How to Set Up a World-Class Call Center

Updated: April 30, 2009

There are call centers and there are world-class call centers. What's the difference? Well, plain old call centers function at a barely operational level in facilities that are inadequately designed and equipped. World-class call centers, on the other hand, are run by organizations that make a serious commitment to employee productivity and customer service by designing and outfitting their facilities thoughtfully and with the best equipment and technologies.Creating a world-class call center requires both time and careful planning, not to mention money. Here's a quick rundown of the key points you'll need to consider.

Technologies

Software: No one size or type fits all. Applications should be selected on the basis of features, interoperability and usability. Custom software is best, but off-the-shelf applications can be used as long as they are customized to meet your call center's needs.

Voice Network: You'll probably want to base your network on VoIP technology to take advantage of the technology's cost, software integration and call-routing benefits.

Servers: Look down the road and acquire systems with enough speed, memory and storage scalability to handle your call center's operations for at least three years.

Displays: LCDs save power and space, and they're easy on the eyes. The screens should be large enough to accommodate your software's graphical interfaces without creating eyestrain.

Headsets: Ear gear should be tight yet comfortable. Detachable components promote good hygiene.

Keyboards: To prevent repetitive-motion injuries, make sure the keyboards are adjustable and aren't too stiff or lightweight.

Layout

Floor Plan: The best way to determine the ideal floor plan is to try a variety of different options to maximize the number of agents per square foot while still providing an effective flow. A program like Autodeks's AutoCAD can be a big help in designing an efficient layout.

Space: Is there enough physical space to accommodate the number of planned agents? Have you planned for future growth?

Aisles: The aisles between workstations should be wide enough to allow for efficient movement and meet local building-code regulations.

Workstations: Workstation furniture should be selected and configured to help agents handle their tasks efficiently and with minimal wasted movement. Look for full-service manufacturers that provide not only agent furniture systems, but also storage cabinets, meeting tables, chairs, and administrative and executive office furniture. You'll end up with a more cohesive system at a better price than you would working with disparate vendors.

Supervisor Stations: Supervisors need to see and be seen. Make sure your layout has positioned supervisory personnel in central and prominent locations.

Noise Control: Noise-abatement techniques, such as wall and cubicle soundproofing, as well as noise-canceling headsets, will enhance call quality while boosting agent productivity.

Ergonomics: Workstations, chairs and computer-input equipment should all feature ergonomic designs.

Power

Design: Will power be dropped in from the ceiling or will it come up from the floor?

Outlets: Are there enough outlets to support all the equipment that will be used?

Wiring: To prevent dangerous snags and trips, wiring and cables should be totally concealed — in the flooring, the walls and the furniture.

Backup: An emergency generator can keep your center running independently of the main power grid. At the very least, in the event of a power failure, a generator can allow the center to power down gradually and safely.

Environmental Considerations

Heating/Cooling: People and equipment both need adequate environmental controls. Call centers that are too cold or hot degrade agent performance and potentially shorten equipment life.

Air Filtering: Dusty, dirty air can make agents drowsy, burn their eyes and provoke allergies. Dust can also gum up equipment, so invest in a high-quality air-filtering system.

Lighting: Good lighting is an often-overlooked design element. Dim, overly bright or improperly positioned lights can drain agent productivity. The money spent on hiring a lighting expert won't be wasted.

Security: Closely analyze your call center for security weaknesses. You'll need to address three areas: technology security (affecting networks, servers, software and other technologies), physical security (affecting the call-center site) and employee security (including background checks , security-level administration and security training). Overlooking any of these areas can lead to serious long-term consequences.

Designing and building a world-class call center isn't easy or cheap. But since the center is your business's most prominent customer-contact point, it's one area you don't want to scrimp on.

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