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The Definitive Guide to Setting Up a Contact Centre

Around since the 1960s, a call centre is a dedicated office set up to handle customer engagement and customer service communications for your business. Originally offering just telephone communications, they now allow customers the possibility to interact through the web, social media, and email and are now more likely to be called contact centres. Whatever they are called they are incredibly important for your business. We live in a world where customer service is, more often than not, the key differentiator that a brand can offer. And, 96% of customers think customer service plays a leading role in selecting and staying loyal to brands - an estimated $41 billion is lost by U.S. companies each year following a bad customer experience. 

In some cases, perhaps if you sell online or through a retail channel, your call centre agents represent your customers only chance of human interaction with your company. Even if you have your own store or employ a strong sales team, you are still going to need to have a customer service team to delight and resolve your commitments to your customer.

With that in mind, read on to find out everything you need to know about how to successfully set up and manage a call centre to delight your customers and improve sales.

Planning for Success

Contact centres are fundamental for improving customer engagement. In addition, the conversations your agents have with customers act as an incredible source of data that your business can mine through machine learning to then improve your customer service. Still, setting up a contact centre takes a large investment of resources and can be complex to get right.

Establish Purpose 

Like anything else, you need to have goals and set objectives for your contact centre. Are you a start-up trying to streamline the sales process? Or perhaps a larger business that needs to improve after-sales customer service and support? Is your focus lead generation, customer service, or IT support? Or perhaps all of them. Once you understand that you can start planning your KPIs. 

KPIs and Objectives

You should have SMART objectives in place around your purpose. For example, if your purpose is customer service then your objective should be around improving your net promoter score. Your KPIs are then the indicators on a weekly basis that drive you towards that objective. I have listed some examples below, but they should be customised for your business. 

  • Average talk time: The amount of time in an hour that an agent spends in conversation. 
  • Missed and declined calls: Calls that were refused by an agent or not picked up.
  • Transfer rate: Rate by which calls are transferred to other departments.
  • Abandoned in the queue: Number of customers you abandon their call while waiting in the queue. 
  • Average answer speed: How long it takes for a customer to speak to an agent after they’ve been routed to the correct person or department.
  • Average handle time: Average time it takes an agent to resolve a problem. 

After you have planned out your KPIs you should make sure everyone is clear on them and working towards common objectives. 

Plan your Budget

Setting up a call centre can bring considerable costs and like everything in your business should be budgeted for with a view to offering a return on that investment. You need to go through the maths to work out presently how many customers calls you are getting daily so you can estimate how many call centre agents you will need. Once you have that number you can work out the budget for the physical infrastructure you will need in terms of office space, devices, software licenses, training costs and supervisors etc. 

If the purpose of your call centre is outbound then you will expect your agents to make money directly in sales but if it is inbound, then the value it delivers is in terms of customer satisfaction. 

Virtual or On-Premises Contact Centre

You don’t have to set up a physical contact centre, software is available for you to manage a team of customer service agents remotely with them working from home. Obviously, there are some benefits from having people in the office, but the last year has shown that remote working works. And, with 75% of set up costs usually spent on infrastructure, if budget is an issue, then a virtual contact centre might be the best solution, especially when you are starting out. 

A virtual contact centre has many benefits. Not just in saving on infrastructure set up costs, but in attracting the right staff, servicing global markets and time zones, and then in scaling in response to demand. When your agents can work from anywhere you cast your net wider and recruit from a larger talent pool and then take on more agents without a large influence on fixed costs. 

Employ the Right Team

Once you have got your software solution, decided upon a physical or virtual setup and have started to get together your customer engagement scripts, the next step is to find your team. You need to think about the types of roles, hiring questions, training, and staff retention. Typical roles include call centre managers, team leaders, agents, trainers and analysts. 

How many of the above, the ratio of leaders to representatives, and whether you combine some of the roles will depend on your budget and objectives. 

Hiring Questions

Some questions around salary expectations are standard, but how you set up your contact centre, whether you need them to work evening or weekend shifts, need to be mapped out specifically for your business requirements. 

