14 Questions You Need to ask When considering Call Center Consolidation
By: Colin Taylor
Organizations today look across their customer facing organization and see cluster of call center activities: sales, technical support, customer service, returns, billing, collections etc. These call centers can exist in a companies divisions or operating companies. Even small and medium sized businesses can find that they have five or more call centers in operation all acting independently.
The solution appears obvious, consolidate the centers. This sounds logical. Why do this in many places when we can do it in one? Efficiency to gain economies of scale and therefore reduce costs sounds pretty easy. After all it’s just people and phones right?
The truth is often a little more complicated. Yes it is possible to consolidate all the centers into one location, but is that what is right for the business, for the divisions, for the customers and for the stakeholders? There are a number of points to consider in making this decision:
1. What are we terming a call center? The term today is ubiquitous. We need to define what is intended to be done in the center. Are we only talking about voice communications and telephone calls? Are these just incoming calls or will there also be outbound calls? What about emails or chats will the center be handling these as well?
2. Call centers require telephony. If you already have centers today you may already have call center telephony in place. Is it premise based or hosted? Is it current or out of date? Is there an upgrade path or is the next step a forklift? Can it meet the channel requirements of inbound, outbound, email, chat, IVR etc.? Will it scale to meet the consolidated needs or will you need a new solution?
3. Call centers generally require access to other technologies in order to work and work effectively. What about your CRM? Is it deployed across the enterprise or are there separate CRM or similar systems in each center? Are they connected to provide a single view of the client, the caller? Do they connect with the backend billing systems or is that another system that the center will need to access?
4. Do you have an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system? Do you need one? How about a predictive dialler? If you are going to be making large volumes of outbound calls then a dialler may be appropriate or should these services be outsourced on an as needed basis?
5. How will you manage the centers’ workforce? Do you have a WFM (Workforce management) system today or is this added to the shopping list?
6. What impact will consolidation have on your disaster recovery, business continuity plan? A single location is also a single point of failure.
7. Where will the center or centers be located? Just because you have available real estate doesn’t mean you should use it. The objective of a call center site selection project isn’t to find the easiest or even the cheapest location for the call center(s). The goal of site selection is to identify locations that will deliver sustainability to the call center, long term. The most expensive part of any center is people. Finding them, keeping them and having them close by, is critical to finding the ‘right’ center.
8. People. Each center you have today is staffed by employees who are working away serving their customers (internal or external). What will happen with them? Will they be offered roles in the new center? To what degree does this depend on the location selected? Will they be offered roles elsewhere in the organization? Will there be decline in service quality, productivity and accuracy in the existing centers once they know their jobs may be going away? How will you keep them working effectively in the center and not looking for or leaving for, other jobs?
9. Unless 100% of the current staff moves to the new center(s) you will need to plan to hire new staff. What are the skills and competencies needed to be effective in each the roles, in each of the workgroups or call centers being consolidated? Is there a skills map? How do we test for these skills?
10. Do we know where to find candidates, how to hire them and what to pay them? Once on board how will we train them, coach them and mentor them? What career path will exist for the call center employees to move up in the center and/or organization?
11. Who is going to run the center? If you have a number of small centers today you may not have anyone with the experience, knowledge or skills to manage a much larger and more complicated environment.
12. What is the culture we want to create in our center(s)? How will we design, create and sustain this culture?
13. What metrics will the center employ? Where will this data come from? Which of the many possible metrics will be the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and why? How will we construct the operational dashboard and disseminate this information within the center and to the business units the center serves?
14. How will we bring the customer perspective into the center design and management? How will we measure quality, satisfaction, resolution and/or Net Promoter scores?
The above are just some of the considerations that you must consider when you are looking at consolidating call centers. There can be great returns achieved through investing in a consolidated call center environment, but there are also great risks. When a customer or prospect interacts with the call center, the agent or advisor is the company to the caller. Failure to properly plan, deploy, recruit and train can resolve in degraded customer experience, reduced loyalty, brand erosion reduced customer satisfaction. Taylor Reach has assisted numerous organizations to navigate the dangerous waters of call center consolidation and we stand ready to assist you. For more information please contact us.