How to Set Up a Small Business Customer Service Call Center

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How to Set Up a Small Business Customer Service Call Center

When you call a business and reach a courteous, polished customer service representative, you generally feel like you’re speaking with a larger company. Despite this association with bigger, more established firms, the reality is that any business can provide this level of service. With a few simple steps, deploying a customer service call center is well within the reach of even the smallest of businesses.

In this guide, I will show small business owners how easy it is to set up their own customer service call center and benefit from the professional level of service typically reserved for more established organizations. By employing a call center to handle some of your calls, you can ease your personal customer service responsibilities, run your business better, make your customers happier, and save a lot of money in the process.

First things first: You aren’t running a call center, you’re hiring one

This statement is true for large organizations and start-ups alike. Unless you have the resources and skills necessary to run your own call center, it’s best to seek out an established company to provide service on your behalf.

There are countless companies providing answering services for small businesses, companies that exist solely to provide telephone customer service for other organizations.

There are plenty of reasons why outsourcing the call center aspect of customer service makes sense:

  1. Call center equipment is expensive. It may be easy to have one person set up in your office to take calls, but once you need to include call routing, scripting, integrated software, and call distribution, it quickly becomes more sophisticated. Established call centers have this all taken care of.
  2. Hiring employees is costly and time consuming. If you hired an assistant to take your customer service calls, there’s a good chance you would pay him or her more in one day than it would cost you to use a call center for a month.
  3. Managing a call center takes skills you don’t have. Handling call volume, staffing, quality assurance, software customization, etc. – these are things call centers deal with every day.
  4. You’re best at running your business. As the above points indicate, it takes a lot to run a call center. You’re doing what you do because you’re good at it, so taking time away from your core responsibilities has a direct impact on your business performance. Handing this work off to another company allows you to stay focused.

So find a company that has experience working with small businesses, preferably experience with businesses in your niche, and enlist them to operate your customer service call center.

Next: Customize the service and make sure it meets your customers’ needs

Here is where a lot of businesses mess up. Not taking the time to make sure your new call center actually works for your business is a recipe for disaster.

If you send your callers to a call center that is unprepared, you’re going to be the next example of customer service outsourcing gone wrong.

You can’t treat the vendor as a separate company who is solely responsible for meeting your customers’ needs. That isn’t their job. Their job is to perform your customer service processes in a more cost-effective and professional manner.

The key word in that last sentence is your; they’re performing your customer service processes. So before you can use them effectively you need to know what your customer service processes are and ensure they address the issues faced by your customers.

If you run a small computer repair business and callers are constantly checking the status of their repair, then you should have a system in place for keeping track of job statuses. With that system in place, you can easily make it available via the web so that your customer service call center can access it. Just like that, they’re performing a simple task that you would normally be doing in your office.

Another example is appointment scheduling. If you have clients calling you to schedule appointments, don’t hire a call center just to take a message; use a cloud calendar system and give your call center access, allowing them to schedule appointments for you based on your availability.

The above examples can be summarized as follows:

  1. Set up systems ahead of time that address the types of calls and inquiries you receive
  2. Work with your call center to integrate the systems into their operation

There’s certainly tweaking that needs done in order to get things right, but repeating the above steps for the different situations that arise will ensure your call center remains in line with the rest of your business.

Lastly: Take time to listen and refine

While it is ideal to set up your call center and let it go, it would be irresponsible not to check in and make sure things are running as planned. You owe it to yourself, to your customers, and to your call center to do your part in ensuring the success of your customer service operation. By listening to calls, getting feedback from customers, and working with your vendor to make improvements where necessary, you can continually improve the effectiveness of your call center.

And there you have it, you’re on your way to providing professional customer service like the big boys. Hopefully you find this guide helpful in your efforts to improve your business and better serve your customers. By treating a call center as an extension of your business and partnering with them to meet your objectives, you’ll find their services extremely worthwhile.

If you have any questions regarding the process or how a call center can work with your business, I would be happy to talk with you about it. Same goes if you have worked with a call center in the past. Learning about what works and what doesn’t helps me improve and I’m always available to chat.

Gere Jordan

Gere Jordan is a business development associate at CMS, responsible for inbound marketing, web design, and strategic planning. He graduated from Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business in 2011 with a Bachelor's in Business Administration. 

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