Also, in every role, an interviewee should be able to utilise the STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) method to explain how they have dealt with a particular situation. In a case of a customer service representative, while organised, positive, problem-solving skills are important, patience and communication skills are key. 

Training your staff

74% of customer service leaders admit that they aren’t training their agents to provide the best customer experience. Yet customers cite customer service as the key determinant of whether they decide to take their business elsewhere. Beyond role-playing, mentoring, and training employees on any headsets, call scripts, and phone systems, you can utilise call recording technology to make sure your employees are maximising customer service opportunities for your business. Call recording enables you to track calls, monitor productivity, and perform quality control checks on employees. It has now evolved with improvements in machine learning and natural language processing to give rise to interaction analytics which enables you to monitor every call, learn, and better teach your employees. 

You can also utilise workforce management software including forecasting, surveys and regularly reviewing your call centre performance metrics.

Staff Retention

For some staff, virtual working may be the incentive that allows you to retain their services. In other cases, if you opt for a virtual contact centre, you will need to utilise internal communications software, regular video call meetings, and remote training and feedback to keep your team happy and motivated. 

Call centre Infrastructure

If you want your agents to succeed you need to have the right kind of infrastructure in place to ensure they can do their jobs properly. 

VoIP – This enables you to make a call over the Internet rather than the old analogue lines. It is cheaper, extremely stable, and enables you to link up with your Internet-based software solutions. In 2025, BT will switch off the old analogue network in favour of SIP trunks and VoIP. 

Helpdesk software – This allows you to connect with your support team and see if they are resolving tickets.

CRM – A CRM system is the key software package that tracks customer interactions with your business. A CRM system should track, record and analyse all those interactions no matter what channel they are on. At the very least, customers expect you to know their name and previous engagement with your business. If you only think of your own experiences and annoyance of having to explain your problem again, then you will understand its importance for improving sales and customer service.

Real-time reports – Your agents should have a dashboard displaying real-time metrics on how they are performing to ensure they get the proper guidance to keep improving their performance levels.  

Multi-Level Interactive Voice Response (IVR) – This type of IVR allows you to configure complex call flows to ensure that your customers get through to the right person as soon as possible. While IVRs are standard in the industry, voicebot technology now offers the opportunity for your customers to interact with natural language and find their way to the right person in a more conversational way. 

Differentiators that Drive Success

Omnichannel

Research from eConsultancy shows that consumers prefer assistance over the following channels: Phone (61%), email (60%), Live Chat (57%), online knowledge base (51%), “click-to-call” support automation (34%). It is essential that any contact centre software that tracks customer engagement can do so overall these channels in one solution and present communications in a unified customer record. 

AI and Machine Learning

We already mentioned before interaction analytics which allows you to get unprecedented levels of insight into customer conversations, but AI and machine learning also helps with the automation of customer service through voice and chatbots. This technology is already driving productivity and customer service gains for businesses by reducing wait times, allowing 24/7 service and providing more personalised service. 

Good team communication

Employees often cite poor communication of objectives and ongoing issues as the reason for the failure of a campaign. It is therefore imperative that a culture of communication and the right technology is in place to ensure a positive and successful work environment. 

When you set up your call centre you can improve internal communication and ensure everyone is on the right page by creating a central FAQ that everyone can refer to when they have questions. By using internal group messaging to quickly share information. By holding regular meetings, either in-person or virtual. And by sending out feedback surveys asking employees about what they think is working well and what isn’t. 

Cloud-based Systems

Finally, using cloud-based systems can help give you an advantage when you set up your contact centre. As we have seen during the COVID19 pandemic, hosted software is essential to allow remote working, but it also brings benefits during non-emergency times: no complex hardware setup or maintenance costs; easy call centre management and scalability; disaster recovery solution; lower costs; and information and data are easily shareable.

Conclusion

Setting up a call or contact centre involves a lot of planning and resources, but if it is done right, it can dramatically improve your customer satisfaction, sales and brand loyalty. 



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