September 11th, 2013 by adminIn 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 FlowsBefore 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.