How to set up a call centre
Author: Justin Tippett
Welcome to my guide on how to set up a call centre. Whether its growing your business from a few people on the phones and transitioning into a ‘real’ call centre or you are planning on building one from scratch, it can be a daunting process even for someone who’s done it before!
From where to locate your contact centre through to what type of reporting you need there is no shortage of information to be digested and decisions made.
To assist you in the process I’ve compiled a general overview of some of the things you need to consider when you set up a call centre. Just click on the + symbol to expand each section.
You may also find the following links useful:
- Call Centre Glossary – with a touch of added humour 😉
- Call centre manager tips and advice
- A directory of specialist call centre consultants that can provide expert advice and assistance
Update: This guide is currently being updated and converted into a free downloadable eGuide for our members.
Building and Infrastructure
One of the initial big questions you need to determine when you set up a call centre is of course location. Elements include:
- What country should the contact centre be established in
- Can it be stand alone or does the contact centre need to be in close proximity to the rest of your business (like the warehouse, marketing etc)
- How easy is it for staff and customers to access? Is it close to public transport, parking etc?
- Is it in the middle of a large population area? With turnover in contact centres around 40% you need to ensure their will be consistent supply of staff.
- Is there local or federal funding available?
- Is it best to have one site or multiple?
Always a contentious issue in contact centres!
- Are you able to control the temperature?
- Are their seperate zones for different areas?
- Will the system be sufficient in extreme weather?
- Have you allowed for the heat load of all the computer equipment and density of staff?
Sadly there has been issues with aggrieved customers seeking revenge with the contact centre often a focus point. Keeping your staff safe is of paramount importance so make sure you consider:
- Are their secure entrances that require codes/swipe cards etc?
- For centres open late, is there sufficient lighting and a secure way for staff to enter/exit the building?
- Is the contact centre secure from the rest of your business?
Does it need to cater for the staff you need right now, or does it need to allow for future growth? What about training areas, offices, lunch rooms etc?
Often an area that is overlooked until you actually need it! When you set up a call centre, make sure you consider the following:
- Is there a back up generator for the building?
- Alternative access points?
- What about multiple telco providers?
- Have you considered another location purely for BCP purposes?
With lots of people talking contact centres can be noisy places!
- Has the building got noise suppression features?
- Noise absorbing roof tiles
- Noise absorbing desk partitions?
- How high are the desk partitions?
- What is the floor surface? Hard floors are not good!
Contact Centres often are at the limits of density quotas for the building that can lead to a strain on some of the services.
- Are their sufficient toilets?
- How close are the toilets? Having the toilets a long way away can impact on productivity.
- Are their disabled toilets available?
- A lot of staff enjoy riding/running to work – are there sufficient showers to accommodate?
Is the building ready to move straight into? What about noise absorption materials so its not too loud for staff? Are the desks ergonomic? Are there stand up desks? Are the sufficient appliances in the kitchen areas? Even the colour scheme can be important – what is the ideal palette choice? All these elements can be critical when you set up a call centre that is going to be enjoyable and safe for all workers.
Are chairs supplied? Are they fully adjustable? Warranty period? Are their different types of chairs to suit different purposes?
For either staff or your customers its important that you provide a workplace that accommodates those with a physical restriction.
- Is there wheelchair access?
- Disabled parking?
- Desks that can accommodate?
- Disabled toilets?
Its no longer a requirement to spend millions of dollars on your telephony platform with Cloud Solutions offering all the ‘bells and whistles’ at a low monthly price per agent (so its easily scalable!). So for the majority of call centres, a cloud solution is now the key recommendation when you are considering how to set up your call centre with regards to the technology platform.
How are you going to keep track of the conversations you are having with customers? And what happens when a customer initially contacts you via email and then its followed up with a phone call with a different agent – how do you keep the conversations consistent? You need a CRM tool! Search our free Business Directory for suppliers of CRM & Helpdesk software.
There is typically a lot of information agents require to service customers. Are you going to have a paper folder on the desk, an intranet site or a Knowledge Management Tool that provides information to an agent in real time?
Are you agents going to be making a lot of outbound calls? If the answer is yes you may benefit from a dialler. But is predictive or preview better? And how easy is it to load the data into the dialler? Will it interact with your CRM tool? What type of reporting is available?
With Cloud Technology so prevalent, the humble PC becomes a very important decision when you set up a call centre. As it handles all the voice and data channels it needs to have enough processing power to handle it all with ease. And make sure you look at the start up time of each PC. If staff are booting up in your time then a few minutes here and there can really add up.
These days customers want to interact by more than just phone. So what other channels to you want to support? Social Media? Emails? Web Chat? Whilst stand alone systems can be purchased for each channel, there are a range of benefits from having all channels supported through the one system.
Looking for a supplier than can help you? Find technology providers in our free Business Directory.
How will customers reach you? Will you just have the one phone number or do you need different numbers for different products or priorities? What about a toll free number? And have you thought about a alpha number e.g. 1800 GET NUMBER?
Already support by governments in both Australia and New Zealand the future of Voice Biometrics is well and truly here and promises big savings.
With so much information available to frontline agents, when you set up a call centre make sure you give due consideration to the screen size. Having to constantly minimise programs and switch tabs etc can be both frustrating and time consuming for agents.
Providing them with the ability to see all the information easily will lead to a better customer experience and happier agents. For some roles, a dual monitor is also becoming more commonplace.
Its now possible to analyse recorded calls even further by using voice analytics to dive into all the data and only present calls that contain certain words, changes of emotion etc.
There are a range of different headsets in the market all with varying levels of quality as well as different connection types (e.g. USB) and different features including noise cancellation and protection against high frequencies. Search for headset suppliers in our Supplier Directory.
