How to Start a Call Center: Processes, Tips, and Tools
Businesses often outsource their customer service to meet the needs of their customers without having to set up an entire department to handle it. It’s a great way to cut costs while having a professional team dedicated to providing excellent service to your customers. Phone support isn’t going anywhere anytime soon since it is still the most popular channel of any age group.
That’s why call centers still play such an important role in building a good customer experience. Your call center needs to hold a high degree of customer service at all times to foster excellent customer relationships. Customers still expect an agent at call to be helpful, knowledgeable, friendly and patient.
Call center agents can handle multiple companies at the same time which allows the center to take on many clients simultaneously. Call centers typically charge by call or per hour which includes all of their overhead costs like rent, wages, equipment, etc.
Building your own call center is a large project that requires strategic planning. Here are the processes, tips and tools to start your own Call center.
First and foremost you will need to decide a budget for your call center. Realistically how much capital you are able to invest in starting your call center? You will need to compile your monthly income sources along with your fixed costs and variable expenses to get a better idea how much money you can spend.
The budget will help you determine how your call center will operate. The details you will need to figure out with your budget are:
- The number of employees you will hire
- The size and location of your center
- The types of technology and tools you will need
With this data you may determine that building an on-site call center isn't financially viable, and that will help you decide on a remote workforce option. Make a list of your initial investment and a second list of your recurring costs to keep your center running. There’s a couple types of call centers:
- Outbound - lead generation and sales
- Inbound - customer support
Customer support is just as important as lead generation and sales even though it doesn’t bring in revenue, it will increase your customer’s positive experience with your brand which will strengthen customer retention, bring in more good online reviews and increase customer referrals.
2. Determine number of employees needed
You don’t want to just take a wild guess as to how many employees you will need as you will be setting yourself up for trouble. This will be based on individual needs but you could predict how many you will initially need. You could hire as you grow but you want to make sure you are initially set up with the right number - not too many where you are paying more salaries than needed or not too few where you are not able to provide excellent service.
Your contacts with your client should give an expected volume of interactions and how long each may take. Interactions may include calls, live chat, emails, SMS or social media. You and your team should sit down and run the estimated numbers to come up with predictions you all agree on. If additional help is needed, hire an experienced consultation to assist you with this.
You could also use an Erlang Calculator to help you with figure these numbers out.
3. Legalities - the not so fun stuff
You want to make sure you set up your call center correctly including all the legalities. The requirements will be based on the country and state you are operating out of so definitely check on what is required in your area but these requirements are what’s needed in the U.S. You will need to first choose a business structure. Before you open your business you will also need to register for a number of state and federal taxes. In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can obtain your EIN through the IRS website for free.
4. Financial stuff
You will want to open up a business bank account and credit card(s) of your choosing. You also need to set up business accounting which is crucial for recording your business expenses and sources of income to understand the financial performance of your business. When you keep accurate and detailed records it will greatly simplify your annual tax filing.
5. Permits and licenses
Again, the permit and licenses needed will be determined on the location you are doing business so check on what’s needed in your area. Failure to obtain necessary permits and licenses will result in large fines, or possibly cause your business to be shut down.
In the U.S. 33 states require a special license to operate a telemarketing or call company. To find out what is needed for your business licensing in your state, check out the Telemarketing Laws page from sba.gov.
To find out more about local licenses and permits:
- Check with the clerk’s office in your town, city or county.
- Ask for assistance from one of the associations listed in: US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
You will also need to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) that confirms that your business has met all building codes, zoning laws and any government regulations. If you will be leasing the location, confirm with the landlord they have obtained a CO.
6. Business Insurance
Your business will need insurance in order to safely and lawfully operate. Your business insurance will protect your company financially for an event of a covered loss. There are many types of insurance policies that are designed for diverse types of businesses with different risks. General Liability Insurance is the most common for small businesses so if you are unsure which to get, it’s safe to start with that one.
It’s also a good idea to get Workers' Compensation Coverage, it may even be required for your business in your area.
7. Choose technology
You will want to make an educated decision on what types of technology you will need rather than just getting all the same technology other call centers have. Some things to consider when decision making:
- The information you will need and where you will store it.
- The services you will offer, for example, inbound and outbound calls, SMS, live chat, social media.
- How will you route your calls?
- Do you need a CRM?
- How many stations do you need?
When you decide what technologies you will need you will then want to figure out how they will work together for a smooth process. Here is a list of basic technology a call center will need:
- Cloud Solutions
- Desktops for each agent
- Headsets for each agent
- Call recording system
- Call center software
- ACD routing (call routing)
- Predictive Dialer (more important if you will have an outbound call center)
- Workforce Management (WFM) and Workforce Optimization (WFO)
- Customer Relations Management System (CRM)
- Multichannel communications
The above are the basics you will need to get your call center up and running smoothly. There is more technology you will want in order to optimize your center’s performance and offer better service to your clients. Some of these added technologies are:
- Customer Surveys (CSAT and NPS surveys)
- Quality Monitoring
- Knowledge Management System
- Agent Performance Management
8. Hiring and training awesome people
You want to cherry pick the staff that you hire as a great team will assist in creating a great company. You want to ensure your staff has the attitude, values and work ethic that matches the company culture you are waiting to create. Agents that have an upbeat positive attitude and are committed to providing exceptional customer service will increase your company's success rate.
Training your team to use the technology to ensure they have a seamless workflow is important and will help avoid any stops in production. Don’t assume the agents you hire know how to provide excellent service - train them how to.
9. Company Culture
You want to create your company culture from the start. Create a company mission statement and ensure your team knows it - have it in places it will get seen daily. If you want a light and fun atmosphere then you will have to create it and model it. Ensure every new hire knows about your company culture and what is expected. Do you want a no office politics policy - let it be known from the beginning. Whatever the culture you want your business to have it is your responsibility to have it be known and make sure it matches what you put out.
Having a clear marketing plan and budget to bring in clients is essential to the success of your company. Hiring a marketing company that has the knowledge and expertise is a good idea to ensure your marketing efforts pay off, quickly.
Sum it up
Starting your call center will take a lot of work and strategic planning to ensure it runs smoothly and is successful. You want to make sure you provide exceptional service to your clients to make a great name for your brand from the start. When your business is known for providing great service, the word will get around in the form of customer online reviews and referrals which is free marketing, so excellent service pays off in more ways than one!
If you are looking to hire a call center to handle your business needs, contact Awesome CX today and we will show you how awesome we are!