How to Run a Call Center

Running a call center

By Aimee Bradshaw | Writer and researcher

Successful call center management is about setting clear goals, and sticking to them

There’s a right way and a wrong way to run a call center in 2020.

The wrong way is to cram as many people and phones into the smallest cubicles you can find.

What’s the right way, then? You’re in the right place to find out. By the end of the article, you’ll have a list of actionable steps that you can take to run a call center in 2020.

Paper and pen at the ready? Then let’s get started.

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How to run a call center in 2020

Make your call center your company's crowning achievement

How to Run a Call Center: Hiring and Onboarding

If engaged employees are like precious jewels, hiring and onboarding them is like making jewelry. It’s up to you to identify the rough diamonds, polish them up, and position them where they add value.

But first-rate call agents are in short supply, and employee turnover is a sticking point for even the biggest call centers.

Here are three tips on how to get hiring and onboarding right:

Hire Remote Agents to Broaden the Pool of Qualified Candidates

Some branches of a typical business work best when they’re run from a fixed location (think IT Support or R&D). But your call center doesn’t necessarily have to be one of them. So-called ‘virtual call centers’, in which geographically distributed agents work remotely, are gaining popularity.

Structuring your call center like this means you’ll never want for qualified recruits. Why? Because if you allow people to work anywhere, you can recruit them from anywhere!

As well as improving the quality and quantity of qualified candidates, hiring remote workers is an excellent way to boost morale and overall call center productivity. They may also have location-specific industry knowledge and cultural sensitivity that’ll work to your advantage.

▶ Read more: Why Use Virtual Call Center Software?

Set Realistic Expectations for Applicants and New Hires

Let’s face it: not everyone is cut out to work in a call center. Telephone sales and customer service can be gruelling, especially when there’s a mismatch of skills or expectations. Even if someone has the right combination of grit, tact and charisma to thrive, they’ll still have days when building rapport with a rock seems easier than keeping a lead on the line.

That’s why it’s important to give job applicants and new hires a realistic sense of how challenging their jobs will actually be. Throw them in at the deep end (with armbands!) with challenging assignments from day one, and gradually give them more responsibility until they’re working at full capacity.

Remember, most companies market a rose-tinted representation of themselves to prospective employees. But the greater the gap between that vision and the reality, the harder it is to hold on to your best people. If you close that gap early on by managing their expectations, you’ll find the best people will want to stay with you.

Take a backwards approach to designing your onboarding experience

When it comes to designing your employee onboarding experience, a common mistake is to focus too much on content and too little on who it’s for. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of a typical new starter and think about what would help you if you were joining a new company.

For example, tech-savvy millennials outnumber just about everyone in today’s workforce, so making them complete 200 hours of Microsoft Word training will result in glazed expressions and letters of resignation. A much more effective use of their time would be to make them complete hands-on training with your call center software. They won’t have used it before if they have no prior call center experience, and even if they do, they’ll need to learn how it’s configured for your particular needs. From their perspective, call center software training sessions are an excellent opportunity to ask questions and learn in a safe and supportive setting.

Top tip: When designing an online training syllabus, you can’t go wrong with the Duolingo model of learning:

  1. Make training modules bite-sized
  2. Make them interactive
  3. Implement a clear progression system
  4. Build in small, frequent rewards for progressing

▶ Read more: Essential Employee Onboarding Tips for 2020

How to Run a Call Center: Equipment Setup

A decade ago, this would have been where we bombarded you with technobabble and sent you to sleep detailing the differences between EPABX-based and Server-based VoIP architecture (see, you’re already nodding off).

Back then, if you wanted to set up a call center, you had to do it from scratch. That meant buying tons of costly equipment, installing it, and maintaining it for 5-10 years until it needed replacing.

Nowadays, call center software does all that – and then some.

The only hardware you need is a laptop, a headset and a microphone.

Call Center Equipment Checklist

  • Laptop
  • Headset
  • Microphone
  • Call center software
  • Seriously, that’s everything you need…
  • …if you’re reading this on a computer, you’re already a quarter of the way there…
  • …and we can help you get a great deal on call center software!
Compare Prices from Leading Business Call Center Software Providers
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How to Run a Call Center: Managing Your Team

Stick to the Script…but not too Rigidly

Leonardo DiCaprio may not have won an Oscar for The Wolf of Wall Street, but his portrayal of white collar criminal Jordan Belfort was arguably the best of his career. Not convinced? Look no further than this scene.

Just to be clear, Belfort’s bullying is a masterclass in how not to conduct a cold call. But it’s also a prime example of how call scripts can help systematize service and land sales.

Every great call center script has five key characteristics:

  1. It focuses on the impact to your customer
  2. It is conversational
  3. It is confident
  4. It is well-practiced
  5. It is flexible

If you do opt to use a script, make sure you mix things up. Scripts get old, fast; subjecting agents and leads to the same spiel week in week out is a recipe for low morale, ineffectual customer service, and high turnover.

Next Steps

Other than investing in staff, nothing beats the return on investment you get from using call center software. The right solution will add value, whether you need five phone lines or 500. With it, and the tips presented in this article, you’ll be in a great place to get the most out of your call center.

For quick quotes on call center solutions, use our free supplier comparison service.

Aimee profile image
Aimee Bradshaw Writer and researcher

Aimee is Expert Market’s resident telephone systems, point of sale, and field service software go-to. If she’s not writing about business products, you’ll find her daydreaming about Dorset beaches.

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