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5 problems implementing a call center in SMBs

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5 problems implementing a call center in SMBs
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The word call center conjures up images of cavernous office spaces filled with rows and rows of workers sitting in front of computers. Most people think call centers are for large companies and they would have been absolutely correct. Up until a few years ago. Today, the modern call center – or contact center – is not a luxury that only large companies can afford. It’s a necessity, especially for smaller organizations. 

Implementing a call center in SMBs is no easy task. Quite a few organizations run into problems even before they start deploying the software and hardware. SMBs are in a perilous situation when it comes to a call center. They depend on superior customer experiences to compete with larger companies. Yet they cannot afford to splurge on effective tools or hire the best talent. 

So what can a small or medium business do to avoid these issues? Let’s take a look at the top problems you can run into when deploying a call center in SMBs.

The problem of cost

The issue of cost is not a simple one when it comes to contact centers and SMBs. It’s true that SMBs do not have the financial resources available to their larger brethren. But dig deeper and the complexity of the issue becomes clear. Even if a small business is able to afford a call center solution initially, they end up having to cut corners throughout the deployment process.

For instance, you need significant capital to invest in your call center at the start. Most of the budget goes towards buying equipment, renting office space, and hiring employees. Suppose a business manages to afford the startup costs. They soon realize they need more funds to keep the call center running smoothly. They need to pay utility bills, invest in agent training, purchase and renew software licenses, etc. 

Inevitably, the business has to compromise on certain aspects such as quality control, employee retention, and training. Eventually, the overall customer experience deteriorates when they cannot afford the upgrades.

Fortunately, the cost issue is being solved by a few vendors offering cloud-based contact center software. It’s similar to hosted VoIP technology that allows a company to get phone services through the cloud. You don’t need to invest in capital expenses (think of hardware, software, servers, etc.) and other than the monthly bill, there are few operating expenses. 

The problem of scale

Once you’ve solved the problem of cost, you run into the next major issue – that of scale. What do we mean by scale? Think of your call center operations and the incoming calls you get throughout the workweek. It’s unlikely that you have the same number of calls on all 7 days. You will see even more fluctuations at the monthly or seasonal level. 

Your business may get more calls during the festive season or during the summer. Or you may face a sudden influx of calls after launching a new product or service. Say you updated one of your software services and customers are having issues. This will add more calls to your existing queues. 

So the problem facing a small business is this: how do you ramp up your call center to account for sudden surges in demand? Sure, you can pull employees from other departments and get them working answering calls. But what about equipment, the hardware you need, the additional software licenses, and the office space? You cannot simply add one more chair in a corner and expect things to get done.

Your business needs a solution that will help you add seats quickly and effectively. All you should need is the staff and to equip them with a computer and a headset.  A hosted contact center solution can do exactly that for you. If you need to add 3 people to the customer service desk, you can do so within a few minutes or hours. There’s no need to wait weeks or months to ramp up services. 

In a similar vein, the service provider can help you add as much capacity as you need on a more permanent basis as your business grows. The best part about using a hosted solution is that it allows you to reduce resource consumption as well. Suppose you find that you need only 20 agents instead of 25 as anticipated. Simply move those employees to other areas and only pay for 20 seats. It’s as simple as that.

The problem of technology

Ok, now that you’ve solved the cost and scale issue you’re all set, right? Unfortunately, you still have a problem managing all the different technology in your call center. The phone system is not the only technology in a call center in SMBs. You also need CRM software, data analytics software, management tools, apps to collect and report on call center metrics, training systems, and timekeeping software. 

Each of the above systems handles a different aspect of managing the call center. Almost all of them are essential but they don’t necessarily work well together or even at all. Your CRM software may not integrate with the phones, so agents have to manually dial numbers or add notes to customer records. The timekeeping software does not account for training time which means you have to manually update work hours. The list of incompatibilities goes on.

Then comes the related issue of software updates. What happens when you do get something to work together and one service is updated, breaking compatibility? For that matter, it’s not easy keeping track of all the licenses, software updates, patches, and version numbers. Your call center may be using out-of-date software which is vulnerable to security exploits.

Speaking of which, not many SMBs have the expertise to manage the security of a call center. You have to constantly monitor all your hardware and software and keep them updated on the latest security patches. Missed one? Too bad, you can only hope hackers have not noticed and started attacking those vulnerabilities. In fact, experts say that many businesses have already been hacked and they simply don’t know it yet. 

Using a hosted call center solution mitigates most, if not all, of the above issues. The vendor manages all the security updates, feature upgrades, applying patches. Since you don’t have any equipment on-site, you don’t have to worry about the hardware side of things either. The provider is in charge of integrations and will make sure everything works together as it should.

The problem of mobility

If there’s one thing the ongoing pandemic has shown, it’s that many jobs don’t require people to come into the office. This is especially true of call center employees who have made the transition to working from home. It may not have been seamless but at least you know you can do it. Quite a few SMBs have already discovered the benefits of having a mobile workforce and the rest are catching up now.

What can a completely remote/mobile workforce do for your company? For one thing, you don’t need a huge office space downtown for your call center. You don’t need to outfit the space with computers, utilities, or force your workers to pay for expensive city parking. For another, you don’t have to scout for talent in just your neighborhood. Imagine having the ability to hire the best talent because no one has to commute to work anymore?

However, none of this will come to pass if you don’t give employees the tools to allow them to work from home. They need the hardware, software, and training to work effectively even when outside the office. It can take quite a bit of planning to pull it off but with the right call center software services, it’s not an impossible dream.

 The problem of multi-channel support

Gone are the days when customers waited on hold patiently for an agent to answer their call and solve any issues. Today’s consumer expects service wherever and whenever they have problems. That means offering multiple means of customer touchpoints including email, live chat, social media, voice, video, and even fax if necessary. 

The issue doesn’t end there. Customers also expect a cohesive experience regardless of how they contact your business. Your agents should be able to track a ticket through email and phone or switch between multiple channels. Supposed a customer opens a ticket via email, then calls for a status update and you later schedule a video call to troubleshoot. The customer does not want to repeat the same information over and over again to different agents, hoping for a solution. 

It means you need a solution that can track and consolidate tickets across all the channels you support. Your agents need to be on top of things even if the same customer has multiple tickets. Fortunately, many call center solutions are focused on offering tools to efficiently process service tickets. So that’s one less thing you have to worry about when implementing a call center in any SMB.  

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