In today’s professional world, customers want immediate response and timely results. Often times, it is difficult to keep up with the demand being placed on small business owners. Small companies can become especially frustrated because they do not employ enough workers to perform the company’s tasks and interact with the customers at the same time. Fortunately, there is a solution. Companies can develop or outsource a call center, or a centralized place where all of the calls to a company are handled.

Q: What will a call center do for my small business?
A: Call centers help to save employees time so that they can improve their productivity and increase profit. For example, consider a bakery manager. The phone might be ringing off the hook with orders for goods. However, the more time spent on the phone is less manpower being used to make delicious cookies or cupcakes. In this situation, a call center could receive phone calls for the bakery and take orders. The employees could then bake the orders without being interrupted by other phone orders. The call center could also receive customer feedback that could lead to improving the business.

Q: How many people should my call center include?
A: Of course there is no one answer to this question. Every business has different needs. One variable is the call duration. Some businesses may have extended conversations with their customers to design custom packages. Others may be straightforward orders and the calls last only seconds. Another variable is the frequency of calls. How many calls are expected for a half-hour’s time? If the answer is in the hundreds, the business is certainly going to need more than one or two agents at the call center. The Erlang calculator was designed to determine how many agents are recommended and appropriate in different situations.

Q: What services do I want the call center to perform for my small business?
A: The two major categories of call center services are customer service and sales. The latter is responsible for scheduling appointments, taking orders and interacting with marketers who wish to advertise with a company. Customer service support makes itself available for feedback from customers. With some businesses they may act as dispatchers, improving communication between employees and making sure each is aware of their personal goals for the day. Customer service support doesn’t need to communicate exclusively with phones. They may also handle the e-mail for the company.

Q: With so many options available, how do I determine which call center would be the best fit for my business?
A: There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” call center – you want to work with a call center who understands your business and designs a custom plan that best meets your needs. When initially meeting with potential call centers, they should provide you with information regarding ATA (average time to answer), AHT (average hold time), personalized scripting and statistics.

Q: What is the overall goal in hiring a call center for my small business?
A: In a single sentence: A call center will serve as the primary point of contact for a business. The point of hiring a call center is to make interactions with the business convenient and effective. Not all providers are created equal and finding the appropriate call center takes intense research. Before settling on a provider, consider the impact it will have on the company’s image.