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Call centre

For the contact centres in family law, see childrens cen- abling interactions that create value for the customer and
tre. organisation.[2] Contact centres, along with call centres
A call centre or call center is a centralised oce used and communication centres all fall under a larger um-
brella labelled as the contact centre management indus-
try. This is becoming a rapidly growing recruitment sec-
tor in itself, as the capabilities of contact centres expand
and thus require ever more complex systems and highly
skilled operational and management sta.[3]
The majority of large companies use contact centres as
a means of managing their customer interaction. These
centres can be operated by either an in house department
responsible or outsourcing customer interaction to a third
party agency (known as Outsourcing Call Centres).

1 History
A 1970 police call centre in Brierley Hill, England
The earliest call centres were created during the 1960s,
for receiving or transmitting a large volume of requests and were known as Private Automated Business Ex-
by telephone. An inbound call centre is operated by a changes (PABX). The earliest example of a call centre
company to administer incoming product support or in- was in the UK is at the Birmingham Press and Mail.[4]
formation enquiries from consumers. Outbound call cen- They had a GEC PABX 4 ACD, installed in 1965.
tres are operated for telemarketing, solicitation of char- The coining of the term call centre is more recent, with
itable or political donations, debt collection and market the rst published use of the term in 1983.[5]
research. A contact centre is a location for centralised
handling of individual communications, including letters,
faxes, live support software, social media, instant mes-
sage, and e-mail.[1] 2 Technology
A call centre has an open workspace for call centre agents,
with work stations that include a computer for each agent,
a telephone set/headset connected to a telecom switch,
and one or more supervisor stations. It can be indepen-
dently operated or networked with additional centres, of-
ten linked to a corporate computer network, including
mainframes, microcomputers and LANs. Increasingly,
the voice and data pathways into the centre are linked
through a set of new technologies called computer tele- Workstation
phony integration.
The contact centre is a central point from which all cus-
tomer contacts are managed. Through contact centres,
valuable information about company are routed to appro-
priate people, contacts to be tracked and data to be gath-
ered. It is generally a part of companys customer rela-
tionship management.
A contact centre can be dened as a coordinated sys- A typical call centre
tem of people, processes, technologies and strategies that telephone. Note: no handset, phone is for headset use
provides access to information, resources, and exper- only
tise, through appropriate channels of communication, en- Call-centre technology circa 2005

1
2 3 DESCRIPTION

Companies can start their call centre business immedi-


Call centre technologies include speech recognition soft- ately without installing[9]
the basic infrastructure like Di-
ware to allow computers to handle rst level of customer aler, ACD and IVRS.
support, text mining and natural language processing to
allow better customer handling, agent training by auto- 2.3 Cloud computing
matic mining of best practices from past interactions,
support automation and many other technologies to im- Main article: Cloud computing
prove agent productivity and customer satisfaction. Au-
tomatic lead selection or lead steering is also intended to
improve eciencies,[6] both for inbound and outbound Cloud computing for call centres extends cloud comput-
campaigns. This allows inbound calls to be directly ing to software as a service, or hosted, on-demand call
routed to the appropriate agent for the task, whilst min- centres by providing application programming interfaces
imising wait times and long lists of irrelevant options for (APIs) on the call centre cloud computing platform that
people calling in. For outbound calls, lead selection al- allow call centre functionality to be integrated with cloud-
lows management to designate what type of leads go to based customer relationship management, leads manage-
which agent based on factors including skill, socioeco- ment, and other applications. Computer telephony in-
nomic factors and past performance and percentage like- tegration APIs provide developers with access to basic
lihood of closing a sale per lead. telephony controls and sophisticated call handling on the
call centre platform from a separate application. Con-
The universal queue standardises the processing of com- guration APIs provide programmatic control of admin-
munications across multiple technologies such as fax, istrative functions of the call centre platform which are
phone, and email. The virtual queue provides callers with typically accessed by a human administrator through a
an alternative to waiting on hold when no agents are avail- graphical user interface.
able to handle inbound call demand.

