With many companies having central customer support functions, call centers have increased in popularity. Having customer service staff ready and able to help customers over the phone ensures that your customers remain satisfied with your goods and services even after their initial investment.
There are many advantages to having a call center for your company. By compartmentalizing and centralizing call center services in one place, companies can consistently meet their customers demand for customer service by adjusting their staffing and availability to match call volume. This ensures your customers can receive support even during high-demand times such as holidays or weekends.
Furthermore, there is a flexibility available for call centers that might not be available for all other departments within a company. Since the call center is more a matter of information, of having a well-trained, knowledgeable staff which is familiar with their employer’s policies, it can be run from anywhere. This has less to do with locating a call center in another time zone than it does another country. It will often cost less to run a call center out of another country with lower labor costs than it does in America, and for that reason alone many companies have made the switch from a domestic call center to one overseas.
Before the beginning of the 21st century, call center technology had somewhat stagnated. While companies added automated calling menus and quality assurance monitoring, these changes were minor and had little effect on customer satisfaction. Around the year 2000, however, many companies began shifting from a centrally located call center to a virtual one.
A virtual call center consists of an organization’s representatives being spread out over a geographical area, many working from home, rather than being housed under one building. Though some virtual call centers do use small buildings, many find that allowing their customer service representatives to work from home creates a more stable working environment and cuts cost in significant ways. The flexible hours and the ability to work from home is attractive to employees, while the company no longer has to pay the overhead of having to lease and maintain a space. Also, studies have shown that the call center, usually a place of high turnover, can drastically reduce turnover utilizing a virtual call center because the employees are happy. Finally, having a virtual call center means a company is not limited by the space they have leased. If the vast majority of business is done during the Christmas season, a company can hire as many customer service representatives as consumers demand without having to lease extra space. Conversely, they are not paying for an overly-large space during the other 11 months of the year during which they are not as busy.
One of the most important advantages provided by a virtual call center over a centrally located one is that there is no limit to the hours help is available. Many companies realize that having customer service representatives available during normal business hours simply does not cut it for the busy consumer. The fact is, if consumers have enough money to afford a certain company’s products, they are most likely working during normal business hours, and so fitting a quick call to customer service during the workday becomes an inconvenience, and inconveniencing customers is a sure way to alienate and ultimately lose them. To assuage this concern, many companies use virtual customer service centers to expand their hours, and often these hours expand to 24 hour availability. In fact, many companies take the money they are saving on building costs and other overhead and put it directly into improving customer service in this way. By utilizing the saved money in this fashion, companies are thinking long-term, knowing revenue will increase if customers feel they can trust the company from which they have purchased a good or service to know that the purchase was the beginning and not the end of the relationship.
As a result of the factors mentioned above, not only does the virtual call center save a company money in overhead, but it can actually increase income. This is because a satisfied customer who was not made to wait on hold for exorbitant lengths of time simply because they called the company on December 20th is more willing to spread the word of the quality customer service they received than if they had not. It is no secret that when offering people goods or services, customers are more likely to spread the word of poor service than they are of good service. With the Internet, this fact has never been truer. Also, the satisfied customer is more likely to provide repeat business.
Below you will find links to further information regarding call centers around the world.
The Global Call Center Report(PDF) – A large-scale study from Cornell University on call center management and employment practices from regions around the world.
How Many People Should Work at a Call Center?(PDF) – This paper examines what the optimal amount of employees is at any given call center, as well as how to best compensate those employees.
Effective Call Center Management(PDF) – This study indicates the importance of human resource management in running a high-performance call center.
The National Association of Call Centers – Starting in 2005, the NACC offers quality information and research to help its members run the best call centers available.
Outsourced Call Centers Return, to US Homes – A report on the rise of virtual call centers in America from NPR.
The Essential Guide to VoIP Call Centers – How Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can positively affect a company’s call center efficiency.
Should You Outsource? – An article on the pros and cons of outsourcing call centers.
Setting Up Call Centers – Detailed information on the best ways to start a call center.
Running a Customer Service Center in India(PDF) – Information for the company that decides outsourcing its customer support services to India.
Top 10 Call Center Metrics and What They Mean to You – Measuring success in a call center is key to keep customers satisfied. These are 10 such measurements.