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What is a Call Center? (11 things you should know)

A call center is a business office, building or setting where call agents receive and process large volumes of telephone calls, often for customer service purposes.

Image of four people speaking to callers on the phone in a call center

People, phones, and computers. There are generally lots of each in a call center. A call center is a centralized location where the main goal of employees is to handle telephone calls. Customer service and sales are often the primary focuses which are achieved through inbound or outbound phone support. There are different types, sizes, and functions of call centers that are designed to meet specific business goals. Here are 11 things you should know about call centers.

1. A Call Center and a Contact Center aren’t necessarily the same thing

In short, a call center handles phone calls. A contact center handles calls as well, but they can also provide support for other communication channels like email management and live chat. However, the two terms have become fairly interchangeable and you won’t be wrong if you use one instead of the other. Learn more about the two here:  Contact Center vs. Call Center – What’s the difference?

2. Not all call centers are located overseas

When some people envision a call center, thoughts are often conjured of a call center located overseas (maybe somewhere in southeast Asia, India, or Latin America) where the people don’t look or sound like them. This isn’t necessarily a great stereotype. In fact, there are hundreds of call centers located right here in the United States. Both outsourced and in-house call centers can easily be found within the US.

3. Some businesses have their own call centers and others outsource their call center operations

Certain  large corporations have the resources necessary to create their own in-house call center division. They must dedicate significant personnel, money, and equipment to operating their in-house call center.

Many organizations, both big and small, choose to outsource their call center services to companies who make this their primary business activity. Businesses who choose to partner with a business process outsourcing company find that they save considerably both financially and in terms of time and energy when they don’t have to build out a whole division for call handling purposes. They can focus on their core business competencies and be sure that their callers are in good hands.

4. There are a couple different ways that call centers use their phones

Inbound Call Center – An inbound call center has the primary goal of handling “incoming” customer interactions. A common example of an inbound call center is one that handles order entry or help desk support. Let’s say you want to call your credit card company to make a payment. You will probably be routed to an “inbound” customer support center that can handle billing inquiries. Inbound call center agents are the ones answering the phone when a caller dials in.

Outbound Call Center – An outbound call center has the primary goal of initiating “outbound” customer interactions. A common example of an outbound call center is one that makes outbound phone calls to interact with customers. Outbound support includes such activities as telemarketing and appointment setting, market research surveys and customer loyalty programs. Outbound call center agents are the ones who do the dialing.

Multi-channel Call Center – A multi-channel call center is one that handles both inbound and outbound support.

5. The busiest time in a call center is Monday between 10 am and noon

People spend their weekends focusing on family, friends, and fun. Their to-do list stacks up, and come Monday, it’s time to get things dealt with. That’s what makes Monday the busiest day in a call center. As for the 10 am – noon window, that’s generally when people have gotten settled into their day and begin making their calls. If you need to place a call that is likely to be handled at a call center, you’re advised not to do it on a Monday or between 10 am and noon as it could result in long wait times. Heaven help you if you dial a call center on a Monday at 11 am.

6. People who work the phones in a call center are known by different titles

Some of the different titles a call center employee is known by can vary based on who you talk to or what job function they are performing. Some of the most common ways people refer to call center workers are as agents, virtual receptionists, representatives, or customer service reps.

7. Call center job descriptions vary based on the type of service being performed

If you are a call center agent, your job description can also vary, but one thing is consistent: you’ll be spending a lot of time on the phone. Inbound agents answer incoming calls, follow a script, assist callers, take messages, triage calls, and escalate callers accordingly if they are unable to reach a resolution themselves. Outbound call agents spend their time qualifying leads, scheduling appointments, trying to make sales, and reaching out to people based on a list. Depending on the types of calls being worked, the job of a call center agent can get repetitive at times, but can also be rewarding if they are service oriented individuals who enjoy helping others. There is very little downtime for call center agents, so there is always work to be done, which can make shifts go quickly.

8. The hourly wage of a call center representative is generally somewhere between $10 and $17

The salary of a call center agent, like most jobs, depends on a variety of factors like which company you work for, how long you’ve been working there, and even the complexity of the calls you handle. A normal call center salary for agents is in the range of $21,000 – $35,000. However, many call centers in the United States often have opportunities to pick up extra shifts or work overtime, which can significantly add to the paycheck. Additionally, ambitious agents who dedicate themselves to excellence have the ability to move up and become supervisors, managers, and more.

9. The main operational cost for call centers is people

About 70% of what it costs to run a call center goes towards staffing. A call center can’t function without people to handle all the calls, so it actually makes sense that this is the largest cost for businesses like this. With the cost already being so high, unfortunately,  some call centers neglect to invest in training and retaining their employees, which can lead to higher than average absenteeism and turnover. A good call center realizes that it’s in the best interest of their business, their customers, and their employees to invest even more time and money into their people to run a truly successful organization.

10. There are different types of call center companies

Businesses who provide call center service for other companies are not all created equal. Some are located in massive buildings, have rows upon rows of cubicles, will take every kind of project they can get (inbound or outbound), and lack any real specialization. Other call center outsourcing partners have more of a boutique feel. Some specialize in working with a particular industry such as financial or medical. Certain call center service providers may focus on providing excellent outbound telemarketing, or inbound help desk tech support, or pledge drives, or direct response support. Basically, there are many different types of services a call center can provide, and if you’re looking to partner with one, it’s important to find a good match.

11. Some call centers have bilingual agents

There are select call centers out there that make it a point to hire agents who are fluent in more than one language. That enables them to provide support to a wider array of callers. Businesses who have potential callers that speak a primary language other than English should strongly consider choosing a bilingual call center to provide the best customer service for their clients.

Call centers are busy environments with lots of business activity happening everywhere you turn. Hopefully this article helped clear some things up for you, but if you’ve got more questions about call centers, please give us a call and we’d be happy to chat with you.

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This entry was posted in BPO (Business Process Outsourcing), Call Center News, Outsourcing and tagged , by Brian Gabriel. Bookmark the permalink.

About Brian Gabriel

As the Call Center Manager for Sound Telecom, Brian is responsible for overseeing the daily operations and long term success of the company while managing a variety of inbound customer support programs. He also has a hand in taking care of the Solaxis services division. Prior to joining Sound Telecom, Mr. Gabriel held management positions with several prominent Internet Services companies including XpenseWise.com and Greatfood.com. Brian started his career in advertising and sales before moving to Washington State. He joined AEI Music in 1995 and supervised their international customer service department and technical support call centers. Brian received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish languages from San Diego State University. Brian teaches adult education at his church and actively supports Christian ministries.