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The small business advantage hiding in plain sight

April 24, 2012 / Rich Fox

If you’re like most people, when you hear the term “call center,” you probably imagine a cavernous room full of workers wearing phone headsets, processing incoming calls for a huge organization. You might imagine that these companies use sophisticated computers and software to route calls intelligently; record calls for training; and provide jazzy business dashboards that let them monitor wait times, real-time counts of customer transactions, and other business metrics.

But that definition of a call center is too narrow. I would wager that all businesses, no matter their size or technology, actually do have a call center. This includes your business, even though you might not know it because you don’t call it that.

You might not have a large room squeezed full of employees reciting the same exact script. But for all intents and purposes, you have a call center. Businesses need to treat these interactions with the same scrutiny and accountability as any other aspect of their operations. Are you?

The truth is, while you do actually have a call center, you likely have no software to manage it, no system to analyze and optimize it, and your organization might be incapable of transforming it into a competitive advantage.

And that’s too bad. You’re probably familiar with the old business adage that says you can’t manage what you can’t measure. As a small business owner, you’re busy leading your team, tracking sales, and seeking new opportunities. Those are hard to do if you don’t have benchmarks for employee performance, sales metrics, or lead generation.

Call center software offers powerful customer service tools that companies with formal call centers have been leveraging for years. The good news? It’s now available to the smallest business, thanks to the power of cloud computing.

Consider this situation: You’re a medical provider and you have nurses on the phone taking calls from patients whose cardiac monitors are alerting them to a problem. These patients need to transmit the data and get treatment.

The RNs fielding these calls certainly don’t think they’re working in a call center. They’re nurses. They do, however, have to answer calls quickly and productively. And shouldn’t you have a way of knowing whether alerts from cardiac monitors are answered immediately or if patients are waiting on hold for too long? Dare I say that could be a life or death situation? Even though they’re not customer service agents by trade or title, the nurses’ impact on the organization and patient service levels needs to be understood, managed, and optimized.

Now let’s add a cloud call center into the mix. In just a few weeks, without buying any hardware or having to set up any software, the medical provider can measure call lengths, understand each RN’s phone performance, review recorded calls to ensure patients receive top-notch service, and actively manage the call queue so that calls get optimal attention.

Here’s another example: You’re an HVAC company and you need to be able to respond quickly to repair requests coming in by phone. During a heat wave, call volumes often spike as air conditioners break down. You might not have the staff to answer all those calls, and lags in the call queue will send potential customers fleeing to competitors.

But add a cloud call center, and you’ll have hard numbers on call volumes — peak times of day, peak seasons of the year — so you can adequately staff your offices to handle demand. Moreover, you can even expand the size of your call staff virtually, allowing contractors to handle calls from home, yet with 100 percent of the capabilities and professionalism of your internal call center. A cloud call center also scales effortlessly, so you can easily add capacity as your growing customer base boosts demand.

You can be sure that the “big guys,” including some of your competitors, are using the same techniques that a cloud call center enables. Your business needs to do the same — you can’t afford not to.

The management and quality expert W. Edwards Deming once said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” The same is true for small businesses.

If you can’t document your call flow, analyze how calls are being managed, how long customers are on hold, and how customers are being served, you can’t improve your customer service levels. And if you can’t improve your customer service levels, you can’t grow a business. So embrace your hiding-in-plain-sight call center, and start building that crucial connection with your customers. Then watch your business take off.

Categories: Contact Center
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