By Lisa Mitchel
The modern call center is often much maligned, but it plays an integral part in customer relationships in a world where customers are increasingly detached from the operational hub of a company. Good customer service is a principle that is at the core of any successful business and the call center represents the interface between a company and its consumers so it much deliver to a high standard. Call traffic is both inbound and outbound and both categories can be managed in a way that maximizes the benefit of a call center to a company.
Outbound Traffic: Call centers making outbound calls operate under strict guidelines that ensure they are not seen to be predatory or persistent callers. Technology is designed to call multiple numbers at once and the first caller to answer is routed to the call center operatives. The slight delay in voice communication can cause customer service issues and it is essential that calls are only made to potential customers and partners that specified they were willing to receive calls. A failure to adhere to basic rules governing the frequency of calls made and appropriate content can lead to a fine and will adversely affect the commercial brand of the call center operation. The reason for an outbound call can determine the propensity of a customer to respond. It is expected that the response rate would be low for companies selling a product that has many substitutes. If the call is relating to credit control procedures then many customers may choose not to answer whilst others may want an instant resolution to a problem.
Inbound Calls: Some call centers exist purely to handle inbound queries and are known as contact centers. Making no outbound calls, they are there to bolster the customer support system of a company but can also act as an administrative function, for example handling claims within an insurance company. The customer menu option is critical because if it is a lengthy process many customers may be bored and frustrated by the time they reach a call center operative. Alternatively they may choose to select the menu options that they feel will direct them to an operative by the quickest route. An example of this may be customers selecting options that suggest they wish to make a bill payment because this would be the most responsive area of the system. Inbound call center staff must be able to demonstrate good company knowledge and an ability to handle customers.
Failure Demand: The efficiency of a call center is all based on statistics. Operatives may be monitored on the speed of call answer and the time spent on the phone will be monitored in the form of average call lengths. It is a delicate balance to consider the need to provide excellent customer service against the need to keep call time to a minimum so that other callers are not kept waiting. If a customer receives incorrect information, or an inappropriate response, this will lead to an additional call. This situation is known as failure demand because an additional call is made to address an issue that could have been handled during the initial call. Business managers invest heavily in technology and trainers for call center operatives because management of failure demand is critical to the overall efficiency of a call center. There are many mainstream and specialist lenders are willing to offer assistance to firms seeking to improve their call center infrastructure. The importance of the call center as the critical nerve center of a business is acknowledged and companies who have a strong function are usually highly regarded by their industry peers and customers.
Drive To Cut Costs: The call center is no longer a new concept and efficiencies have been introduced in technology and in the training of call center operatives. Call routing directs callers to the operatives who have specialist knowledge and access to specific system areas. Training ensures that call handlers hold an efficient conversation which leads to increased capacity on the network. One cost saving strategy that has come to the fore in recent years is the relocation of call centers to the Asian subcontinent. India has a large network of highly educated individuals that command lower salaries than workers in America. Companies such as American Airlines have chosen to reduce labor costs by relocating call centers to India. The results of companies making this type of switch have been mixed because whilst labor costs have been saved, operational issues, most notably the difficulty of disguising local accents and dialects, have actually increased failure demand and reduced levels of customer satisfaction. The evolution of the call center is now entering a new phase and in the last few years the migration of jobs in the industry outside America has slowed and it is anticipated that jobs growth will increase when the labor cost differential reduces and if the moves continue to be poorly received by customers. The future for the call center industry looks bright as continual technological development brings further efficiencies to the process. Increasing regulation governing the conduct of operatives and data security is likely to lead to a greater proportion of services being provided within America.