What is a Call Center? A Modern Primer
Call Center Introduction
A call center is an office where a company’s inbound calls are received, or outbound calls are made. Call centers are increasingly popular in today’s society, where many companies have centralized customer service and support functions. Call centers employ many staff in customer service, sales and support functions.
Call centers are often large offices staffed with representatives who either make or receive phone calls. Depending on the size of the call center, a single office could have anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of telephone staff. Depending on the needs of the company, call centers can make either incoming or outgoing calls, or both.
Some call centers focus on answering inbound calls, such as a bank that gives out a toll-free number for customers needing assistance. In that case, call center representatives can give account balances and take loan applications over the phone. Other call centers focus on outbound calls, such as a survey company. In that case, survey representatives make outbound calls to ask people to answer survey questions over the phone.
Almost every company or enterprise has a need for call center. Call centers provide a number of advantages to companies. By centralizing telephone-based service and support in one location, companies can easily adjust staffing to match call volume. Call centers can be located almost anywhere, allowing companies to take advantage of time zones and cheaper labor rates in different states and countries. Call centers also centralize the technology needs of companies, allowing major telecommunications setups to be installed in a small handful of call centers instead of a number of smaller offices, making upgrades and training easier to complete.
Inbound and Outbound Call Management
Many call centers use a number of different technologies to help improve performance and customer experience. Inbound call centers often use automatic call distribution (ACD), in which incoming calls are assigned to representatives on the order they are received, or assigned based on their skills.
Inbound call centers also use a technology called Interactive Voice Response (IVR), in which an automated recorded voice presents a menu to the caller to choose from by dialing numbers or speaking the choice.
Outbound call centers may use Dialer technologies. Dialers can automate the outbound dialing for representatives in which a list of telephone numbers are entered into the Dialer, and Dialer will dial those numbers automatically either after the agent has completed the previous call, or continue dialing the numbers on the list until a number answers and while the representative is waiting, in which case the Dialer automatically connects the answered call to the representative.
Workforce Optimization (WFO) and Workforce Management (WFM)
Call centers usually utilize call recording and monitoring (WFO), in which customer calls are recorded and monitored by quality assurance staff to ensure that phone representatives meet customer needs. Quality assurance and agent performance scoring are critical functions in improving the performance of call center representatives. There are software technologies and applications, called workforce management (WFM), used to effectively schedule call center agents based on the volume of calls during the day, week or month. This schedule management will prevent over- or under-staffing the call center.
Other technologies, such as Performance Management (CCPM), are available to call center managers to define their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), measure, report and manage the performance of their agents and call centers. In recent years industry vendors have provided to call center software technologies that can perform speech and/or text analytics. Analytics technologies can assist in automating and optimizing work required to monitor, measure and qualify call center transactions and/or agent interactions with customers.
The collection of all of the above technologies, called Workforce Optimization (WFO) and Workforce Management (WFM), can be used to automate and optimize the call center transactions, functions, customer interactions and quality-compliance management. Call center technology evolves constantly, helping call center staff assist customers more efficiently and effectively.
Hierarchy of Call Center and Enterprise Technologies
Call Center Outsourcing
Call centers have been increasingly popular as outsourcing increases. With outsourcing, companies contract out some functions to other companies. As it can be expensive to maintain call center equipment and staff, some companies choose to outsource their telephone functions to an external call center. In this case, external call center staff can be trained to answer phone calls from a number of different companies.