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The Thriving Enterprise of Call Centers

By Author: PKP IYER

A call centre is a centralized work centre, of a business enterprise engaged in telemarketing services, that answers incoming telephone calls from customers or that makes outgoing telephone calls to customers. Call centers are generally set up with [powerful computer systems that most typically include a computer, a telephone set (or headset) hooked into a large telecom switch and one or more supervisor stations. It has been proved beyond doubt that a single large call centre is more effective at answering calls than several smaller centers. The issues in a call centre are generally statistical in nature and is centered around the probability that an arriving call will be answered by an available and appropriately trained person. The real challenge here is the task of forecasting the call arrival rates and then scheduling the number of staff required on duty at particular times of the day. The centralized office concept attempts to rationalize the company's operations and reduce costs, while at the same time a unified, glossy front office is presented to the outside world. The call centre option works beautifully for large companies with a large, distributed customer base.

Apart from providing vital infrastructures, the main challenge of the Call Centers, is handling the large numbers of workers. Generally the staff work in shifts to suit the time-zone of the countries like UK, USA etc. The entire team can be managed and controlled by a relatively small number of managers and support staff. They are often supported by computer technology that manages measures and monitors the performance and activities of the workers. Establishment costs are the most significant expense of a call centre operation and even minor deviations from the budgeted path can have significant cost overruns. Here the level of computer and software support are critical in that any time-lag in the monitoring could result in major losses to the company by way of low staff productivity and mishandling of calls.

Call centers are today benefited by new revolutionary technology tools like automatic call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), computer telephony integration (CTI) etc which allow the actions of the computer to be synchronized with what is happening on the phone. In addition, early customer relationship management (CRM) technologies have been heavily deployed in call centers. The latest internet technologies allow virtual call centers to be established across a company's telecommunications network without physically putting all the people in one office. Similarly telecommunication technologies like Call switching, call monitoring, recording and evaluation of staff response time to customer calls etc are available off-the-shelf for call centre operations.

Typically at a Call Center, the calls are often divided into outbound and inbound. Inbound calls are calls that are initiated by the customer to obtain information, report a malfunction or ask for help. This is substantially different from outbound calls where the agent initiates the call to a customer mostly with the aim to sell a product or a service to that customer. Owing to the highly technological nature of the operations in such offices, the close monitoring of staff activities is easy and widespread.

It is heartening to note that a recent survey by an UK consultancy firm has found that call centers in India are much professionally managed than their counterparts elsewhere in the world. This is possible due to the fact that the typical employee in an Indian call centre is a graduate. Call Centre training centers have mushroomed and professional training is today available for the career option of a call centre executive. The staff of the call center is often organized in tiers, with the first tier being largely unskilled workers who are trained to resolve issues using a simple script. If the first tier is unable to resolve an issue the issue is escalated to a more highly skilled second tier. In some cases, there may be third or higher tiers of support. It is often argued that the kind of close monitoring of Call Centre staff and the measurement of performance can lead to deficient customer service, apart from infringing on the privacy of the call centre staff.

About the Author:
PKP Iyer, Editor, Excellone Technologies ( http://www.excellone.com ) and Java Development India (http://www.javadevelopmentindia.com ). Our company offer Technology solutions using Java such as SPRING, J2EE, J2ME for Software Application Development and IT Outsourcing services from our offshore software development centre in India.

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