When you call a business and reach a courteous, seemingly scripted customer service representative, you generally feel like you’re speaking with a bigger company. For good or ill, these are the companies that have the resources to man such an operation. Despite the sometimes negative experience associated with calling customer service, deploying one for your small business can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and, ultimately, your bottom line. You just have to take the time to do things right.
In this guide, I will show small business owners how easy it is to set up their own customer service call center and benefit from the professional level of service typically reserved for more established organizations. By employing a call center to handle some of your calls, you can ease your personal customer service responsibilities, run your business better, make your customers happier, and save a lot of money in the process.
First things first: You aren’t running a call center, you’re hiring one
This statement is true for large organizations and start-ups alike. Unless you have the resources and skills necessary to run your own call center, it’s best to seek out an established company to provide service on your behalf. There are countless companies providing answering services for small businesses, companies that exist solely to provide telephone customer service for other organizations.
There are plenty of reasons why outsourcing the call center aspect of customer service makes sense:
- Call center equipment is expensive. It may be easy to have one person set up in your office to take calls, but once you need to include call routing, scripting, integrated software, and call distribution, it quickly becomes more sophisticated. Established call centers have this all taken care of.
- Hiring employees is costly and time consuming. If you hired an assistant to take your customer service calls, there’s a good chance you would pay him or her more in one day than it would cost you to use a call center for a month. Plus you have to deal with scheduling, benefits, taxes, and all the other nuances of bringing on an employee.
- Managing a call center takes skills you don’t have. Handling call volume, staffing, quality assurance, software customization, etc. – these are things call centers deal with every day. If you tried do take all of this on you would quickly be over your head.
- You’re best at running your business. As the above points indicate, it takes a lot to run a call center. You’re doing what you do because you’re good at it, so taking time away from your core responsibilities has a direct impact on your business performance. Handing this work off to another company allows you to stay focused.
So find a company that has experience working with small businesses, preferably experience with businesses in your niche, and enlist them to operate your customer service call center.
Next: Customize the service and make sure it meets your customers’ needs
Here is where a lot of businesses mess up. Not taking the time to make sure your new call center actually works for your business is a recipe for disaster. If you send your callers to a call center that is unprepared, you’re going to be the next example of customer service outsourcing gone wrong. You can’t treat the vendor as a separate company who is solely responsible for meeting your customers’ needs. That isn’t their job. Their job is to perform your customer service processes in a more cost-effective and professional manner.
The key word in that last center is your; they’re performing your customer service processes. So before you can use them effectively you need to know what you customer service processes are and ensure they address the issues faced by your customers. If you run a small computer repair business and callers are constantly checking the status of their repair, then you should have a system in place for keeping track of job statuses. With that system in place, you can easily make it available via the web so that your customer service call center can access it. Just like that, they’re performing a simple task that you would normally be doing in your office.
Another example is appointment scheduling. If you have clients calling you to schedule appointments, don’t hire a call center just to take a message; use a cloud calendar system and give your call center access, allowing them to schedule appointments for you based on your availability.
The above examples can be summarized as follows:
a.) Set up systems ahead of time that address the types of calls and inquiries you receive
b.) Work with your call center to integrate the systems into their operation
There’s certainly tweaking that needs done in order to get things right, but repeating the above steps for the different situations that arise will ensure your call center remains in line with the rest of your business.
Lastly: Take time to listen and refine
While it is ideal to set up your call center and let it go, it would be irresponsible not to check in and make sure things are running as planned. You owe it to yourself, to your customers, and to your call center to do your part in ensuring the success of your customer service operation. By listening to calls, getting feedback from customers, and working with your vendor to make improvements where necessary, you can continually improve the effectiveness of your call center.
And there you have it, you’re on your way to providing professional customer service like the big boys. Hopefully you find this guide helpful in your efforts to improve your business and better serve your customers. By treating a call center as an extension of your business and partnering with them to meet your objectives, you’ll find their services extremely worthwhile.
If you have any questions regarding the process or how a call center can work with your business, I would be happy to talk with you about it. Same goes if you have worked with a call center in the past. Learning about what works and what doesn’t helps me improve and I’m always available to chat.
About the author: Gere Jordan works in business development, marketing, and operations at Continental Message Solution, Inc. (CMS), a US based contact center and small business call center. He has experience designing and implementing effective call center solutions, improving communication workflows, and helping companies share their success via the web. For more information, please visit http://www.continentalmessage.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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