Frequently used in sales, tech support, and customer service, call centers have been around in one form or another since the mid-1900s, and they’re still highly popular today. Since the need for such businesses is still so high, it’s no wonder that many entrepreneurs have decided to start call centers of their own or become virtual phone number providers.
Perhaps you are one such individual but are unsure of where to start. After all, with so many moving parts involved in such an operation, the thought of organizing and running a call center can be quite overwhelming.
If you’d like to start a call center business, but you’re not sure where to begin, look no further than this article. Here, we break down the entire process, taking you through every step along the way.
Decide the Basics
The first step in starting any type of business is to put the basics in place. In terms of starting a call center, this means thinking about what type of service you want to start, what industry you want to work in, and what the focus and aims of your business will be.
What type of call center do you want to run?
When running a call center, you can choose between one of two setups: on-site or virtual. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important that you weigh these options carefully against one another to find the best choice for you.
What industry do you want to work in?
Next, think about what industry you would prefer to work in. Are there any particular fields that you feel passionate about or interested in? Remember to be realistic; some industries will require a level of knowledge you may not possess.
What will the focus of your call center be?
There are three main types of call centers for you to consider: inbound, outbound, and hybrid call centers.
Inbound call centers field incoming calls and are used to take orders, handle customer queries, and more. Outbound call centers focus on outgoing communication instead, such as cold calls, surveys, and telemarketing. As the name suggests, hybrid call centers combine these approaches.
What are your goals?
Finally, consider the main goals you have for your call center. Determining your aims will make it easier for you to plan your business.
Put Together a Business Plan
Once you’ve laid out the basics of your call center, it’s time to establish a more detailed business plan. In this plan, you should include five main components, all of which we’ve explained below.
An executive summary can best be described as an elevator pitch. It should be short and to the point, bringing together the highlights of your business plan. Oftentimes it’s easier to come back to this section after writing the other parts.
Here, you should provide a summary of your business, explaining what you have to offer the industry. Explain what market gap your business fills and detail what motivated you to start the business in the first place.
In this section, provide some detailed market analysis and explain how this information shapes your marketing strategy. Include information such as sales forecasts, advertising plans, and an analysis of your competition.
Management and organization
This section should include short bios for all your company executives, detailing their qualifications and experience. Future investors and clients will want to be able to evaluate the risk associated with your company; this information will help them to do so.
Financial projections and documents
Finally, provide projections for the next few years, including cash flow statements and cautious estimates of your revenue going forward. Again, any potential investors you may attract will want to make sure they’re using their money wisely. Proving that you have a solid financial plan will give them the confidence they need.
Determine a Budget for Your Call Center Business
Once you’ve laid out a plan for your call center, the next step is to figure out your budget. Operating a call center can be quite expensive, as there are a few different expenses you’ll have to consider:
- Equipment: One of the largest investments you’ll have to make is in equipment. You’ll need to provide your employees with all the necessary tools for the job, including computers, phones, and phone lines. Try to save money where you can—for instance, by using virtual phone number providers rather than landlines.
- Salaries: You’ll also need to figure out how much you’re going to be spending on salaries. Consider how many employees you’re going to hire and determine how much you’re going to pay them. Be sure to pay them a competitive wage; you’re going to find it difficult to find and retain agents if you’re only paying them the bare minimum.
- Registration fees: When registering your business, you may be required to pay some registration fees. Take these into account when budgeting for your call center.
- Marketing: As a new business, you should make the most of advertising to get your name out there. This could include anything from pamphlets and posters to online advertisements and social media posts.
This list is not an exhaustive one, but it should help give you some idea of how much you will have to spend on your business.
Find a Place to Set Up Your Company
If you’ve decided to run an on-site call center, you’ll also need to find a suitable location for your business. It should be large enough to accommodate all your employees and their equipment while also staying within your budget.
Choosing a local location is an option, but offshoring your call center can often be more affordable, with lower setup costs, lower wages, and more suitable corporate regulations.
If you decide to offshore your business, consider first bringing on board a local lawyer in order to make sure you’re abiding by all the necessary regional laws. Your lawyer will also be able to give you a complete understanding of the various costs and permissions associated with opening a business in their country.
Take Care of the Necessary Paperwork
Starting up any business, whether a call center or some other type of company, will require you to fill out a lot of paperwork. For one thing, you have to register your business. Additionally, if there are any permits or licenses required, you’ll have to apply for those, too. The best thing to do is to carefully go through the existing regulations for your country or region to make sure you complete all the necessary documents.
As mentioned above, be sure to consult with a local lawyer if you decide to offshore your business. Each country has its own rules and regulations related to running a business, so it’s important that you get assistance from someone who knows their stuff.
