What does a call center do?
Companies throughout the world rely on their call center to handle customer queries and complaints or sell their products over the phone.
In today’s age of digital transformation, the call center landscape has changed in response to technological developments and shifting consumer behavior.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about call centers. We’ll look at the functions of a call center, the processes that take place inside them, and what it takes to become a call center representative.
What is a call center?
The simplest definition of a call center is an office work environment where a large volume of phone calls are handled. It’s a centralized location from which call center agents handle incoming and outgoing phone calls from existing or potential customers. Call center employees perform a variety of call center operations including:
- Providing customer care and technical support
- Answering customer queries
- Market research
Call center vs contact center: What’s the difference?
The two terms are often used loosely to refer to one another but there are differences between them.
Traditionally, call centers were designed to handle inbound or outbound calls through copper-wired phone lines, and more recently, VoIP.
Nowadays, consumers expect to interact with organizations across a variety of digital communication channels, as well as through the telephone. Organizations can address customer interactions through email, messaging, live chat, social media, and more.
Contact centers facilitate this omnichannel approach to customer service by providing businesses with a 360-degree view of their customers across various touchpoints. This is done by integrating with the organization’s CRM so that each interaction can be tracked and managed from a centralized dashboard.
Although most organizations handle customer interactions via channels other than the phone, the term “call center” has stuck, and it’s often used interchangeably with the term “contact center”.
Types of call centers
Most call centers fall into one of two types:
- Inbound call center
This type of call center handles incoming calls from customers or potential customers. Inbound call centers are customer service-focused. The majority of answered calls deal with customers issues, complaints, and support queries.
- Outbound call center
Agents in this type of call center make outgoing phone calls to customers or potential customers. Outbound call centers are sales-focused where agents might make calls for the purpose of market research, customer service surveys, or to follow-up to a previous inbound call.
Although inbound and outbound call centers serve different functions, most call centers combine both types of operation in a hybrid call center. Understanding which type of call center you operate is helpful when implementing phone systems or call center software.
If your call center handles mostly inbound calls, you’ll benefit from software that provides you with access to features like an Interactive Voice Response (IVR), advanced call routing, or call recording. In the same way, if you operate, for the most part, an outbound call center you’ll benefit from technology like a dialer or call monitoring features for making outgoing calls.
What’s a virtual call center?
A virtual call center is much the same as a regular office-based contact center. The major difference is that the customer service agents work from home and the centralized ‘location’ is software. Customer service representatives can work from different countries and time zones across the world, enabling the company to provide 24/7 customer support.
Instead of taking calls using landline phones, agents sign in to a call center software that uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to access cloud calling, messaging, and email.
The reps cater to customer needs and record the information in their organization’s CRM. All data is stored in the cloud, meaning all the agents and managers in a virtual call center have access to updated account history and customer interactions from anywhere.
Why are virtual call centers an effective alternative to traditional call centers?
The main reason is that virtual call centers cost much less to run.
Switching to a virtual call center model or outsourcing operations entirely are great ways to cut costs. It can also help to lower turnover rates and improve employee retention rates as employees can work from anywhere and are more likely to experience higher levels of job satisfaction when they’re not working in an office.
Companies that opt for a virtual call center model can hire advisors from all over the world and provide them with all the tools they need to effectively handle customers from anywhere, including virtual contact center software, headsets, and other equipment.
How should a customer service call go?
Here’s how a customer service call should go:
- The call center rep answers the phone as soon as possible.
- They listen attentively to determine the customer’s needs.
- The agent uses their interpersonal and problem-solving skills to come up with an effective solution.
- The agent ensures all details of the interaction are updated and stored in the company’s CRM.
Who makes up a call center?
A successful call center requires a team of different people fulfilling different roles. Having an effective call center team is key to providing exceptional customer service and support, which leads to a positive customer experience. The typical people you’ll find in a call center include:
- Call center representatives
- You’ll also hear them referred to as “contact center agents”, “customer service agents” or “advisors”. Their job description involves answering incoming calls or making outgoing customer calls to customers and potential customers. They’re at the frontline of the company and are often the first point of contact a customer has with your brand.
- Team leaders
- Contact center team leaders oversee a team of agents. Their job description includes motivating the team, tracking metrics to analyze team performance (first call resolution rate, speed of answer, etc), and handling any escalated calls.
- Call center manager
- Their job description involves being responsible for the overall operation of the call center. Aspects of this may overlap with the team leader’s responsibilities as well.
