Do You Operate a Micro-Call Center?

I’m on a crusade. Maybe I’m just tilting at windmills, but I have a passion to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand that they do, indeed, operate a "call center". Sure, you may not have a hundred-plus seats operating multiple ACD queues 24/7/365. But if you have a single person or a small handful of people on your team who spend a good chunk of their time on the phone with customers, then you are a call center – a micro-call center maybe – but a call center nonetheless.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to work with companies and call centers of all shapes and sizes. While each call center brings a few new challenges and twists, there is a common thread across all of them: a desire to serve customers so well that they want to come back again and again. That’s true of every call center we’ve worked with, whether they have one agent, ten agents, or one hundred agents.

A few micro-call centers that we work or have worked with:

  • One territory sales manager providing a sales and support function in an electronics manufacturing plant
  • Three sales associates taking parts orders for a regional truck-parts provider
  • Four inside sales associates providing sales and service support for a circuit-board manufacturer
  • A team of five credit analysts working in a financial services company
  • Three sales reps providing inside and outside sales for a sporting good distributor

Why is it important to understand that you operate a micro-call center?

  • Even one person will impact your customers. The question is whether that impact will be positive or negative.
  • Customers will make future purchase decisions based on their interactions with your representatives today.
  • Capturing a sample of those interactions and coaching your people to provide the best possible sales and service provides you with the opportunity to manage performance and make tactical business decisions based on objective data from those moments of truth.

Okay. Watch out! Here comes the crazy call center crusader:

Hey, "Ms. Small Business Owner" – yes you "Mr. Entrepreneur", look outside your office right now. Is there a person there talking to your customers all day? Congratulations! You run a micro-call center. Perhaps it’s time to step up to the plate and manage it.

Related Posts:
The Reward of Listening
How Many Agents Does it Take to Make a Call Center?
Front-line Conversations: Are You Listening?

Flickr photo courtesy of mize2oo5

  4 comments for “Do You Operate a Micro-Call Center?

  1. August 28, 2006 at 9:00 pm

    Tom, how I wish you were leading call centers everywhere! Great post and thanks for the tips. It reminds me that today an employee of the Circuit City store I was in could not get through to his own customer service call center. Is there any movement to bring a few humans back into the loop at these big call centers. Or or we headed to even more punch the buttons with longer numbers and get more automated responses? An interesting future ahead for call centers:-) … What do you think?

  2. August 28, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    What a great question, Ellen. My best guess is that the largest corporate call centers will continue to do anything they can to automate, cut costs, and make the quarterly report look good for investors. There may be a few big dogs out there who will buck that trend (it can be done), but it will take a strong leader at the top who has a passion for the customer and a long-term vision for growth.
    My hope is largely in the “micro-call centers” and smaller call centers where there isn’t as much disconnect between the front-line CSR and the CEO’s office. I think that’s where customers will more likely find live agents, short queues and consistently exceptional service.

  3. August 29, 2006 at 3:43 am

    You are sooo right, Tom! Every business is running a micro-call center because there is someone in the business who is bound to do business over the phone. This reminds me of the customer service seminar I attended. The speaker asked the audience, “who among you here are into the customer service industry?” Only a handful raised their hands. Then the speaker said, those who did not raise their hands are all wrong. “Everyone of us is in the customer service industry,” he said. Which is true, don’t you think?
    And, Ellen, yes there’s a movement or group right now who is pushing for non-automated hotlines. They call their movement GetHuman, and they’re now into the No-Phone-Trees campaign, which they call BRINGO. I sure hope there’s a way to get humans answer all our business calls.

  4. August 31, 2006 at 7:58 am

    Thanks for the great illustration, Meikah. The speaker you write about is absolutely right on. I hope some peope got the point and went home with a new perspective.

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