Having reliable and responsible customer service is equally important as having good products and services because it builds credibility and grows your brand. If your customer service is poor (or nonexistent), you will struggle to attract new clients and retain current ones.
You must understand how call centers work if you’re considering adding this type of customer support to your business. This article will provide you with all the necessary information. If you're looking for agencies to partner with make sure to check out our complete list of the best outsourced customer support companies.
Table of Contents
Definition of a Call Center
A call center is where a team of agents handles incoming and outgoing calls to answer customers' questions and solve their concerns regarding a company’s products or services. Communication takes place primarily over the phone but also through other communication means.
Call center software helps organize the work process by enabling direct communication between customers and business representatives.
We can categorize call centers as inbound and outbound. Inbound agents respond to calls that come into the call center, while outbound agents make calls and reach out to customers.
A call center can be owned by the company (in-house) or outsourced to a third-party provider such as offshore call centers.
Both options have advantages and disadvantages, depending on unique business needs. For example, outsourced call center costs can be lower, but staff may be less familiarized with the company’s brand image and products.
5 Types of Call Centers
Knowing the basic definition of a call center helps better understand how the different types of call center services work. We discuss each of them below.
Virtual call centers employ agents worldwide, creating a diverse, 24/7 available team that works remotely. The company provides all materials that reps need to efficiently do their job: online courses and technical equipment. Call center software delegates the calls to duty agents.
The main advantage of virtual call centers is non-stop availability. The customer support team works from multiple locations worldwide, in different time zones, and provides 24/7 coverage without needing agents to work at night or in shifts.
Tip: When hiring representatives for virtual call centers, cover all the time zones you operate on.
Inbound customer service uses a traditional working model: clients call the business’s call center number looking for assistance and a customer service representative answers and helps solve their problem.
Tip: When hiring people for inbound call centers, prioritize calm and patient agents. Callers can often be emotional and you’ll need someone to adequately respond to their condition.
In all other types of call centers, clients are the ones that initiate the call.
Outbound call centers work on the reverse principle.
Outbound calls are usually done to deliver after-sales support. After the customer makes a purchase, the agent calls to check if the customer is satisfied or needs assistance with the product. Customers might not be happy with the product they bought or need help using it — you've gone the extra mile to ensure they have a smooth experience with your brand.
Tip: Outbound call centers are an excellent chance to strengthen the relationship with your clients and build loyalty and positive sentiment toward the brand.
Automated call centers use computer-based (sometimes even artificial intelligence-powered) systems to respond to some or all customer calls. They can schedule customer appointments, check purchase shipments and answer about working hours and business locations.
Tip: Automated call centers are cost-effective since they take over many user questions and reduce the need for hiring human customer service representatives.
Omnichannel customer support uses phone calls as the primary communication channel but complements it with email, social media support and live website chats.
Tip: An omnichannel approach will give users a choice between various communication means, ensuring they can reach you one way or another.
How Call Centers Work
Call centers are communication channels that provide immediate answers to customers' queries. Instead of waiting for an email response or losing even more time traveling to the store, a direct call with a well-trained agent can resolve their worries in minutes.
Although similar, call centers can differ in some detail; here is the most usual three-step principle of how a call center works:
1. A Customer Makes the Initial Contact
Customers make or request a call from the support team. They can do it directly or through an app; some call centers offer an option to schedule a time when an agent can call a customer.
Once the call line is open, the agent or software assesses the client’s problem and redirect the call to an agent competent for the given area, which is especially important in complex or narrowly specialized fields.
This support system increases the chances of successfully resolving the problem and improves the customer experience.
2. Agent Works on Resolving the Problem
Transferring calls to the specialized agent is important since they can solve problems on the first try and prevent customer churn by providing timely assistance.
In addition to technical knowledge, call center agents must possess exceptional communication skills to answer the customer's concerns. While presenting the solution, agents must be flexible and ensure the user understands how to follow problem-solving steps.
3. Agent Follows Up When Needed
Although the primary goal is to resolve the customer's problem on the first try, this is sometimes impossible. In those cases, agents end the call and follow up on short notice when they have more information regarding problem-solving.
Why Are Call Centers Important?
Did you know that new customer acquisition is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining the existing ones? All successful businesses take care of their customers, making efforts to provide the best possible user experience, and customer service is a big part of that experience.
