Call Centers: What Are They?
There is a basic short answer to what a call center is, and it is a place where incoming/outgoing calls are managed for an organization or company. These centers focus greatly on representatives and interpersonal connections with customer bases, but the systems are typically heavily automated to expedite the process. The entire center is designed to run like an intricate machine, from handling high volumes of calls during their operating hours and to log each conversation accordingly. There are few limits to what kind of group or company might utilize these facilities, from the general telemarketing campaigners to the largest of multi-national corporations. Two terms commonly associated with a service like this are: contact center and virtual call center.
Different Types of Contact Centers
Below you will find both a detailed list of the varying types of call centers, but even more than this, the work that representatives and agents within these specific centers do.
→ Inbound Call Centers
This is a common variety of the centers, because it usually deals with customer service locations. These facilities handle the incoming calls from customers that have questions, concerns or complaints about a company, its products or its services.
The primary difference between this type of center and many of the other varieties is the rise and fall of call volume. There is no set amount of calls that a representative is necessarily going to be asked to make in a day; it just depends on the amount of callers phoning into the center on any given day. Sometimes the volume of these calls could trickle to almost nothing, while other times there could be a queue of callers awaiting each available representative working.
→ Outbound Call Centers
Agents that work in outbound telemarketing companies are given a virtual list of calls that they are expected to make every day. While it might seem like the bulk of these calls seem to be telemarketing and cold sales, this isn’t necessarily always the truth.
There are two common examples of when the typical sales approach to outgoing calls isn’t present. There are many times where a company is required to notify their existing customers about a potential issue, brief cessation of service or other pertinent information. There are often calling campaigns from a company to new customers to give them an opportunity to learn more about all of the services included with what they have signed up for, or what they might yet be missing out on.
Yet another example of the non-sales outgoing calls that are frequently made is the follow-up calls from a company to a customer. This is typically to ensure that the problem or concern that they had has been resolved completely. This same type of call might be made to remind existing customers about a bill that has become due, or a friendly reminder about a past due balance with the company.
Classification of Contact Centers
→ Local or Domestic Contact Centers
Domestic centers are designed to handle any volume of calls coming from within the same country as the call center is located. For example, agents that are working in a center in India are only taking or making calls within India.
There is a lot of work for those who wish to find work in a call center within India, based on the ever-present need for those who can speak various languages. Those who don’t speak very good English still have a place within this niche of business speaking the tongues that they were raised on, such as: Tamil, Bengali, Marathi and Hindi.
→ Worldwide or International Call Center
International companies often employ this type of call center to handle the biggest volume of their incoming/outgoing call needs. To follow the similar given example, a center would be deemed international if it were based in India (or any country) and called out or took calls from many other countries through that center.
There are plenty of benefits to working in an environment like this, especially for those Indian people that are looking to expand their understanding of new languages, as well as their own fluency with each of these languages.
You can further classify call center into two groups based on who owns/operates them:
→ In House
The term “in-house” means that the center itself is owned and operated exclusively by the company it serves. Typically, these centers focus on customer service needs of existent clients, but it might also have a role in cold-calling in an attempt to gain new business.
There are perks to having a set up like this, which mainly involves the kind of relationship that could exist in between the company and its call center. This allows for any issues between these two factions to be quickly dealt with without the distance causing even more friction and difficulty.
→ Outsourced Call Centers
This is a much cheaper solution for most company needing call centers to be operational for any reason. Sometimes in-house operations can be very costly for a number of reasons, but mainly the time and money spent training new hires and building adequate facilities for them to work in. With outsourcing, companies are handing over the bulk of this work to an already established facility with a trained staff.
You might find that sometimes the outsourcing never leaves the country that the company itself is in, but in many other cases, it can be sent out half a world away. Overseas operations are getting more and more common as American and European countries are commonly outsourcing their telephony business to countries like the Philippines and India.
Further classifications for call centers can be made based on the size of the facility.
Virtual Call Centers (or Home-Based Call Centers)
More often than not this kind of “call center” is just a one-person operation. This is not at all a business, but usually an employee for a telecommuting position as a telemarketer or customer service representative. This kind of employee arrangement could be ideal for cold sale calling, customer service inbound calls, or even informative campaigns about a company’s services.
There are certain advantages to someone working in the virtual call center environment. First and foremost, they get to work from the comfort of their home, which is a distinct advantage in and of itself. This reduces the costs for the company funding this type of employment as well, as they are not responsible for a physical building, or general overhead costs associated with caring for an entire staff of agents.
The Sizes of Call Centers
There are typically three classifications when it comes to the categorized size of a call center. These three categories are small, medium and large. The position of a call center in one of these three designations depends solely on the number of agents that a center employs to handle incoming or outgoing calls. More specifically, the size is based on available seats (or stations). This is a direct indication of how many agents are able to work on a call workload at any given time.
Small centers typically cannot simultaneously work more than ten agents at a time. Medium centers are not able to work more than 50 agents at any one time, but this could be as few as 30. Less than this and it falls into a gray area between small and medium classifications.
