Cost center or profit center? Why does a company need a contact center?

Contacting the hotline of a service provider, office, health center or bank – especially during the pandemic – is an integral part of everyday life for entrepreneurs and consumers. We usually associate public service hotlines with long waiting times and lack of understanding of the problem with which we call from the consultant’s side. Based on such experiences, we usually associate a contact center with something that is expensive and ineffective. Can implementing contact center services bring benefits to the company and will it work in a small company?

When the number of calls received every day or e-mails that need to be answered is so large that it interferes with the performance of daily duties by employees, the company’s management usually comes to the conclusion that there is a need to create a contact center that would take over the duties of answering phones and responding to e-mails. to relieve other employees.

An operation such as the creation of a contact center is usually treated as additional costs that do not directly increase income, but rather only limit losses related to distracting employees from their daily duties. With this approach, the contact center is treated mainly as a cost center. This usually involves looking for a way to reduce these fixed costs that are considered unnecessary. As a result, company management usually tends to look for the cheapest possible external contact center that will provide such a service at the lowest possible cost.

Will this course of action allow the company’s management to solve the problem that was the basis for the decision to launch the company’s contact center?

Variable costs but a constant problem

While maintaining an internal contact center department involves fixed costs related to maintaining employees, training them and providing appropriate hardware and software, as well as IT support, an external service contact center can provide cost flexibility depending on the actual workload. However, providing cost flexibility alone does not guarantee the success of the project itself. It may turn out that customers will still look for direct contacts with company employees, and contacts with the contact center will not be satisfactory for them.

The company’s management may then come to the belief that the service contact center does not fulfill its role and only generates additional costs. As a consequence, the service provider is usually changed, which not only does not help solve the problem, but also compounds the problem. Changing an external contact center provider requires transferring the entire contact history to the new provider or irretrievably losing it.

When does a contact center become a profit center?

To ensure that the contact center is not only a source of costs and frustration, its launch must involve redesigning other processes in the company in such a way that they are integrated with the contact center.

Regardless of whether our contact center is an internal department of the company or a business service provided by an external company, all information regarding the customer’s contacts with the company, key information on how and when to solve the customer’s problem, as well as a knowledge base enabling the center’s consultants to provide contact center with reliable and understandable information for the customer regarding the matter with which he contacts the contact center.

Collecting all this key customer information in one place enables effective communication with customers and optimal design of the customer service process. Thanks to this, it is possible to identify the so-called bottlenecks, i.e. elements that may discourage the customer from making a purchase now or in the future or affect the customer’s final assessment of satisfaction or lack thereof with the purchase made.

With the development of the e-commerce industry and self-service forms of purchase, the role of the contact center is also changing. A passive contact center, whose role is limited to handling incoming communication, is increasingly taking over the role of proactive management of customer shopping paths (CMC – customer management center). Multichannel means that shopping paths may be different for different categories of customers. There is then a need for active action on the part of the contact center, which will notice that at some stage of the purchasing process the customer has encountered a problem that he cannot or cannot solve on his own and the support of the contact center may prove helpful in finalizing the purchase. The effect of such activities is to reduce the number of abandoned carts, which in the e-commerce industry is one of the main problems affecting the amount of revenue. In this way, the cost center becomes a profit center.

Who is the contact center for?

Launching a contact center certainly requires an analysis of the problem we want to solve through such a service. It will also be necessary to integrate such a service into the company’s operating strategy. For many smaller companies that base communication with customers mainly on direct or telephone contacts, a virtual switchboard service may be sufficient, which will help effectively manage telephone contacts with customers and redirect calls to appropriate departments or company employees using appropriate voice messages. However, if we want to serve our customers on multiple communication channels and would like to manage such communication effectively, it is reasonable to consider launching our own contact center. If we do not know how to go about it, it is worth starting with the support of an experienced provider of this type of services, who will certainly help in optimally designing the customer communication process.

If our company is too small to run a contact center and we do not have employees to whom we can redirect calls, it is worth considering a virtual secretary service, also known as a virtual assistant service. It involves maintaining communication with customers on selected channels during set hours. As part of this service, we can also use additional administrative support services, e.g. issuing invoices, preparing simple letters, notes, arranging meetings or making reservations.

Guaranteed service availability

If we decide to create our own contact center or entrust the service of our clients to an external company, the first concern that usually arises is the quality of such a service and how we can verify it. The solution is a guarantee of service availability (SLA – service level agreement). As part of such a guarantee, minimum service availability indicators are established, which the supplier undertakes to provide. Failure to meet these requirements results in a reduction of the supplier’s remuneration depending on the extent of the breach of warranty conditions.

    Basic contact center indicators:
  • AR (Answer Rate) – The percentage of incoming to received calls
  • ATT (Average Talk Time) – measurement of conversation time with a client
  • ABA (Abandoned call Rate) – number of missed calls with the ability to filter out calls disconnected within the first 5 seconds
  • ACW (After Contact Work) – time of work performed after the call
  • AHT (Average Handle Time) – measurement of contact service time
  • CQ (Calls in Queue) – indicator of the number of calls in the queue
  • HT (Hold Tine) – Call time on hold indicator
  • TR (Transfer Rate) – forwarded call indicator

In the SLA guarantee, we can also specify the maximum response time to an e-mail from a customer or a chat message.

We can also establish a category of VIP customers for whom there will be a higher priority and who will be served first or immediately redirected to the appropriate employee or company owner.

How to tailor an external customer service service to the company’s needs?

A common opinion is that outsourcing customer service to an external company is good for large corporations, but it is not applicable to small companies. However, this is contradicted by the increasingly popular interest in virtual assistant services. This service is most often used by freelancers for whom a personal brand is important. So if external customer service works both in corporations and sole proprietorships, why wouldn’t it work in a small or medium-sized company?

Of course, depending on the size and structure of the company, the needs and forms of remote communication with the client will vary. In fact, the point is that the customer is satisfied with the contact and wants to come back to us with another purchase.

At Zielinet, you can arrange a free and non-binding telephone consultation to determine the needs and possibilities of implementing contact center services in your company. The consultation usually lasts about 30 minutes, during which we analyze your needs and indicate possible solutions that can be implemented in your company. Choose a convenient date and arrange a remote consultation with us.

Leave a Reply