Call Centers (Telecom Made Simple)

Call Centers
A call center is a place where calls are answered and originated, typically between a company and a customer. Call centers assist customers with requests for new service activation and help with product features and services. A call center usually has many stations for call center agents that communicate with customers. When call agents assist customers, they are typically called customer service representatives (CSRs).

Call centers use telephone systems that usually include sophisticated automatic call distribution (ACD) systems and computer telephone integration (CTI) systems. ACD systems route the incoming calls to the correct (qualified) customer service representative (CSR). CTI systems link the telephone calls to the accounting databases to allow the CSR to see the account history (usually producing a “screen-pop” of information).

Call centers are typically established as either incoming or outgoing. Seldom are they set up together. The main exception is debt collection where there are representatives making outgoing calls and other taking incoming calls. Still, in most cases, the functions are really separate although to the outside client they appear as one.

Incoming (inbound) call centers are set up primarily for some sort of customer service function such as catalogues sales, service or billing inquiries, or technical support. They may be front-ended by an interactive voice response (IVR) systems that take care of customer questions and inquiries that can be handled via computer database look-up’s or via general information recordings.

Traffic monitoring in such centers via ACD and IVR reporting is critical in order to detect and correct bottlenecks and lost calls before such situations becomes crises. Where the representatives are geographically spread, much of this analytical support may be contracted to the carrier that supplies the inbound telephone service. As small sales/service offices become less profitable and are closed, less on-site technical support is available from manufacturers/vendors, and less people are available to provide customer interface, the need for such incoming call centers increases. Consequently this type operation will flourish for some time to come even in face of the Internet.

Figure 1 list the typical costs associated with a call center used for order fulfillment. This table shows that the cost of inbound call center order fulfillment may include a minimum call processing charge in addition to a percentage of sales.

Figure 1: Cost of Inbound Call Center Service

Outbound call centers are primarily geared to two businesses: telephone sales (telemarketing) and debt collection. Many systems use special computer software that dials numbers from a database and once the call is answered passes the call off to an attendant who actually speaks to the person called. The timing of the pass off is critical. Older systems dialed a number and when answered mechanically switched the call causing significant delays between the person answering the call and the representative speaking. Many people routinely hang up on these type calls. Some outbound call centers are designed to deliver a pre-recorded message until an available CSR can be connected. Call center telemarketing services are heavily regulated in the United States and in many other countries. There may be restrictions on whom the call center can contact, the times of day calls can be originated, what the CSR can say, and what they must disclose to the prospective customer.


Sonia said...

Hmmm...this crash course for Call Center newbies is useful. This site is worth recommending. You have explained to a blind man what the color yellow looks like. LOL

Sonia Roody

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