A call centre is a centralised office used for receiving or transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. There are essentially two types of call centres: inbound (that handles incoming calls) and outbound (makes outgoing calls). Please note: I am referring to the call centre business from an outsourcing perspective. With the advent of hosted PBX technology setting up a call centre has reduced in time and cost in recent years.
To start this business you will need office space, workstation for each agent (desk, computer/thin client, telephone/headset) as well as the main infrastructure (computer network/server and the telecom switch/exchange if you are hosting yourself). If you are using hosted PBX then you need a computer connected to the internet with headset or telephone for each agent.
This business uses two different business models: inbound and outbound.
– Inbound call centre: An inbound call centre takes incoming calls example: information enquiries, product support etc.
– Outbound call centre: Makes outgoing calls, usually for so called telemarketing campaigns: selling products, soliciting donations, debt collection, survey questions etc.
What happens in an inbound call centre is that the company – your client will provide you with access to their systems and the information that your agents will require to service their clients. Your client will then pay you a monthly fee for servicing their clients, subject to a service level agreement.
The outbound call centre business is a bit trickier. Here you deal with “leads” either generated by your client or even by your agents. And your job is to bring in money or sell your clients products. This business model is trickier as you will usually be getting much less than an inbound call centre and the rest you have to work for commission. Meaning when you hire you have to offer staff a small basic and a commission.
There is another call centre business model and that is working for commission only. Unless you are really, really desperate. This is a model to avoid, as it is tricky to pull off. This means you have to hire people on commission only and you won’t get very reliable people all the time while your phone bill is rising. Not only that but clients you get here is usually stuff that is hard to sell over the phone like insurance and related. And then your agents have to ask people to provide their bank details to strangers in order to activate debit orders, it’s very hard. Unless you getting a real high commission its really hard.
If you don’t support your sell your own product and just operate a call centre then you in the outsourcing business. This means your target market is companies that don’t want to operate their own call centres and outsource this process.
The most important aspect of this business is what type of phone setup to use. Traditionally call centres used PBX systems to initially respond to and distribute calls to the relevant agents. This has been largely replaced by virtual or hosted PBX systems. You can both build and maintain your own system to manage your call centre or you can outsource this process. Outsourcing is more popular for small businesses as it does not require a IT person on the premises to make sure it is running smoothly. On the hosted PBX side you will pay a monthly fee to a provider and you will in turn use their equipment and infrastructure to run your call centre. There are a few downsides as you don’t own the infrastructure and depending on the amount of agents it can get expensive. However for a small business the benefits outweigh the negatives, as setup cost and time is reduced dramatically.
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