2.1 Premises-based technology 3 Description

Historically, call centres have been built on Private branch 3.1 Services
exchange (PBX) equipment that is owned, hosted, and
maintained by the call centre operator themselves. The
PBX can provide functions such as automatic call distri-
bution, interactive voice response, and skills-based rout-
ing.

2.2 Virtual call centre

See also: Software as a service and Telecommuting

In virtual call centre model, the call centre operator pays


a monthly or annual fee to a vendor that hosts the call
centre telephony equipment in their own data centre. In
this model, the operator does not own, operate or host
the equipment that the call centre runs on. Agents con- A very large call centre in Lakeland, Florida (2006)
nect to the vendors equipment through traditional PSTN
telephone lines, or over voice over IP. Calls to and from Contact centres run support or help desks, which reg-
prospects or contacts originate from or terminate at the ularly answers technical questions from customers and
vendors data centre, rather than at the call centre oper- assists them using their equipment or software. Sup-
ators premises. The vendors telephony equipment then port desks are used by companies in the computing,
connects the calls to the call centre operators agents.[7] telecommunications and consumer electronics industries.
Virtual call centre technology allows people to work from Customer service contact centres answer specic queries
home, instead of in a traditional, centralised, call centre relating to customer issues, in the banking and utility sec-
location, which increasingly allows people with physical tors these are frequently used to answer customer ques-
or other disabilities that prevent them from leaving the tions relating to their account or payments, this type of
house, to work. The only required equipment is Internet service may even be used to respond to customer com-
access and a workstation.[8] The companies are prefer- plaints and undertake retention strategies for unsatised
ring Virtual Call Centre services due to cost advantage. customers.
3.4 Call centres in healthcare 3

Contact centres also carry out sales and marketing activ- contact centres are a model of contact centre that pro-
ities; these can be performed through cold calling strate- vide services on a pay per use model. The overheads
gies and increasingly through live chat applications on of the contact centre are shared by many clients, thereby
company websites. supporting a very cost eective model, especially for low
volumes of calls. Outsourced centres have grown in pop-
ularity. There is criticism of the outsourcing model.
3.2 Dynamics
Companies that regularly utilise outsourced contact
centre services include British Sky Broadcasting and
Orange[12] in the telecommunications industry, Adidas
in the sports and leisure sector,[13] Audi in car
manufacturing[14] and charities such as the RSPCA.
Outsourced call centres are often located in the
developing countries, where wages are signicantly
lower. The call centre industry in the Philippines and call
centre industry in the Bangladesh serve as good examples.

