A call center consists of customer service experts and agents responsible for handling calls via phone systems. Discover everything about call centers in this comprehensive guide
October 20, 2023
A call center, also known as a contact center, is equipped to handle a large volume of inbound and outbound telephone calls and other forms of communication such as email, chat, and sometimes even social media messages.
Organizations aiming for a customer-centric approach primarily focus on customers. It can often be challenging for a company to maintain top-notch customer service to its customers without getting distracted from core business activities. This is where call centers come in as saviors for companies struggling to keep up with their clients. A call center is a one-stop service known for managing a significant volume of telephonic conversations, both incoming and outgoing. It can either be within the organization or a third-party service provider.
Call centers focus on effectively managing customer interactions by providing the necessary information, assistance, and support related to the product or service. They aim to resolve queries and ensure customer satisfaction for each client of the organization because a satisfied customer is the best advertisement. Call centers have become indispensable for a wide range of organizations, from small businesses to multinational corporations (MNCs).
What is a Call Center?
Call centres are endowed with the responsibility of handling large volumes of telephone calls to provide customer service and promote an organization through lead generation. These centres can either be amidst the organization or deployed to another company providing such services. They hire agents or customer service representatives (CSRs) who are well-versed in customer interaction on inbound and outbound calls.
They play a significant role in ensuring customer satisfaction, maintaining positive customer relationships, and improving the organization's overall performance. It is the first and foremost contact point of a customer and the organization that helps create a brand image and customer loyalty.
Understanding the Working of Call Centers
The work of a call center starts when the customer makes a call, but it does not end with resolving the customer’s issue, so let's dive a little deeper.
Call from a Customer: Their work begins at the onset of receiving a call from the customer.
Call Routing: The call is then routed based on the customer’s preferences (language, issue type, etc.).
Interaction of the Customer with the IVR: The Interactive Voice Response (IVR) then asks the customer to select a suitable option from the menu according to their needs.
Customer Acknowledgement: Once call routing and IVR are done, the agent uses software to acknowledge the customers before talking to them in person.
Agent-Customer Interaction: Now that the agent has acknowledged the customer, they will have a conversation, and the agent will try resolving the issues.
Follow-ups & Feedback: The customer is asked to give feedback once the issue has been resolved. In some cases, the agents are supposed to make follow-up calls as and when required.
Team Roles within a Call Center Environment
Various roles and positions might vary depending on the call center's type, size, and structure (inbound, outbound, automated, etc.). A list of roles has been shared below:
Call Center Agent/ Representatives: They handle calls and assist customers.
Telemarketer: Their responsibility is to make outbound calls and generate leads.
Call Center Manager: They look after and manage the center's overall performance.
Customer Experience Officer (CXO): The entire work of a CXO focuses on the customers and customer experience programs and initiatives.
Trainer: They develop and deliver training programs to new and existing agents.
Customer Service Director/ Head of Call Center: It is the senior-most position. They report directly to the C-Suite or the Chief Executive Director (CEO).
Classification of Call Center Types
By now, we know what call centers primarily are. So, let’s move forward and explore their different types, which depend on the company’s needs and expectations.
Inbound Contact Centers: Inbound contact centers are designed to handle a large number of incoming phone calls from customers and businesses looking for support. Technologies like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) systems are used to avoid obstruction.
Outbound Contact Centers: Unlike inbound, outbound contact centers efficiently provide services like telemarketing, sales campaigns, lead generation, market research, and customer retention. In outbound, calls are initiated from the agents to the external party.
Cloud Contact Centers: Leaving behind the traditional ways, these modern-day cloud contact centers have adapted to new and modified solutions where all the required tools and software are available on the cloud accessible through the internet. These centers are cost-effective, easily expandable, and provide flexibility in work.
Blended Contact Centers: Such centers handle both incoming and outgoing phone calls. It is best suited for businesses that need to make sales via phone calls and simultaneously want to provide customer support. The efficiency rate of such centers is higher, whereas the turnover rate is low.
Automated Contact Centers: It gets its name from its use of automated features like automatic SMS messages and email management within its process. A fully automated call center eliminates or considerably decreases the need for manual regulation, allowing agents to focus on tasks requiring human supervision.
Call Center Software and Advance Technologies
The emergence of modern technologies has reconstructed the working model of call centers. The use of advanced technologies has become common; a few of them are:
Chatbots: for answering fundamental questions
AI (Artificial Intelligence) and NPL (Natural Language Processing) to eradicate the need for unnecessary calls
Predictive Analytics: for customer insights
VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality): to provide technical support to customers remotely
Moreover, software like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and IVR (Interactive Voice Response) are also used.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management): It is a technology solution that gives agents access to account information and history, which helps them provide relevant information during support.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response): It allows businesses to interact with customers through a series of automated menus, enabling the customers to self-serve for faster resolution.
