Call centers are also known as contact centers or virtual call centres. A call center can handle both incoming and outgoing calls. A contact center goes one step further in that it also coordinates emails, faxes, live online chats and written communications.
Ideally, the client will view the call center as a partner, not as simply a service outsourced to free up the client's time. Open communication and continuous feedback is essential in order to ensure that both parties are successful. When choosing the right call centre for your needs, try to find a partner whose company culture and business ethics are in line with your own. If possible, get a tour of their facilities so that you can see what kind of environment their staff is working in and what kind of behaviour is encouraged or tolerated.
Whether you choose a large or small call center depends upon your needs and objectives. For a short-term project with tight deadlines, a large company will have extra staff at the ready. On the other hand, you might feel more comfortable outsourcing to a small, intimate call centre if you have ongoing assignments. You might be able to reserve one or two agents to focus exclusively on your account, building loyalty, vested interest and product or service knowledge over time.
You should also consider using a call center when you need global customer service but don't have offices located around the world. Due to the variation in time zones, you can outsource to take advantage of facilities located overseas. This can also be an advantage if you need an abundance of employees who can speak the local language. For instance, an American company might want to hire a small Italian based contact center to concentrate on their niche market in Italy. Be advised that working with a call center in another time zone will require added organisation, flexibility and coordination from both sides with regards to weekly conference calls or status update meetings. A chain of command also needs to be agreed upon in case of emergency situations or escalations.
The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) offers training, information and consultation for call centers and other businesses around the world that are dedicated to providing top-notch customer service. You may want to ask your outsourced center if they have attended any courses, seminars or networking functions.