What are classified as large centers typically handle multiple clients under the same roof. In addition, large centers are also able to divide themselves into operations that handle both domestic clientele and international interests. These centers are most known for working around the clock, and can typically employ around 500 agents over the various shifts.
Small call centers don’t usually deal in a high volume of outgoing or inbound calls, but medium and large centers often have to employ automated systems to help contend with the high levels of calls that have to be taken or made. For outgoing calls, computer systems such as predictive dialers or power dialers ensure that each agent is automatically fed the next call when their current call has completed. ACDs are employed for incoming calls. Apart from the average agent, large and medium centers employ specialized positions for training, supervision, tech support and more.
Classifications of Communication Methods:
Telephonic and Web-Enabled Calls
While people tend to think of these centers as a room full of people chatting loudly on call after call, but that might not be entirely accurate. While telephony still has a role in the world of outgoing and incoming customer communication, real time chatting online and email communications have taken a more prevalent role in recent years.
For this reason, call centers are rarely even called call centers anymore. They are now more commonly referred to as contact centers, which directly reflects the various communication outlets that are employed to communicate with existing or potential new customers.
There are certain centers that are able to provide real-time online support to customers and these are classified as web-enabled call centers. The telephonic call centers are limited to only using telephones to engage customers in an outgoing or incoming basis.
This was all that you might need to know about the different kinds of call centers that are out there, and the ways that they are classified from one another. If you found this useful, below you can look and find more detailed information about more specific activities of certain call centers.
Inbound Call Centers: How Do They Work?
This type of center is where agents (or call center executives) answer incoming calls on telephone lines from real people who have questions, concerns or complaints. The objective is to provide a solution to this customer, whatever that solution might need to be.
Inbound centers are often operating twenty four hours a day. You can liken this to the toll free numbers that we can all recognize from places like our bank or service providers.
To better understand how these facilities work, we should look at an example of a telephone company that has a toll-free number for their customers to call for support.
This is how the call center works:
The customer needs support or assistance of some kind, and they use the toll free number that the telephone company has provided. This call is then sent to a center where an agent answers.
The system is designed to break one telephone number into several lines running simultaneously. This allows multiple people to be engaged with the same telephone number at the same time, even though this isn’t a common occurrence with normal telephone usage.
This call could go to any available outsourced customer support agent working through the call center at any given time. As you have assuredly experienced, some callers might find themselves waiting in a queue for an available agent if the call volume is high. When an agent ends a call that they are on, they automatically are sent the next caller in the line.
The agent is then trained to listen to the problem or concern the customer has and the various means of managing/resolving that situation.
This resolution might be something that the agent is able to do with the computer information in front of them, or they are forced to write out an incident report of sorts that gets pushed back to the resolution teams acting as a second line of offense for customer care. If the agent is unable to resolve a problem themselves, they are typically required to give the calling customer an idea of how long it will take to fix the problem they have and then end the call.
Types of Inbound Call Centers:
Typically there are two types of inbound call centers, international and domestic.
Domestic centers are within the same country as the customers who are calling in. International centers are often located in a country different from the general customer base, and represent a multi-national client.
International centers have more credentials that they are looking for in their new hires. This begins with the number of languages that a potential agent can fluently speak. Other considerations include their general grasp of spoken word and the accent with which that person normally speaks.
Outbound Call Centers: How Do They Work?
This is a location in which call center agents make outgoing calls to people and customers.
There are many reasons that outbound centers might exist. While many of these might exist to offer cold sale campaigns to sell products or services to prospective buyers, this isn’t always the case. There are several other purposes for these locations, including reminder calls about balances on an account, welcome calls to new customers detailing the specifics of what the company offers, or follow up calls to existing customers about recent problem resolutions.
There is no better way to understand how these centers work than to walkthrough an example of one. For this exercise, we will follow a telephone provider that makes various types of outgoing calls to customers.
Some of the automatically fed calls to the agents are welcome conversations to new customers who just joined up with the telephone service. These calls are typically short, but are meant to be informative about the appreciation of the company and a more detailed explanation of the features included with the new service.
Bill collections will be another time of automatically dialed call. These agents will be required to remind customers of an outstanding balance, upcoming payments that are scheduled, or overdue accounts.
There will be another crew of agents that are designated to call customers and resolve their service problems and technical issues. This team is assigned these tasks based on incoming calls that could not be resolved, and this team is tasked with finding a suitable solution and reaching out to the customer awaiting an answer.
Cold calls are also going to be a part of what this company is going to do, because acquiring new business is important to staying afloat. This team will call people and businesses to describe the services and features offered with signing up, and finding out their feelings about their current provider.
There are a lot of hats that outgoing call center agents have to wear. It isn’t uncommon for people to be moved from one department to another as their skill set expands, which means that the employees need to be able to handle a completely new dynamic in their workplace at any given time.
Types of These Centers
There are also domestic and international centers, much like you would find with inbound call centers. This is categorized by both the location of the call center itself, and the locations of the customers that are being called from the center.