Starting a call center from scratch can be an uphill struggle, especially if you succumb to the common mistakes outlined in this guide.
Read on for a comprehensive step-by-step guide to setting up your call center, and an examination of the top 3 mistakes that threaten to render your efforts futile.
Step 1: Outline your Business Strategy
There are many things to consider long before you can make or receive any calls from your call center.
On a strategic level, you need to consider the following three issues:
Scope & Budget
The scope of your ambitions for the call center will go hand in hand with the budget you allocate.
The most obvious first question to answer is: what industry will you enter?
When you have the answer, you can move on to other strategic issues such as what your day-to-day operations will be, how you’ll build and scale your business, and what your strategic goals will be.
Once you’ve thought these issues through, you can turn your attention to your budget.
Budgetary brainstorms should revolve around key expenses such as:
- Overhead costs (e.g rent)
- Employee salaries
- Business administration fees
- Utility bills
- Software subscriptions
Your budget will also be informed by the next two factors: location and the type of call center you set up.
Are you going to set up a call center in your local area or overseas?
Keeping the business close to home will make it much easier to manage, as you’ll be able to assess and evaluate issues as they arise and visit the call center as often as necessary.
It'll likely cost you more to operate your call center if it’s local than if you were to choose a more affordable offshore location for the business. Yet setting up on foreign shores will require that you familiarize yourself with another country’s working laws to make sure you do everything by the book.
Type of Call Center
The location you choose will likely determine the type of call center you set up.
You can either create an on-site call center or a virtual one, and there are upsides and downsides to each.
An on-site call center is what it sounds like: a physical office from which your employees make or receive calls.
Best for: Making the most of local infrastructure such as high-speed internet and managing a sizable workforce.
A virtual call center is run 100% online, with all employees working remotely.
Best for: Keeping overhead costs down and avoiding the distractions that can come with in-person work environments.
There’s also the question of whether you’ll make (outbound) or receive (inbound) calls from your center.
Outbound call centers tend to focus primarily on sales calls and telemarketing while inbound centers generally offer various forms of customer support.
Step 2: Complete Paperwork
By now, you should have a clear idea of the strategic direction you want for your call center, the budget you’ll need to pull it all off, and what the day-to-day operations will look like.
That means it’s time for the least interesting aspect of setting up a business: paperwork.
Here’s a list of paperwork you’ll need to sort before you can turn your dream into a reality:
- Lease agreement for the premises (on-site only)
- Business registration
- Tax registration
- Business bank account
Step 3: Hire a Workforce
There’s no call center without agents to operate the phones.
To speed up the recruitment process, here are some top tips for making the right hires and embedding them in your company:
Use the Erlang Calculator
If you’re new to the call center business, the Erlang calculator might be an unfamiliar term for you.
The Erlang calculator is a tool for ascertaining just how many agents you need based on an estimated number of calls. With some rough estimates, you can get a ballpark figure of how many hires you need to make so you can set the wheels of your recruitment process in motion.
Factor in Growth Potential
The last thing you want when hiring a workforce is to sell yourself short, or overhire and drive up costs to an unsustainable level.
So once you have an estimated figure from the Erland calculator, factor in growth potential to make sure you can sustainably scale the business.
This will also tie in with your business model. If you have an on-site call center, you’ll be limited to the amount of space before you need to expand, whereas with a virtual center you can make as many hires as you can realistically afford.
Set up the Onboarding Process
The key to an effective workforce from day one is a robust onboarding process. If you can ease employees into the swing of things and get them up to speed with the company values from the outset, you’ll create a strong work dynamic.
To do so, create knowledge documents outlining key processes, and lay on training programs for new employees to make sure they understand what’s expected of them.
Step 4: Invest in Hardware & Software
This final step applies more to on-site call centers than virtual ones, but even with a virtual work environment there’ll be plenty of software you need to purchase.
For an on-site call center, here’s some equipment you may need to invest in:
- Mice and keyboards
- Office chairs
The software you purchase will likely be the greater expense, regardless of your business model, since there are various services you’ll rely on heavily.
Here are some of the services and software solutions you might need:
Business Call Management
To handle a large volume of calls, you need a business call management system. There are three systems common in call centers:
- Private Branch Exchange - A system for headsets and on-site premises.
- Virtual VoIP - A common choice which routes calls through a desktop app. Works remotely.
- Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange - A system that relies on routing calls via an internet connection. Works both for on-site and virtual call centers.
A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool can help you log important customer information for future reference and sharing within the company.
Pro Tip: Most call centers are using either Zendesk or Salesforce as their CRM tool. With Zendesk, time tracking is made easy with Insightful’s time tracking app. Zendesk integrates seamlessly with Insightful to perform time tracking on an individual, team, and or company level.
Internal messaging tools, such as Slack, help agents communicate quickly and effectively with one another.
Call Center Monitoring
Call center monitoring tools allow you to easily monitor call center and track your agents’ activity. With call center monitoring, you can monitor staff performance on any given day and over the course of a week, month, or quarter.
This software can be especially useful for call center workforce optimization as you don’t have to rely on blind faith in remote working agents to be productive throughout the day.
A call center workforce optimization software tool like Insightful can make tracking employee time effortless for both in-person and virtual work environments.
So now that you know what it takes to create a call center, how can you all but guarantee it becomes a success?
We’d argue that you give yourself the best chance of success if you can avoid making these three costly - yet surprisingly common - mistakes:
Common Mistake #1: Failing to Provide Adequate Training
In an effort to hit the ground running, and start well, many call center creators fail to set their agents up for success with adequate ongoing training.
If you emphasize speed over quality, you’ll end up with scores of unsatisfied clients which will only hinder your attempt to build a solid reputation for your business.
To avoid this common pitfall, make sure you lay on adequate training programs for your staff, and continue to do so. Call center agents are more likely to have a higher AHT (Average Handling Time) if they don’t have the sufficient ongoing training to thrive in their role.
More time spent on each call ultimately leads to less profit so if you want your business to get off the ground, identify skill gaps as they arise and present staff with ample opportunities to upskill in those areas.
If you want to track time spent on individual calls, you can use call center monitoring software Insightful. By using custom labels inside Insightful to identify when agents start and finish calls, you can then use this data to establish a baseline for how long agents are spending on calls.
Common Mistake #2: Cutting Costs to Maximize Profitability
You want to make your bottom line as healthy as possible and maximize your profit margin, which is understandable.
However, there are more paths to profitability than low overheads and minimal expenses.
If you invest in the cheapest software solutions, for example, or outsource your call systems to a third-party to relinquish control and keep costs down, you could hamstring your operations.
What happens if the third-party folds or their systems go down one day?
What if the software you use lacks features that could save you countless hours?
If you want sustainable growth and healthy profits, it might be worth spending more than you budgeted for when it comes to the core aspects of your business that support day-to-day operations.
Common Mistake #3: Ignoring Key Performance Metrics
Any business you manage is likely to struggle if you don’t pay attention to important performance metrics.
The same goes for call centers.
If you focus too much on trivial metrics that don’t have much bearing on productivity or performance then you’ll lose sight of what’s really important.
Here are two metrics that sound important, but don’t tell you much:
- Number of tickets
- First response speed
And now here’s a metric that could turn your fortunes around if you give it the importance it deserves:
- First Call Resolution
What’s the purpose of a call center, after all?
Is it to respond as quickly as humanly possible, or to help a customer reach a satisfactory resolution the first time of asking?
With agent monitor software Insightful you can track related performance metrics such as time spent in work-related apps, so with call centre monitoring you can build a complete picture of individual performance.