How Many Agents Does it Take to Make a Call Center?

It was a nice on-site visit. We’d been graciously invited, by a Senior Vice-President, to come for a tour and discuss what our group might be able to do to help this fledgling company as they experienced a period of explosive growth. As the tour wound up we retreated to the V.P.’s office.

“You have a very nice call center here,” I observed.

Oh, we’re NOT a call center!” was the vehement response.

Hmmmmm. Forty people in a network of cubes primarily employed to sit, answer the phone and take anywhere between 50 and 100 orders a day. Another team of people employed to sit and answer 40-80 customer service calls each day. “You’re not a call center?”

Believe it or not, this is actually a common response. People hear “call center” and they envision a cavernous, dark call floor with huddled masses crammed into sweat shop conditions cranking out calls 24/7/365. If that’s your definition of a call center, no wonder you have no desire to link your little operation to such a term. Yet, I would argue the definition of “call center” is more expansive. In fact, if you’ve got two people whose primary function is to answer the phone to take orders or provide service/support you’ve got a call center.

Currently, our “largest” client operates upwards of 25 call centers across the country (more internationally), employing hundreds and hundreds of CSRs. Our “smallest” client has three people in one rural office taking phone orders (We used to have a client with two CSRs, but they experienced 100% growth – they now have four!).

My point is, call centers of all shapes and sizes deal with surprisingly similar challenges when it comes to keeping up with the queue, satisfying customers, and measuring the quality of service that’s being delivered.

How big is your operation? When you hear “call center” what do you envision?

  2 comments for “How Many Agents Does it Take to Make a Call Center?

  1. May 23, 2006 at 10:36 pm

    Tom, the “renaming/no naming/run from the name” thing gets a little crazy at times
    Might be fun to aim your sense of humor at the “rename game” some time.
    The one that got to me was when they changed my beloved library into a “media center”.
    But did the folks above have a different name for what you observed?

  2. May 24, 2006 at 4:29 am

    No, actually, they didn’t have an alternate name, and that was part of the silliness of it. It was sort of like a strange Monty Python sketch.

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