Using advanced technologies in call centers has several benefits, including increased productivity, better customer service, growth, and cost efficiency.
Call Center Dialer
A specialized software or hardware system to automate the process of making outbound phone calls is known as call center dialers. These dialers have evolved with time to meet the demands of marketing, sales, and support teams. It is also valuable for broadcasting recorded messages through IVR (Interactive Voice Response), push notifications, and SMS. Its key features are real-time agent monitoring, automatic-call routing, callbacks, conversational IVR for self-service, and customer experience management. They have proved to be beneficial in reducing abandonment rates and significantly increasing the number of calls made in a single day.
Depending on their features and capabilities, the dialers can be classified as mentioned below:
Preview Dialers: It is used by agents to review customer information, previous conversations, and context before placing calls.
Predictive Dialers: These dialers use algorithms and call pacing to automatically dial multiple phone numbers simultaneously.
Progressive Dialers: When the agent becomes available, it automatically dials the following phone number in the list.
Call Center Script
Agents use a written document as a guide while interacting with customers. This document called a call center script, has briefings about relevant questions and explanations. A compelling script is the key to ensuring customer satisfaction after the call. The steps involved in designing an effective script are:
Explain the products or services
Top Call Center Skills
Answering many incoming and outgoing calls is one of many prerequisites. It demands a diverse set of skills to excel in this field. Working in a call center requires high caliber, and some of the basic skills are listed below:
Communication Skills: Agents must be active listeners and provide clear information.
Time-Management Skills: They are expected to manage high call volumes and complete daily targets at the same time.
Problem-solving Skills: To provide good customer service, they must be able to solve simple to complex problems.
Teamwork: Some complex problems require agents to work together as a team.
Product Knowledge: In order to provide the correct information to the clients, the agents need to have complete knowledge about the products and services.
How to Become a Call Center Agent
An individual aspiring to become an agent must have the right skills and educational qualifications. They must be trained to fulfill their responsibilities. We have already talked about the skills in the previous section. This part of the article discusses their educational qualifications and responsibilities.
Educational Qualifications: A minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent qualification is required. This can vary depending on the sector and its requirements.
Responsibilities: The responsibilities of an agent include answering calls, resolving queries, handling complaints, and telemarketing. You can read about these responsibilities in depth from here.
Outsourcing a Call Center
A call center is outsourced when it becomes difficult for businesses to handle customer queries without hampering their core tasks. A dissatisfied customer can damage the organization’s image. A third-party service provider is hired to outsource call center operations to avoid this. Outsourced call centers can be located domestically or internationally, depending on the company’s preference. The following services can be availed from outsourcing vendors:
Inbound Call Center Outsourcing
Outbound Call Center Outsourcing
Order and Payment Processing
Sales and Lead Generation
A few of the benefits of outsourcing are listed below:
Access to expertise
Enhanced customer service
Focus on core competencies
Call Center Staffing
Staffing needs to be done very carefully because these staff/ agents will later represent the brand. Let us know about the different contact center staffing models.
In-house Staffing: The staff are equipped to handle incoming and outgoing calls in this model.
Outsourced Staffing: The companies team up with hiring agencies to hire and train the agents.
Remote Staffing: In this model, the employees can work from wherever and whenever they want.
Call Center CRM Software
Call centers use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to promote continuous and effective customer service. It is constructive for agents as it helps them maintain consistency and provide personalized customer interactions. The following CRM features help the agents deliver fast and appropriate solutions to their customers.
Customer Data Management
Automated Call Capture
Optimizing Productivity in Call Center Operations
Adapting and upgrading with constant change is the only solution to profitability; for that reason, companies focus on call center productivity. Productivity can be calculated by dividing the total work output by the total work input.
PRODUCTIVITY = WORK OUTPUT/ WORK INPUT, where output is the number of queries the agent solves, and input is the time spent handling calls.
Mentioned below are a few points to help agents improve their productivity.
Using chatbots, IVR, and call center scripts helps avoid unnecessary calls.
Training and upskilling are practical in providing better customer service.
Using suitable software and technologies makes it easy to manage calls.
A concrete omnichannel outreach strategy maintains overall productivity.
Customer-centric culture: The first step in creating a customer-centric culture is providing first-rate customer service.
Trained Agents: Trained agents with proper product knowledge can efficiently and effectively solve customer queries.
Leverage AI Technology: Integrating CRM with AI systems can significantly improve the overall customer growth of the organization.
Omnichannel Support: Texts, chats, and social media make it easier to contact customer support.
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