3.4 Call centres in healthcare


The healthcare industry has used outbound call centre
programmes for years to help manage billing, collections,
and patient communication.[15] The inbound call centre is
Call centre worker conned to a small workstation/booth, using a new and increasingly popular service for many types of
CallWeb Internet-based survey software healthcare facilities, including large hospitals. Inbound
call centres can be outsourced or managed in-house.
A contact centre supports interaction with customers over MountainStar Healthcare is one of the rst companies
a variety of media, including telephony, e-mail, social to build an inbound call centre in-house.[16] American
media, and internet chat. A telephone answering service Health Connection is an American healthcare call cen-
is a more personalised version of the call centre, where tre corporation with a focus on inbound call centres that
agents get to know more about their customers and their use outsourcing.[17]
callers; and therefore look after calls just as if based in
their customers oce.[10] These healthcare call centres are designed to help stream-
line communications, enhance patient retention and sat-
Calls may be inbound or outbound. Inbound calls are isfaction, reduce expenses and improve operational e-
made by consumers, for example to obtain information, ciencies.
report a malfunction, or ask for help. In contrast, out-
bound calls are made by agents to consumers, usually for
sales purposes (telemarketing). A blended centre com- 4 Evaluation
bines both inbound and outbound campaigns where each
type of agent (inbound or outbound) can handle the over-
ow of the other.[11] 4.1 Mathematical theory
Call centre sta are often organised into a multi-tier sup-
See also: Erlang distribution
port system for more ecient handling of calls. The rst
tier consists of operators, who initially answer calls and
provide general information. If a caller requires more as- Queueing theory is a branch of mathematics in which
sistance, the call is forwarded to the second tier (in the models of service systems have been developed. A
appropriate department depending on the nature of the call centre can be seen as a queueing network and re-
call). In some cases, there are three or more tiers of sup- sults from queueing theory such as the probability an
port sta. Typically the third tier of support is formed of arriving customer needs to wait before starting service
product engineers/developers or highly skilled technical useful for provisioning capacity.[18] (Erlangs C formula
support sta for the product. is such a result for an M/M/c queue and approxima-
tions exist for an M/G/k queue.) Statistical analysis
of call centre data has suggested arrivals are governed
3.3 Outsourcing by an inhomogeneous Poisson process and jobs have a
log-normal service time distribution.[19] Simulation al-
See also: Outsourcing gorithms are increasing being used to model call riival,
queueing and service levels.[20]
In contrast to in house management, outsourced bureau Call centre operations have been supported by mathemat-
4 4 EVALUATION

ical models beyond queueing, with operations research, Active & Waiting Calls: measures current volume of
which considers a wide range of optimisation problems active calls compared to the number of callers wait-
seeking to reduce waiting times while keeping server util- ing to be patched through to an agent. This is a real-
isation and therefore eciency high.[21] time status metric that should be shared with all the
agents to oer them insight on their performance.
Agents should be encouraged to resolve calls on a
4.2 Metrics timely basis in order to get to the next caller in queue
and not keep the callers on wait.
Some vital call centre performance metrics[22] are listed
below:
Call Abandonment: measures the number of calls
that are disconnected before they can be connected
Customer Satisfaction: a measure of how products to one of your agents. This metric is closely related
and services supplied by a company meet or sur- to Service Level and Customer Satisfaction. Cus-
pass customer expectation. C-SAT is based on cus- tomers are not expected to be patient. They will
tomers experience with the support or service. The hang up and possibly switch their brand loyalties.
scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0 to
10 scale.
Forecast Accuracy: better described as forecasted
Average Handling time: a key measure for any con- contact load vs actual contact load. It is a per-
tact centre planning system, as it tells you how long formance metric that reects the percent variance
a new item of work takes to be handled and not just between the number of inbound customer contacts
the talk time. forecasted for a particular time period and the num-
ber of said contacts actually received by the centre
Revenue Per Call: usually used in sales projects during that time period.
which calculates the eort of a representative with
respect to increasing sales. RPC can be calculated Sta Turnover/Retention: The best way to measure
by dividing the total amount of sale by total number the satisfaction of your workforce is to look at the
of calls. percentage of sta that leaves. There can be some
First Call Resolution: properly addressing the cus- telling information in these numbers and it is crucial
tomers need the rst time they call, thereby elimi- to track and analyse the turnover rates in many ways.
nating the need for the customer to follow up with a
second call. Up-Sell/ Cross-Sell Rate: simply the success rate of
generating revenue above the original intention of
Total Problem Resolution: percentage of time the the call. It is becoming an increasingly common
problem has been completely resolved from the cus- practice, not just for pure revenue-generating call
tomer point of view. This KPI is mostly used for: centres but for customer service centres as well.
Operational Excellence. This keeps troubleshooting
time to a minimum, which, according to industry
Sta Shrinkage: the percentage of time that employ-
averages, currently accounts for as much as 80 per-
ees are not available to handle calls. It is classied as
cent of total problem resolution time, and gets the
non-productive time, and is made up of meeting and
problem xed.
training time, breaks, paid time o, o-phone work,
Net Promoter Score: measures the loyalty that ex- and general unexplained time where agents are not
ists between a provider and a consumer. NPS is available to handle customer interactions.
based on a direct question: How likely is it that you
would recommend our company/product/service to Blockage:a measure of accessibility that indicates
a friend or colleague? The scoring for this answer is what percentage of customers will not be able to get
most often based on a 0 to 10 scale. in touch with the contact centre at a given time due
to insucient network facilities.
Quality Scores: by far the most common metric used.
It provides the ability to look at the overall caller ex-
perience and the conversations that agents are using Cost Per Call: A major factor determining revenue
on their phone calls. is the cost of running the organisation. A common
measure of operational eciency is cost incurred
Service Level Agreement: an agreement between two for each minute of handling the call workload, com-
or more parties where one is the customer and the monly referred to as Cost per Call. This cost per
others are service providers. The contract may in- call can be simply a labour cost per call, or it can be
volve nancial penalties and the right to terminate a fully loaded rate that includes payroll in addition
the contract if the SLA metrics are consistently to telecommunications, facilities, and other services
missed. costs.
5

