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How To Select A Call Center Service

September 11th, 2013 by admin

In the small and medium sized business realm, outbound phone rooms and inbound call centers are not just for toner sales or mail order catalogue companies. Any business that has one or more employees that spend most of their day on the phone talking to customers or prospects has a "call" or "contact center" already without even knowing it. A call center exclusively uses telephones to communicate with customers and prospects. Contact centers use both phone and electronic media like "chat", email, instant messaging, social media, etc.) Many small businesses funnel inbound customer service and sales calls to the appropriate employees through an auto-attendant on their in-house business phone system. The same businesses task their inside sales people with outbound calling duties using their existing desk phones, voicemail and CRM (customer relationship management) software tools. These older ways of handling inbound and outbound calling with a simple office phone system can work just fine for companies with high profit margins and low call volume requirements. But when a company starts looking at lower margins and higher call volumes due to an evolving and competitive marketplace, they then need to bring in organized and integrated contact center solutions to maintain the profitability they need to stay in business.

Write Out Your Call Flows

Before speaking with any independent call center consultant or vendor, a business owner or manager needs to inventory their contact center needs on paper. Details that need to be written out in a narrative and/or flow chart format will show all different kinds or call flows (how calls enter or leave your current systems) and call touch points (which people, software or databases do the calls interact with?) Include the following: Who's Talking to Whom - In either outbound or inbound calling a business will generally have three different groups of people that will need to interface with the customer or prospect. Level 1 phone employees are generally paid to either handle simple, transactional calls or screen potential outbound called prospects. Level 2 phone are the "managers" that angry inbound callers always insist on speaking with or the "closers" on outbound sales calls. Other SMEs (subject matter experts) are often needed to be connected to customers and prospects with very unique needs. Having a SME immediately available for a call increases overall efficiency by making "single call resolution" a very real possibility. In addition to having different groups of employees available to speak with any customer or prospect it's also important to have mapped out what different "groups" of customers or prospects your employees might find themselves talking to. Finally, in addition to understanding "who's talking to whom" it's important to map out "how" they are "talking". Does the conversation start out as a "chat" session on your company website? Is some other conversation taking place via Twitter, Facebook or email? Can a conversation initiated in the electronic realm provide for easy escalation to a direct phone call - and can all the details of the "chat session" be passed to the live operator? Many consultants and vendors label all this "who's talking to whom (and how)?" business "Unified Communications" or simply "UC". Whether you call it all unified communications or simply "this is what I need to be able to do better & cheaper", having it all penciled out before you get on the phone with a call center consultant or vendor will save you both time, money, headaches and "buyer's remorse" down the road.
  • Support Assets - Every business generally has three groups of employees: salespeople that sell the businesses widgets, widget makers that make the widgets sold and owners that spend the profit from the widgets sold. Some businesses have a fourth group, systems support employees that specifically support the systems that the widget sellers and widget makers use while creating and selling widgets. Many other businesses do not have systems support employees because they were too expensive to keep through the last business downturn. If your business does or does not have extra employees around that can support the different call center systems that you have available to you - you'll definitely want to note that prior to getting on the phone with a call center consultant or vendor.
  • Profit Margins & Marginal Revenue Opportunity - Most serious call center consultants and vendors will not spend much time talking to non-business owners because the non-business owners are not in touch with the businesses profit margins ("PM") and marginal revenue opportunities ("MRO"). Understanding PM & MRO is important before learning about call center options because the options you'll consider are not free and you can't try them all at once. You'll obviously want to try the option that generates the greatest marginal revenue (profit from selling one more widget minus the cost of selling one more widget) or enhances the overall profit margin the best (the overall profit of continuing what I'm doing versus doing it a new way). Call center consultants and vendors can quickly help a business owner or decision maker understand which options make economic sense only when the PMs & MROs are shared.
  • Lists & Advertising - Who are your people calling? You can have the world's best call center but if you don't have hot prospects to call you'll still go out of business. Conversely, if your business lives off of driving inbound calls through some sort of advertising and then capturing the contact information of inbound "non-buyers" for your outbound follow-up sales efforts, you'll want to make sure that your call center systems work well with your unique list and/or advertising efforts. Some call center consultants and vendors also specialize in lists and/or driving inbound calls. If you do not have your own list generation or advertising efforts fully mastered you may wish to tap a contact center consultant or vendor that can "bundle" both call center solutions and list/advertising solutions into a more comprehensive solution offering.
  • CRM - Where is all the information about your customers and prospects that you're on the phone with? Do you have a proprietary in-house contact relationship management ("CRM") package on a network server right next to your phone system or do you use a "cloud CRM" like SalesForce.com, SugarCRM or Microsoft Dynamics®? Since your call center technology solution will be interfacing heavily with your CRM solution you'll need to know that the two systems have the ability to "play nice" with one another by know ing what the capabilities of each are and whether either offer APIs that allow each system to interface with the other.
  • Special Application Software - Your CRM is likely not the only software package that your call center system solution will need to interact with during the course of a live call center session between your employee and a customer or prospect. If you sell mortgages you may need to access a financial database. If you invoice your customers your accounting call center will need to interface with your accounting software. Make a list of all the other "special apps" that your call center solution has to successfully interact with. ATEL is the Hosted Call Center Expert. Call 858-646-4605 for a free consultation.
Special Rules - Many online sales organizations have a requirement for "3rd party verification" of sales that require your sales employee to transfer a customer or prospect to another outside party and then hangup. If you have any special requirements like this due to the nature of the way you conduct business then you'll certainly want to make that known to the call center consultants or vendors you work with and/or try to do business with call center consultants and vendors that have experience in your direct industry. A "hosted" call center solution is one where all the expensive equipment to make the call center solution work (the predictive dialer, etc.) is both owned by another company that specializes in creating and maintaining call center solution equipment AND the equipment itself is hosted somewhere other than on your business property. A "premises based" solution, as the name suggests, is a solution that your buy, own and maintain on your physical premises or business property - usually your phone closet. Businesses that are venturing into upgraded call center solution functionality like predictive dialers, etc., ALMOST ALWAYS start with hosted call center solution (AKA "renting" a solution) so they can "try before they buy". At the same time most businesses start with hosted call center solutions they also almost always want to know about and maybe even experiment with premises based call center solutions. The main reason most businesses start with a hosted solution is quick and easy economics. Most call center/predictive dialer vendors, both hosted and premises based, claim efficiency increases of up to 400% soon after implementing the solution. A four-fold efficiency increase is a big number and most business owners are going to want to see that figure proven before making a capital investment by purchasing an in-house, premises based call center solution. And why not? If a business owner gets about the same 400% productivity increase no matter whether he or she rents or buys, renting makes sense. Of course there must be a good reason that businesses make the capital investment in buying premises based call center solutions - and there is. For many businesses that have both stable and predictable call center system requirements, buying a premises based call center solution can be significantly cheaper in the long run - so long as no unexpected business events occur. Andrew Cohen Vice President

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