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Free online Course on Small Call Center Management

Small Call Center Management


Advice for Managers of Small Call Centers


Most indications are that small call centers (i.e., 20 or fewer agents) make up the fastest growing segment of the call center industry. New help desks, information lines, sales and customer service centers spring into existence daily. Often, managers new to call centers are assigned to these young operations. And therein lies an irony: in a number of fundamental ways, small call centers are more challenging to manage than large call centers.


Large call centers have their challenges too, but they are often of a different type. Consider some of the issues facing smaller centers:


  • The smaller the agent group handling calls, the greater the impact each person has on service level. Poorly timed breaks, unplanned non-phone activities and absenteeism can quickly demolish service level.


  • At lower volumes, the calling patterns (i.e., seasonality, day-of-week and half-hour-of-day patterns) for average talk time, average after call work time (wrap-up) and volume are generally less predictable, which makes accurate forecasting more difficult.


  • Random call arrival (the moment-to-moment arrival of calls) is more volatile at lower call volumes. Picture a graph showing the minute by minute arrival of 2,500 calls in a half hour. It would look smoother than a graph of 25 calls. Put another way, calls really ‘bunch up" in smaller call centers.


  • Small call centers have a tougher time absorbing wide swings in the workload, resulting from marketing campaigns, changes in the marketplace, the introduction of new products and services, and other events.


  • Agents in small call centers often have to be "jacks of all trades," handling a wide variety of calls and other tasks.


  • Small call centers often do not have the advanced tools, technologies and support that larger centers do (although that is changing as sophisticated technologies become increasingly cost effective for smaller applications).


On the other hand, small call centers clearly have some advantages. For example, there's often a cohesiveness and sense of responsibility among the agents that is more difficult to replicate in larger environments. Further, keeping everyone up to date on changes in policies and services is usually less difficult and less time consuming. And the big question many call center managers often have around 10:30 a.m., "Where is everybody?" is easier to answer.


The point in all of this is, hey, you may only have eight people handling calls but you have a call center, and it makes a lot of sense to treat it as such. Some of the unique challenges notwithstanding, many of the same planning and management approaches that work so well for larger call centers (targeting a service level objective, forecasting, scheduling, etc.) will also help you. The following advice, garnered from many others who have been down this path, will help you identify key issues you face and suggestions on how to tackle them.



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