90% of Americans decide whether or not to have business with a company based on their customer service experience. 58% will give up on a purchase if customer service is unsatisfying, while 89% are most likely to return and repeat the purchase if their experience is positive.
Although many think call centers are outdated, they are in consumers' top three channels to contact the brand, along with email and social media platforms.
Required Skills for Call Center Agents
Whether you’re forming an in-house or outsourcing a call center agent team, candidates' hard skills are as important as soft skills. You will provide online training where future agents will learn about your products; you’ll teach them answers to frequently asked questions. However, teaching people how to be flexible, kind or patient is much more challenging.
Human resources should pay special attention to the following skills:
- Exceptional Communication Skills
- Excellent Listening Skills
- Organization Ability
- Emotional Stability
- Speed and Efficiency
- Stress Management Skill
Exceptional Communication Skills
The nature of work in a call center requires highly developed communication skills. An agent should be eloquent, kind, patient and emphatic.
Tip: Estimate candidates' communication skills during the interview. You can have role-play where they could demonstrate how they would hypothetically solve the problem. Focus on their expression and speech, not the right or wrong answers.
Excellent Listening Skills
Call center agents shouldn't jump to conclusions but patiently listen to customers’ issues. Good listening skills enhance the understanding ability and improve the entire communication.
Tip: At the end of the interview, ask candidates to repeat some information you gave them earlier. You’ll conclude if were they listening.
Customer service representatives take up to 50 calls a day or even more. Sometimes they cannot resolve a problem during a call, but they must follow up. Highly developed organizational skills will help manage open cases and provide updates to waiting customers.
Tip: During the interview, ask candidates to describe how they multitask: write the things down instantly or memorize them.
As mentioned, agents take 50 calls daily, each being different. It is impossible to predict what kind of issues clients will have and what approach they will take; therefore, agents have to be flexible and adapt to any given circumstances while staying positive and kind.
Tip: To check on flexibility, ask a candidate how they would handle complicated situations related to your business or contact their previous employer as a part of the hiring process.
Out of 50 calls a day, at least one will be unpleasant. A call center agent must remain calm regardless of the customer's tone and vocabulary. Angry, ironic, sarcastic or impolite addressing is unacceptable, no matter how provoked the agent feels.
Tip: Staying calm is a skill that is extremely important for customer support representatives. The candidate’s temper should be one more thing you should check with their previous employers.
Speed and Efficiency
Customer support agents should be fast and efficient to manage more customers' calls. However, speed cannot compromise service quality — a positive user experience always comes first.
Tip: Candidates' efficiency can be checked through a call with a past employer.
Stress Management Skill
Working with unsatisfied clients can sometimes be overwhelming, so staying calm in a stressful situation is precious for a call center agent position.
Tip: To check stress management ability, contact previous employers and find out how your candidate behaves in stressful circumstances.
Call Centers: Advantages and Disadvantages
Regardless of the type you opt for, a call center can be equally beneficial for businesses of all niches and sizes. Here are some of the most prominent advantages call centers provide:
- Increased cost-effectiveness - If you opt for inbound call center outsourcing, it is much cheaper than the in-house departments.
- Better user experience - Even if they have a problem with your product, customers will know you’re ready to help them by providing helpful information to solve their issues. A positive user experience will increase brands' credibility and customer loyalty.
- Increase sales - 94% of customers say positive customer service experience makes them likelier to purchase from the brand again.
- Competitive advantage - Your competitors already have 24/7 customer service. Even if they don't, that’s the perfect opportunity for you to stand out.
Call centers have some disadvantages that you can avoid with in-depth candidate interviews. One of the challenges is security since agents have insight into clients' private information.
The quality of the service may also be difficult to maintain, but managers can frequently check by listening to and evaluating recorded calls.
How Call Centers Work: Wrap-Up
Having an FAQ page within your website is helpful but often not enough for customers' questions and concerns. Adding a call center can level up your business.
A call center is one of the most efficient customer support systems that make businesses thrive by prioritizing customer satisfaction and building relationship based on trust and care.
Now that you know how call centers work and what call centers do, choose the most relevant to your customer’s requirements, train answering agents and watch how your brand image grows day by day.