5 Criticism and performance Low compensation (pay and bonuses)

Some critics of call centres argue that the work atmo- Long hours
sphere in such an environment is dehumanising.[23] Oth-
ers point to the low rates of pay and restrictive working Restrictive working practices (some operators are
practices of some employers.[24][25] There has been much required to follow a pre-written script)
controversy over such things as restricting the amount of
time that an employee can spend in the toilet.[26] Call cen- High stress: a common problem associated with
tres have also been the subject of complaints by callers front-end jobs where employees deal directly with
who nd the sta often do not have enough skill or au- customers
thority to resolve problems,[27] while the sta sometimes
appear apathetic.[28] Other research illustrates how call Repetitive job task
centre workers develop ways to counter or resist this en-
vironment by integrating local cultural sensibilities or em- Poor working conditions (e.g. poor facilities, poor
bracing a vision of a new life.[29] maintenance and cleaning, cramped working condi-
Telephone calls are easily monitored, and the close mon- tions, management interference, lack of privacy and
itoring of call centre sta is widespread.[30] This has the noisy)
benet[31] of helping the company to plan the workload
and time of its employees. However, it has also been ar- Lack of support for employees with impaired vision
gued that such close monitoring breaches the human right and hearing problems
to privacy.[32] Most call centres provide electronic reports
that outline performance metrics, quarterly highlights and Rude and abusive customers
other information about the calls made and received.
Criticisms of call centres generally follow a number of Lack of advancement opportunities (Most call cen-
common themes, from both callers and call centre sta. tre positions tend to be dead-end jobs until the em-
From callers, common criticisms include:[33] ployee decides to leave the company, resulting in
high turnover rates within the call centre)
Operators working from a script
The net-net of these concerns is that call centres as a busi-
Ignoring or delaying the calls from the more dicult
ness process exhibit levels of variability. The experience
customers (call screening)
a customer gets and the results a company achieves on
Incompetent or untrained operators incapable of a given call are almost totally dependent on the quality
processing customers requests eectively[34] of the agent answering that call.[35] Call centres are be-
ginning to address this by using agent-assisted automa-
Obsequious behaviour by operators (e.g., relentless tion to standardise the process all agents use.[36] Anton
use of sir, ma'am and I'd be more than happy and Phelps have provided a detailed manual on how to
to assist you) conduct the performance evaluation of the business,[37]
whereas others are using various scientic technologies to
Overseas location, with language and accent prob-
do the jobs.[38][39][40] However, more popular alternatives
lems
are using personality and skill based approaches.[41][42]
Touch tone menu systems and automated queuing The various challenges encountered by call operators are
systems discussed by several authors.[43][44][45][46][47]

Excessive waiting times to be connected to an oper-


ator
6 Unionisation
Complaints that departments of companies do not
engage in communication with one another
Unions in North America have made some eort
Deceit over location of call centre to gain members from this sector,[48] including the
Communications Workers of America[49] and the United
Requiring the caller to repeat the same information Steelworkers. In Australia, the National Union of Work-
multiple times ers represents unionised workers; their activities form
part of the Australian labour movement.[50] In Europe,
Common criticisms from sta include: Uni Global Union of Switzerland is involved in assisting
unionisation in this realm[51] and in Germany Vereinte
Close scrutiny by management (e.g. frequent ran- Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft represents call centre work-
dom call monitoring) ers.
6 9 REFERENCES

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[13] adidas setup a dedicated customer care centre. Adidas.

