Managing relations with existing and prospect customers is one of the most important parts of a business' work. At a time when conversations and transactions are mostly taking place online, customers need to feel that they can trust and rely on the brands they're using. To respond to their expectations, businesses need to show that they're on-hand to listen and respond should customers have any questions or requests.
New phone technologies allow us to establish better contact with existing and prospect customers, as well as enabling businesses to offer customised customer pathways that are more relevant to consumers. First things first, what is a call centre?
What is a call centre?
A call centre is defined by the set of technical, equipment and human resources implemented by a business to manage its telephone activity, whether it's incoming or outgoing. The call centre is therefore the MVP department when it comes to managing relations between a business and its existing and/or prospect customers. This management can pass through various key activities: The greeting switchboard, after-sales service, technical support, claims, not to mention customer loyalty generation and prospecting. It can be entirely managed in-house or partially subcontracted to an external company.
Call centre tools
With the extinction of the rraditional telephony network (RTC) and the increasing democracy of WebRTC technologies, call centres now operate largely through VoIP. This switch to using the internet for phone calls has enabled the development of countless features.
Key contact centre features
In order to be a performance-boosting tool for the business, the call centre should respond to challenges across 3 levels:
On a business level: Enabling your customers and prospects to reach you as quickly as possible.
On an agent level: Allowing them to manage their call volume and to work in optimal conditions so that they can organise their workload and tasks.
On a manager level: Training and supervising agents under optimal conditions whilst analysing their performance.
To respond to these challenges, call centre software must offer a certain number of key features: Unlimited calls, time-based routing, interactive voice response, call queue customisation, CRM integration, two-way listening, call recording, real-time monitoring, etc.
Based on the specialist field of the call centre (incoming calls, outgoing calls, or both), some platforms will offer more or fewer features to respond to business' needs.
3 key specialities of customer services can be identified
The customer support centre: Incoming calls
Whether it concerns general calls, like those for after-sales services or more specific calls concerning technical issues, the “customer support” call centre is focused on incoming calls from customers or potential customers. This type of service includes essential features, including: Opening hours, call queue management, Interactive Voice Response, call transfers, etc.
The customer relations centre
The customer relations centre handles much more than just incoming customer calls. Its agents are tasked with contacting customers themselves, making sure they're satisfied, asking their questions and, ultimately, ensuring their loyalty. Goals of upselling or cross-selling may also be defined. Calls are programmed based on the use (or the lack of use) of a service, in advance of the renewal date for a subscription or any rule that the business finds pertinent for taking care of the business' customer relations. To correctly fulfil their missions, the agents of a customer relation centre must have access to customer's call and interaction history, and they must be able to comment on calls and transfer them, etc.
The commercial call centre
A call centre may also be specialised in managing outgoing phone calls, supporting commercial activity. Agents will be tasked with calling a prospect base, qualifying contacts and even making appointments with a sales agent or finalising the sale themselves, based on their training level. This type of call centre benefits from features such as click-to-call, automatic call launches, call recording, CRM integrations, etc.
What's the difference between a call centre and a contact centre?
We've been hearing about for a while now. They're platforms that centralise all of a business' communication channels for interacting with its customers: telephone, emails, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), instant messaging solutions, chat, etc.
Call center organisation
The resources needed to manage a call centre
When it comes to managing a high-performance contact centre, the golden rule is to recruit competent agents who can efficiently handle calls, in reasonable time frames and with a positive attitude over the phone. Of course, advance selection is key when it comes to recruiting employees with the right attitude and the basic knowledge and skills needed. Training will then be essential in order to ensure that these employees fulfil their potential performances: Training on the business' products and services, listening skills, learning to handle difficult calls, etc. It's up to the managers to identify any potential challenges and to use the top-performing team members as examples.
What role does a call agent play?
For an incoming call centre, the primary role of the call agent is to listen to their caller in order to better understand the reason for their call. For this, they may reformulate or ask further questions to determine the request as best they can. Only then can they try to respond as optimally and as quickly as possible, or they can transfer the call to someone better able to help if it's a sensitive or more technical subject. Lastly, if they can't answer straight away, the call agent may escalate the ticket internally for resolution by another team, and then get back in touch with the client once the solutions has been solved and implemented.
In an outgoing call centre, the role of the call agent will depend on their responsibilities, defined by the company. That said, their ability to listen and understand the person they're talking to will always remain essential in order to ensure successful calls.
The strategies to implement to lead a high-performance call centre
Agent training, internal collaboration, telephone greeting message customisation, call processing, call statistics, etc… Here are the .
How to reduce call centre costs
Over the years, call centres have become an important feature for businesses' daily operations, and as they've grown in significance, the costs of them have proportionally increased. In order to reduce their costs, businesses can choose from various options (occasionally compatible):
Adopt an integrated platform, boosting their agents' efficiency;
Employ call agents who work from home;
Outsource calls to an external call centre;
Outsource the call centre to a country where workforce costs are cheaper (Northern Africa, Senegal, Mauritius, Madagascar, Eastern Europe, etc.);
Switch to a tele-prospecting platform to select independent telephone prospecting agents.