Call centers satisfy and retain customers

By Lori Mitchell, InfoWorld |  Networking

HAVE YOU HAD trouble keeping customers satisfied before or after sales? Is your customer data scattered all over your enterprise? Does your budget have room for investing in retaining customers? If you can answer yes to those questions, you should look into creating a call center for handling customer communications.

Building a call center step-by-step

1. Select a location to build your call center where there is an educated workforce. Determine the size of the facility and the number of service representatives. Real estate and labor costs can be a big factor.

2. Select the underlying components: PBX, voice mail system, automated call distribution, computer-telephony integration, and network equipment, such as routers, servers, and desktops.

3. Decide which channels to support in your call center: email, chat, phone, Web forms, text chat, VOIP. Select your software solutions.

4. Integrate the systems when feasible. Call centers must be able to handle multiple customer channels. Integrated systems help customer representatives answer questions more quickly by having more customer information available to them.

5. Determine your SLAs and business processes. Implement best practices such as workflow and email routing for skills-based routing ability. Establish hours of operation and standard procedures for handling calls.

6. Hire and retain staff. Allocate funds for hiring and training in your budget. Hire skilled individuals, and make sure you train and retrain, motivate, and provide rewards. Identify required skills and set appropriate goals to keep representatives trained, as they are your company's front line.

7. Finalize your budget. Knowing the scope of your investment, you can fix, and fight for, your budget. Factor in training, hiring, hardware costs, deployment, and integration.

8. Measure and improve your service. Monitoring services or software is key for measuring the results of your call center. Survey customers to ensure satisfaction. Evaluate response times. Utilize reporting tools. Continue to improve your service.

Call center resources

This short list of resources can help you get started in researching whether to build or outsource your call center.

* ActionWare AS/400-based call center management -- (www.actionware.com)

* Chordiant Software Unified CRM solutions -- (www.chordiant.com)

* Delano Technology E-business software solutions -- (www.delanotech.com)

* Echopass A hosted, integrated call center system -- (www.echopass.com)

* Genesys Telecommunications Lab Interaction management software -- www.genesyslab.com

* Talisma E-CRM solutions -- www.talisma.com

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