Small and Mid-Size Call Center Challenges

If you have a small or mid-sized call center, it is much more difficult to get budget appropriated for technology such as call recording, quality monitoring and workforce management. We have talked to numerous centers with as few as 3 agents, all the way up to 800 agents, looking for a cost-effective call recording system or workforce management program. The small to mid-size centers typically have a much tougher time finding something that meets their requirements. Some differences in the challenges faced by small to mid size call centers compared to large call centers include...

Small Centers

  • Non-typical call center telephone switches
  • Don’t require expensive integration
  • Difficult to locate a vendor with a practical system offering
  • Small/no IT department
  • Most recording systems don’t scale well to smaller centers
  • Small budget, if any
  • And more…

Large Centers

  • Standard call center telephone switches
  • Call Center systems experience
  • Recording systems require expensive integration
  • Recording vendors courting your business
  • Large IT department
  • Integration tools to provide control/business data
  • Large budget

Even though these differences exist, the needs of the small/mid-size center are not really that different. They are held to the same service levels, quality standards, sales quotas, customer satisfaction levels, etc., yet they are expected to maintain these levels with limited technology.

When it comes to Call Recording, there is technology available that will fit this specific call center niche. If you don’t know what’s available, it’s hard to locate what you need without weeding through a lot of over-priced and over-featured products and systems. We’ve been able to put together a stable of products to fit virtually any recording or workforce management application.

Call Recording Center Can Help!

Call Recording Center can provide virtually any type of recording you may need, although not all phone systems can host all types (total, sample, record-on-demand, selective, business rules driven). Your telephony environment also impacts how a system can be implemented as well. However, there are always ways to get what you want. Just be sure whoever you talk to listens to your complete list of requirements before they launch into the benefits of their system. Be sure you discuss the benefits of each type of recording in your application. Don’t be afraid of paying for total recording; in most cases it is less expensive then random sampling.

Please keep in mind there is more to this process than just recording and evaluating agents’ interactions. If you record calls and have your supervisors or quality staff evaluate them, don’t stop there. Up to this point you have only collected data and parked it. This is where the real impact of your system is realized. You should be able to organize that data, in a format that means something to you, and deliver it to someone empowered to act on it (this functionality can be provided to the smaller centers as well). Who are your best agents? Do you know? Are you sure? Do your best agents (at least the ones you think are your best) have the longest or shortest handle time? Does handle time even have anything to do with the level of service provided to your customers? If these are your best agents, do they handle all products/services with the same level of competency? Do they close all sales, always up/cross sell? How can you share their skills with the rest of your agent population?

That's not all you can learn by recording calls. There is a wealth of information to be found by knowing what your customers are saying.

If You Listen, What Will You Find?

  • Proactively address developing trends
  • Better understanding of customers and their issues
  • Potential product enhancements
  • Potential process changes (reducing handle time and maybe even call load)
  • Impact of latest advertising campaign
  • Reactions to new features/services
  • Comments regarding competition
  • Better, targeted training

I’m sure if you ask your marketing, product development, or executive management departments, they’ll give you a list or other business intelligence they'd like to see from a well implemented call recording system as long as your arm.

Indexing calls with business data can provide great information that can be shared across the entire enterprise. If the “other side” of the house wants to hear what the customers are saying, recordings are easy for them to access and play.

You can also incorporate a couple of marketing questions right into the agent evaluation form. Your supervisors are reviewing calls for quality purposes anyway; put a couple radio buttons, drop downs, even text, and evaluation will only take a couple of seconds, and marketing can pull calls/reports based on this data.

The great thing about this information is that it's real - no third party surveys, no questionnaires, just your customers talking to your agents. Listen to their tone of voice, what are they asking, what are they saying about your processes/products/services. In their words, where does your company really stand with them?

What About Workforce Management?

Workforce management system costs can be very high due to the integration and associated professional services that enables these systems to automatically upload historical call data and real-time agent/call data used to create call forecasts. From these forecasts, the software predicts staffing and creates your schedules. These systems start in the $20,000 range.

Accurate scheduling can actually be more important to the centers with less than 50 agents than the 150+ seats centers. If an agent calls in sick at 8:45am to the 150 seat they can easily cover the extra calls. That agent is less than 1% of their workforce. What happens if an agent calls in sick at 8:30am to a center that only staffs 25 agents? Now you’re scrambling and your service levels are blown for at least the morning, or you have to be overstaffed to proactively head off this type of situation, which is expensive. Either way you lose.

Expensive, a relative term, but if you have 15 to 70 agents, you probably don't have a vast technology budget. However, that doesn't mean you're stuck using spreadsheets and manual scheduling. There are much more cost-effective options available for you. You can obtain a workforce optimization tool that will provide a schedule that is as accurate as the expensive systems. The only difference is you either manually import a file with the historical call data, or some low-cost systems even automatically upload it. These systems range in price from $1,500 to $8,900 for 15 - 100 agents, depending on the number of agents to be scheduled. No special hardware or excessive professional services are needed.

These systems can provide full schedules that can be shared with your agents via printout and/or Web interface. These systems use the same Erlang-C algorithm that the pricey systems use. You have the ability to do intra-day management, “what if” scenarios and even create holiday schedules to proactively prepare for the season. Some even provide the ability to run your forecasted schedule against a simulated switch to see how it performs. You can make adjustments to address any issues that are presented and test it again, using these tuned stats to create your working schedule.

Workforce management is still “best guess technology,” but these systems greatly reduce the margin of error. Reducing unneeded staff by a single agent or providing the ability to correctly staff for billing cycles, holidays, and any other special staffing situations makes a huge impact on your ability to field calls. This impact on your service levels and payroll more than compensate for the investment. There is hope. Give these systems a look.

Learn More

As always, if you have call recording or call center questions, contact us for a no-obligation consultation with a call recording expert.

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