It’s important to note that call center job turnover rates can be extremely high. Customer service can be a taxing job for many people. Dealing with upset or angry customers, working unpredictable hours, and receiving low pay in return can eventually take its toll on customer service agents. For this reason, team leaders and managers must pay attention to employee wellbeing and satisfaction.
Do you have what it takes to be a contact center agent?
Call center representative jobs aren’t a walk in the park. However, it can lead to several rewarding career paths if you’re the right fit for the role. If you’re considering applying for a call center position, it pays to know exactly what you’re getting yourself in for.
Contact center agent job description
A call center agent’s job involves the following tasks:
- Answering a large number of calls per day, responding professionally and appropriately to customer complaints, inquiries, and support requests. They might need to consult a knowledge base if they don’t know the answer.
- Handling support requests across other communication channels (emails or live chats, for instance).
- Escalating high-priority issues that the agent can’t solve themself.
- Making follow-up calls for complicated customer issues.
- Completing call notes and reports, and uploading relevant data into the CRM.
- Administrative tasks like recording customer details and information about complaints, inquiries, actions taken, etc.
Key skills for call center representatives
Just like any other job, taking on a role as a contact center representative is best suited to those with certain key skills.
Excellent communication skills
Excellent communication skills
First and foremost, a customer service agent must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
Dealing with a high call volume each day can be draining, especially when customers become frustrated due to long wait times, call transfers, or simply having a bad day.
In an outbound call center, great communication skills can mean the difference between securing a sale and being hung up on. When it comes to inbound and outbound calls, you need to be able to:
- Speak clearly and confidently to build rapport with clients and customers.
- Listen attentively and pay attention to detail so you can get to the bottom of the issue without asking them to repeat information, particularly if there’s a language barrier.
- Keep your cool when the caller gets angry or upset.
If you want to achieve that all-important first call resolution, you need to be able to think on your feet. No two customer service calls are the same, so be prepared to stray from protocol when you need to come up with solutions to out-of-the-box problems.
Effective problem-solving will help you to reduce wait times, handle higher call volumes, and improve customer satisfaction rates with efficient customer service.
Call center reps need to have good knowledge retention skills to remember key information about the company and how its products and services work. Although agents aren’t expected to have high levels of technical knowledge about products (unless part of a tech support team), they must know where to find answers quickly if they don’t (in a knowledge base, for example).
It may sound surprising, but no two days are the same as a call center agent. Responsibilities are constantly changing in a call center, so it pays to be flexible and able to adapt to new tasks and unexpected situations.
- Exceptional organizational skills
It’s not all about speaking to customers. The customer service agent’s job doesn’t finish there. Agents need to be extremely organized and able to multitask to stay on top of things. This job requires the agent to keep track of interactions in the CRM, schedule follow-up calls, and complete administrative tasks—so it pays to be organized!
If you don’t like dealing with people, then a job in customer service isn’t for you. Call center agents must be thinking of the customer all the time, striving to provide memorable experiences that encourage customers to return and promote their company.
Contact center trends to watch out for
The worlds of telecommunications and customer service are constantly changing. The following trends are shaping the future of contact center operations for modern businesses.
Customers expect to interact with the brands they love on the platforms they love. In order to succeed, companies need to keep up with shifting consumer behaviors and make themselves available across multiple communications platforms including voice, email, social media, SMS, live chat, and more.
Moreover, these channels should offer a cohesive experience, keeping customer data and transactional history updated in the cloud.
Great customer experience starts with a contact center’s employees. Contact center managers must empower their agents with all the tools they need to provide a consistent, personalized customer experience across multiple touchpoints. This means putting in place the right support strategies, training, and tools to manage a customer’s journey effectively and efficiently.
Level up your contact center with RingCentral
Call center agents play a major role in the success of your in-house or virtual contact center. But, it’s not entirely up to them.
Implementing effective contact center software like RingCentral provides a foundation for your advisors to provide immediate and effective customer service and support, no matter where they’re based.
RingCentral Contact Center empowers your reps to be the best they can be. Featuring omni-channel routing, agent management tools, and real-time analytics—RingCentral takes your contact center performance to the next level.
Handle customer interactions efficiently and effectively, keep track of key metrics to optimize agent performance, and access instant performance snapshots, all from the centralized RingCentral interface.
Working with remote customer service reps? No problem. Your reps can access all the tools and information they need to provide exceptional customer service—wherever, whenever.
Want to learn more about how RingCentral Contact Centre can help your agents to provide better customer service? Try a free demo today.