A Step-by-Step guide to setting up a Call Center

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Every customer-centric organisation needs a Call Center these days. And every bottomline conscious MNC needs a back office in low cost labour markets like India. To aid the increasing number of businesses and professionals rushing to set up a Call Center, here is a step-by-step guide to starting one:

1.     

Choosing a Technology Platform

There are two kind of technologies available for Call Centers – Traditional EPABX-based and Server-based. The traditional EPABX-based Call Center exists in various options such as; multiple telephone lines terminating on agent desks, private branch exchange with an Automatic Call Distributor which distributes calls coming on common lines as well as predictive dialers, interactive voice recognition systems and computer telephony integration systems (which together constitute a full-fledged Call Center). As for a server-based Call Center, it integrates all the components of a Call Center into one server with multiple software components. There are two distinct advantages in going for a server-based Call Center. They are:


Low Set-up Cost: Server-based Call Center costs far less with the total cost of ownership almost one fourth that of the traditional architecture. This is because all the components are standard, bought-out components rather than independent systems, which have been integrated together.

Web based Platform:

As the Internet becomes all-pervasive, it is now possible to push audio and video in a top quality format over the web. Due to multimedia handling capabilities of the server platform, integration of voice, video and data becomes much easier.


2.      Decide a location:

Location of the Call Center is a very crucial decision. As your employees will be spending all their working hours in the building make sure that it is provisioned with all necessary amenities. The building should have good access and be located in such a way that outside noises and traffic do not hinder the operations. Also, as most of the Call Center activities happen after nightfall in India (to cater to the European and US markets) make sure that the locations is in a secure area.


3.     

Check connectivity factor:

The Call Center needs to have two kind of connectivity to the outside world. Normally, Call Centers take a International Private Leased Circuit (IPLC) from the clients’ premises to their location to terminate the calls. IPLCs are provisioned by VSNL and also by private players. The IPLC is a dedicated channel by which customer calls originating at the remote location are landed at the Call Center premises. If Call Centers need to have a Primary Rate Interface (PRI) channel, which is provisioned by either BSNL/MTNL, the Call Center location has to be in place where the local PSTN provider is able to provide these digital High-speed links (each PRI is capable of handling 30 calls simultaneously).


4.     

Check feasibility further:

Check further on other issues like power, public transport facilities as well as proximity to emergency services like the fire station and the police among other things.


5.     

Do a site layout:

Once the location is finalised, the layout of the Call Center has to be freezed. The following factors need to be looked into before finalising the site design:


Networking topology


Networking topology can be of various types. Some of the popular types are star topology, mesh topology, etc. The right type for each call center has to be decided depending on the space availability and the number of seats that have to be provisioned.


Human Needs


This is an important factor that is often overlooked while deciding Call Center layouts. As the employees will spend their entire workday at their workstations the ambience has to be in such a way that there is optimum contact with co-workers. At the same time care has to be taken to ensure that the workers do not intrude upon one another resulting in hampered productivity.


Required equipment

All equipment purchase decisions should be based on the projected call loads. A balance has to be maintained between the number of incoming PSTN lines and the seats that are provisioned to handle these calls. ACD and IVR units must have an appropriate number of ports to receive incoming trunks and additional ports to handle internal agent lines. Computer networks must be able to handle the appropriate number of network connections. A general rule of thumb is that the ratio of PSTN ports to number of agents for effective agent utilization should be between 1.5-2.


6.     

Hire the Staff

As with all operations involving a large workforce these decisions are extremely critical to the smooth running of the call centre. Certain assumptions have to be made on call load and peak times to design an appropriate staff roster. Certain amount of extra headcount has to be factored in for provisioning for absenteeism, employees on leave etc. Also contingency plans to deal with emergencies such as natural calamities like flood, riots or organized bandhs etc., where staff cannot reach or leave the call centre has to be taken care of. These should include medical aid, food supplies, facility for staying overnight and any other amenities that might be needed for smooth operations. Managing staffing may be particularly challenging in an incoming Call Center. Periods of peak claim loads may generally be identified through call volume statistics. However, the exact volume of calls that might arrive at any point in time is unknown. Optimizing the number of staff available to deal with these unknown volumes, particularly during peaks, is critical.


7.      Establish training processes.

Training is a continuous process in a call centre. Training needs can be classified as follows:

·        Recruitment training

·        Performance improvement training

·        Grade change training

·        Functional training

Training should be a mix of internal and outsourced resources so that the latest techniques are available while at the same time that it is relevant to the organisation.

The performance of the operator should be continuously trackecd and benchmarked. Some of the criteria that should be benchmarked and measured are:


·        Calls handled

·        Calls dropped

·        Calls dropped on busy

·        Speed to answer.

After you have gone through all these steps there is one final decision you need to take-whether you are going to do all this yourself or would outsource it to a vendor with capabilities in that arena. If you have time and the resources, you might want to do it yourself. But if time is a factor, do outsource to a System Integrator well versed in setting up different types of Call Centers. Also System Integrators will help in cross selling of your services by acting as an information exchange point of various client needs.


This article has been contributed by Mr.R. Vijaynidhi, Vice President (Operations), Condor Labs (a division of Condor Infotech (P) Limited). For further information, please mail callcenters@bsuinessgyan.com.

Issue BG1 April01