Assemble Your Team
The next step in starting a call center business is hiring agents for your company. Remember, a call center is only as successful as its staff; look for employees who will be a good fit for your company ethos and who have the necessary skills to be an asset to the team.
Unsure of how to get started hiring staff members? Follow the below pointers to help you with the task:
Consider how many employees you need
First, think about how many employees you need to hire for your call center. If you bring on too many workers, you’ll have to pay out an unnecessary amount of money. Furthermore, you’ll have to share out working hours between too many people, meaning some of your agents may end up having fewer hours than they’d like.
On the other hand, with too few employees, you run the risk of being understaffed. As a result, you’ll find yourself missing targets and losing out on sales, especially during busy periods.
To figure out how many staff members you need, keep your company’s goals and budget in mind. You should also consider your call center setup at this point. For example, an on-site call center may employ more people than a virtual one in order to keep up with the high costs associated with running the place.
Put a thorough recruitment process in place
Once you know how many employees you’re looking to hire, ensure that you have a robust recruitment process in place. This process should be thorough but quick, and you should remain 100% transparent with candidates throughout it.
Make sure you have a complete understanding of what you require from your employees. Start by considering the following questions:
- Do you need employees whose schedules allow for flexibility?
- What sort of skills are you looking for in your agents?
- Are there any personal qualities you believe to be important in the role?
Remember, your agents represent your business to your customers. The impression they leave upon your clients is therefore deeply important. As such, you should make sure that every last member of your team is selected with the utmost care.
Provide new starts with rigorous training
Many people make the mistake of thinking that call center work is a piece of cake. In reality, however, successful call center agents possess a wide range of skills and qualities that help them to excel at their work.
Agents should be trained in the software and equipment your call center uses. They should be able to use headsets, phones, computers, and other tools necessary to their role. Agents should also be able to navigate whatever call center software they use with confidence.
As well as being trained in the various technologies used by your company, employees should also be taught phone call etiquette and should receive training in how to deal with customers. Your agents should be communicative and empathetic—problem solvers dedicated to creating happy customers. Through regular training, you can help cultivate these qualities.
Cultivate a Healthy Work Environment
The work doesn’t stop when you’ve hired your agents. You also need to make sure you do all that you can to cultivate a healthy work environment, one that promotes compassion and a spirit of cooperation. Read on to find out what you can do to make your call center a good place to work, thereby reducing turnover.
Support your agents
Your agents are much more likely to respond to you if you demonstrate that you care about them as individuals. Show your appreciation for their hard work and let them know their input doesn’t go unnoticed. If their performance isn’t quite where you’d like it to be, approach them with constructive criticism and training programs catered to their needs.
Remember, your employees have a life outside of work. You should take this into account when scheduling their shifts. Showing compassion and understanding will show your agents that they are truly valued.
Develop a humble leadership style
Another tip to help you promote a healthy work environment is to adopt a humble leadership style. This involves:
- Not being afraid to admit your mistakes and being able to take criticism from others.
- Constantly striving to improve yourself and increase the quality of your work.
- Developing good listening skills and compassion for your employees.
Exercising humility in leadership can provide a boost to team morale and show staff members that it’s all right to make mistakes and ask for help from time to time. It will also make you more approachable and relatable, which, in turn, will make it easier for your employees to trust you.
Lead by example
A final piece of advice to help you create a healthy call center environment is to lead by example. If you behave in a way that aligns with company morals, your employees will be able to see that you are someone they can trust. As such, it’s important that you behave in such a way that it’s clear the principles of your business play a role in how you carry yourself as an employer.
Leading by example doesn’t only boost team morale; it also can help boost overall productivity. With your good example to follow, employees will feel encouraged and surer of what is expected of them.
Expanding Your Business
Once you’ve firmly established your business, you may want to give some thought to expanding it. If so, there are a few different points you’ll need to consider:
- Hiring new staff: The bigger your business, the more responsibilities need to be taken care of. You may have to bring new agents on board to ensure your high standard of service is maintained as your company grows.
- Moving to a bigger location: If you are an on-site call center, you may want to think about moving to a larger location. This will give you the extra room needed for your new staff and new call center equipment.
- Finding your niche: Sometimes, finding a niche in the market can help you to expand your reach. Consider what untapped market area you could make use of to grow your client base.
Starting your own company can be very intimidating, no matter the type of business you’re looking to run or the industry you want to work in.
When opening a call center, in particular, there are lots of moving parts to keep track of. Planning, budgeting, setting up your HQ, and finding suitable agents—such tasks are just a few examples of the hard work that awaits you. Nonetheless, running a call center can be very rewarding, particularly for those who feel passionately about customer service.
If you think that you’re cut out for the task, we suggest following the steps in this guide carefully to make sure you start off on the right foot. Plan carefully and apply yourself diligently to each part of this process, and you’re bound to be met with success.