Your boss just handed you the biggest assignment of your career: launching your company’s first call center. This type of call center management is the kind of project that can make a career – or ruin one. But don’t be intimidated. While it might be the first call center for you and for your company, hundreds of people have set up call centers before you and succeeded. You just need to understand what worked and what didn’t work for them.
Here’s everything you need to know about call center best practices to get started:
1. DO Start With Research
Start by researching call center best practices. Technology is constantly evolving, so what might have been cutting-edge yesterday could be obsolete tomorrow. Check out industry resources like the National Association of Call Centers, Connections Magazine, or Call Center IQ.
2. DON’T Start Without Meeting With Stakeholders
Once you’ve done your initial research, it’s time to have a cross-functional meeting with all of your stakeholders to clarify everyone’s call center management needs. It’s too complex of an issue to just proceed on the order to “build us a call center to handle our customer calls.”
Understand that the people requesting the call center may not know exactly what they need, what’s possible, or even which questions to ask. Everyone needs to be in alignment on exactly what they want the call center to do, how much traffic it needs to be able to handle at one time, how fast it needs to do it, and all other relevant issues.
Most of all, they need to be in alignment on why they want a call center in the first place. How does it fit in with the company’s strategic plan? Is the purpose of the call center inbound calls, outbound calls, appointment-setting, etc.? Those are questions that, at the very least, require input from sales, marketing, customer service, and HR. Oh, and don’t forget to set a budget – that’s critical. Though time consuming, all of this input will help you create a successful call center.
3. DO Determine What You Have VS. What You Need
Once you know what you need to accomplish your stakeholders’ objectives, make an honest assessment of whether your existing infrastructure – phones, computers, cables, and servers – can get you there. If not, determine whether you can buy what you need within the given budget. If not, go back to your stakeholders and reevaluate.
4. DO Decide What You Need to Purchase
Once you’ve agreed on a strategic goal and a budget, it’s time to decide what to buy. Do you want to buy a packaged, off-the-shelf product? Or do you want something proprietary? Do you want to go with a VoIP or analog phone system? Do you want to use copper or fiber cables? All of these options have their advantages and disadvantages, its up to you to weigh them against your company’s end goal.
5. DON’T Start Without Testing
If you only remember one of these call center best practices, it should be this one! Nothing ever works the way it’s supposed to. Maybe you forgot a step in the process, or maybe there’s a fault in the system. Make sure that your timeline allows for plenty of testing. Your goal should be that there are no surprises on the first day of operation.
6. DO Have a Plan For Both Routine and Emergency Maintenance
Nothing frustrates your customers more than trying to contact you only to discover that you’ve fallen off the grid. In addition, the information you collect in a call center is a gold mine when it comes to sales and marketing. You need both a backup system and a plan that spells out exactly what will happen if anything – anything! – takes your call center offline.
7. DO Collaborate With HR on Agent Training
You know what the agents need to know. HR knows how to accomplish that. Work together to figure out the best approach to training.
Starting a call center from scratch is both a huge opportunity and a huge challenge. But with the right call center best practices in your pocket, company goals, and the right strategic plan, it can be the project that boosts your career to the next level.