When you set up a call centre it will obviously need staff! What employment mechanism is best for your organisation? Both Industrial Awards and Enterprise Bargaining Agreements have their Pro’s and Con’s. The Contact Centre Industry in Australia is covered under the Contract Call Centre Award 2010. You can access it directly here
You would be amazed about how many roles have just ‘evolved’ without a clear Job Description! Its important for both you and the staff member to be very clear about what is expected from someone performing the role. Of course writing a good Job description requires an understanding of the tasks needing to be completed, what constitutes good performance (what is the minimum benchmark?) and what skills the person requires to successfully fulfil the required duties.
Although overrated by a lot of people, there is also the other half of the population that need to understand the big picture and why they come to work each day. Make sure you are clear on what your Mission and Vision are to keep everyone working in the same direction. As a very brief reminder of the difference:
- A Mission Statement concentrate on the present
- A Vision Statement focusses on the future
Are you going to recruit directly yourself or will you outsource the function? And if you do outsource, will you outsource everything (candidate just shows up for work) or will you outsource components e.g. reference checking, skills testing etc.
These days there really are a lot of options when it comes to ensuring you have the right candidate. And with the cost of replacement one agent estimated to be close to $35k it pays to get it right in the first place!
When you set up a call centre it can be easy just to focus on the infrastructure but you will quickly realise that without the best people, have the best looking centre and the greatest technology in the world still won’t guarantee a great experience for your customers.
I’d take great people over great technology any day of the week. So how are you going to reward outstanding performance? There are a range of established programs where you can earn reward points that can be cashed in for prizes (like FlyBuys but you can brand it as your own) through to gift cards, movie vouchers, time off, extended breaks etc. Either way its critical to make sure you have a mechanism to say thanks for the super stars in your team.
We only have limited space here but the other critical component of an R&R program is making sure its fair, equitable and achievable.
Despite the best laid plans unfortunately there are times when you will need to have a robust performance management program in place. This will ensure you provide the adequate support to assist staff who are underperforming and if the performance doesn’t improve, that you have sufficient protection to ensure you don’t end up in a legal battle.
There are some specialist providers who provide software to make managing and monitoring performance easier. Please refer to our free Business Directory for more information.
Just like in life nothing stays the same! Products change, systems change and of course people change. Continuing to support your staff improve their skills will lower your attrition, improve employee morale and it will also make your staff more efficient. Don’t skimp in this area! Our Business Directory has a range of categories that can assist:
Not surprisingly contact centre staff like to be paid for their hard work. But working out how much each agent should be paid can be quite complex. From multiple shift penalties, different rates for different skills, High Duties etc working out the correct pay can be a nightmare. If you have an existing payroll system make sure yours can handle the multiple scenarios that can exist in the contact centre or hit google for a payroll provider in your country.
Also I’d advise against monthly pays for contact centre staff – in my experience monthly pays will make it harder to attract and retain staff. Weekly is best and at a stretch, fortnightly.
An LMS (Learning Management System) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and deliver of electronic educational technology (also called e-learning) courses or training.
Having a robust LMS will ensure that mandatory and voluntary training is not missed and its a great tool to ensure that you are meeting all your training obligations. Smarter systems can also link in with your Workforce Optimisation Tool to automatically push training content during low call volume periods. Clever.
Search our free Business Directory for providers of Digital Training Solutions
There are a number of software applications that will make both learning and rewarding agents more fun using gamification to drive engagement.
Contact Centres are complex beasts and having clear processes will be crucial to success.
Unfortanately a lot of contact centres simply ‘evolved’ and with them their processes. When establishing a new contact centre however its critical that everything is mapped out clearly in advance as the processes can determine your customer experience, your efficiency, your ability to report and ultimately your bottom line. So just mildly important…
When you set up a call centre I’d love to think its just to handle customers calling to compliment your business. Reality is though that there will be calls for a myriad of reasons where the customer will be demanding an escalation or perhaps the agent just isn’t sure what to do. So what does the agent do? To make it easy for all concerned its important to have a clear guideline/process on what to do in the event of an escalation.
From transferring the call to a more senior person or taking the details and promising a call back there are a number of things to consider when designing your process.
From internal quality programs to Mystery Shopping programs a quality customer experience doesn’t happen by accident.
Determining what defines quality for your organisation can be a surprisingly difficult process, let alone measuring it! And then there are formal quality standards like ISO, COPC etc to consider.
There is no shortage of data in contact centres! From the number of calls, average wait times, abandonment rates etc there is literally hundreds of metrics to choose from. But which ones are important to your business? Which ones will drive the right behaviours in your staff?
And what frequency to you need your reporting in? Real time? Hourly? Once a week?
And what about cross channel reporting? Will you know that a customer first contacted you via Facebook and then called you up?
When you set up a call centre centre, setting up the right performance metrics typically comes down the capabilities of your systems and good old fashioned experience knowing what works and what doesn’t!
They go by different names including Line of Business Codes and Reason codes but essentially they are the same thing – capturing the reason why customers are contacting you. Typically entered by staff they can form a critical component to your reporting to understand key trends, training requirements, optimisation opportunities etc.
Whilst most systems will allow an unlimited amount, the reality is any more than around 10 and you will find that the agents just won’t use them correctly and therefore making your data useless!
So when you come to determining your key LOBs try to show some restraint and stick to what really matters.
So what should the opening hours be for your centre? Consumers now are expecting a lot more than 9am to 5pm but what is realistic when balancing the cost of opening verses the level of support you want to provide?
Thankfully there are a lot of options now available to keep your centre ‘open’ using outsourcers to cover the off peak period, live chat etc through to allowing customers to leave a voicemail.