a call center can be an instrumental decision and there is a growing number of small to mid-sized businesses relying on these services. Not all call centers are created with the same focus, so there are several key steps you’ll want to consider before making that initial investment. We outline them below.
Step 1: Have clarity of purpose.
Sure, it’s a call center and your employees will be fielding calls, but who are your primary clients? Narrow your focus to a specific niche or industry and realize it won’t be a question of finding clients, but where they operate and how best to set up your new call center to meet their needs.
Step 2: Calculate your initial call center size.
How many clients will you take on? How many calls do you expect to receive daily? The simple assumption would be that a call center just starting out will be small (with a set number of employees, such as 10 max), but will that provide the optimal support when you bring clients on board?
Taking a wild stab in the dark (a guess) will only do more harm than good and there’s no point in making this common mistake. If you plan on operating a contract-based call center, it becomes much easier to determine the number of employees you’ll need to handle call volume.
If you aren’t quite sure, that’s not a problem. Use resources available online (such as the (Erlang calculator) and/or sit down with your team or partners to determine what you will need (to your best estimation).
Step 3: Determine the technology you’ll need.
There are numerous tools available for call centers and not all of them will be practical for your specific needs. That’s why it’ll be crucial to do some serious analysis from the get-go so you and your team can properly prepare with the right tools.
There are a number of questions you should keep in mind when beginning this process of discovery. Consider:
- Where are your target customers and what kind of channels are they currently using?
- Is there going to be specific information and knowledge you and your team will need to know?
- If so, where will all of this be stored? On servers in-house? In the cloud? Or somewhere else off-site?
- What type of phone system will you use? VoIP systems are the most popular as their feature list is usually higher than analog.
- Will a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system be necessary, especially if you’ll be more focused on individual clients?
Other technologies your new call center might require could include the following:
- Agent Desktop (that will launch specific programs upon computer shutdown, which will be critical for a call center that plans to operate around the clock (or beyond the typical 8-hour workday).
- ACD (Automatical Call Distribution)
- Call Queues – will route incoming calls to the agent who is best suited to handle the specific needs of the caller.
- Workforce Manager
- Predictive Dialer
- Call Queue Metrics – to evaluate the effectiveness of each employee
- Multi-channel Communications
- Headsets (effective, comfortable, durable, noise cancelling)
- CRM system
It may not be completely necessary but helpful if you consider adding some of these tools to your solutions center:
- Quality monitoring (to ensure your clients are receiving the best service and representation from your agents)
- Multilingual customer support
- Call back
- Automated customer surveys
- Analytic tools
Keep in mind, though, that when you’re starting your call center, the type of headsets you choose may not be the most important. Over time, you’ll begin to understand which ones work best for your team members. It might even be helpful to have a variety with regard to size and fit, but always make sure the quality of sound is top. And noise cancelling is important if you have lots of employees near each other on the phone.
Step 4: Consider location.
Are you going to establish this call center for a wide range of clients? Or are you planning to be more niche-specific? In other words, will you be focusing on clients of a narrow industry or niche within a sector? Will you be building your call center to provide multilingual services? Will this call center be more aligned with a specific region?
Answering these questions will help you refine your approach and the way you think about things moving forward.
One of the last things any call center business leader should do is think about the commute of its future employees (trying to keep it short or convenient). However, some do. When you begin placing an emphasis on making your employees happy rather than on how to best serve your target client, you’ll already start with a challenge.
Opening your call center in a major metropolitan region could provide you a wider range of bilingual or multilingual agents, which could be one of the keys to initial and long-term success.
Keep in mind, though, that the commute could also be an important ingredient in attracting the best agents. Can you position your physical presence along a bus or train route? This could dramatically improve your pool of candidates from which to choose.
Step 5: Avoid the temptation to rush.
There could be a strong desire to get this call center operational and at full capacity as quickly as possible. After all, most businesses survive on how quickly they can attract and obtain clients.
However, a call center is different and the more pressure you place on your partners, agents, and other employees to become fully operation in a matter of months, the greater the stress, burnout rates, and risk of mistakes. Mistakes in business can be devastating.
6 months should be the minimum timeframe you have in mind (and that’s assuming you have all the pieces in place before you actually start accepting clients). Some call centers could take up to two years to be fully set up and established.
Plan anywhere between 6 and 18 months and be certain you have a full-time supervisor/manager running the day-to-day operations from the get-go. Getting this call center to full capacity isn’t a part-time endeavor.
It’ll be a good idea to also plan in some time for delays. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly. The more you anticipate something going wrong, the easier it will be for you and your management team to move through them when they actually strike.
Step 6: Build a solid team culture.
Before your call center is up and running, begin the application process, hire some agents, and get them trained properly. These first few you hire should be above board, experienced, and enthusiastic about the project. They could likely become your floor supervisors.
Also learn how to become a more effective leader. Building a strong team requires a strong leader. A positive, effective leader does not micromanage, berate, or belittle employees. She sees them as valuable team members, mentors, guides, instructs, and listens to them.
When you set up a positive culture for your call center from the outset, you’ll already be light years ahead of the competition and success will be more likely. That is a wonderful sensation.