[14] Audi chose Confero as an outsourced contact centre.


8 See also Confero.

[15] Billing and Collections. Modern Healthcare.


Automatic call distributor
[16] Centralized Scheduling. MountainStar Healthcare.
Business process outsourcing
[17] American Health Connection
Call management
[18] Gans, N.; Koole, G.; Mandelbaum, A. (2003).
Telephone Call Centers: Tutorial, Review, and
List of call centre companies
Research Prospects (PDF). Manufacturing &
Predictive dialling Service Operations Management. 5 (2): 79.
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[19] Brown, L.; Gans, N.; Mandelbaum, A.; Sakov, A.;
Shen, H.; Zeltyn, S.; Zhao, L. (2005). Statistical
Queue management system
Analysis of a Telephone Call Center (PDF). Journal
Skills based routing of the American Statistical Association. 100 (469): 36.
doi:10.1198/016214504000001808.
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[20] Portage Communications https:
//portagecommunications.com/
a-primer-on-two-call-center-staffing-methods/".
9 References Portage Communications. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
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[22] 31West.net - Gregory Campbell. Call Center Metrics.
[3] Cactus Search - List of Call Centre Management Roles
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[4] Science and invention in Birmingham#cite note-45 Working Conditions. 2005-06-05.
[5] The history of the call centre. Call Centre Helper Mag- [24] Hourly Rate Survey Report for Industry: Call Center.
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[6] US Patent 7035699 - Qualied and targeted lead selec- [25] Advice regarding call centre working practices (PDF).
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[27] Shaw, Russell (2006-01-30). Tone-deaf to customer
[8] David S. Joachim. Computer Technology Opens a World complaints, Dell opens yet another call center in India.
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7

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[30] Call Centre Monitoring. Management. callcentre- mance (PDF). Retrieved 1 July 2008.
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[36] NACC. Nationalcallcenters.org. Retrieved 2012-01-
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[39] Evaluation of the Performance of customer service 10 Further reading


representatives in a call center using DEA/Network
Model/Fussy Sets. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
Cusack M., Online Customer Care, American So-
[40] Srinivasan, Raj; Talim, JRome; Wang, Jinting; et al. ciety for Quality (ASQ) Press, 2000.
(2004). Performance analysis of a call center with in-
teractive voice response units. TOP. Springer Berlin. 12 Cleveland B., Call Center Management on Fast
(1): 91110. doi:10.1007/BF02578926. Forward, ICMI Press, 2006.

[41] Skyrme, Pamela; et al. Using personality to predict out- Kennedy I., Call centres, School of Electrical and
bound call center job performance (PDF). Retrieved 1 Information Engineering, University of the Witwa-
July 2008. tersrand, 2003.
[42] Stolletz, Raik; Stefan Helber (2004). Performance anal- Masi D.M.B., Fischer M.J., Harris C.M., Numerical
ysis of an inbound call center with skills-based routing. Analysis of Routing Rules for Call centres, Telecom-
OR Spectrum. 26 (3): 331352. doi:10.1007/s00291-
munications Review, 1998, noblis.org
004-0161-y.
HSE website Psychosocial risk factors in call cen-
[43] Witt, L. A.; et al. (2004). When Conscientious-
ness Isn't Enough: Emotional Exhaustion and Perfor- tres: An evaluation of work design and well-being.
mance Among Call Center Customer Service Represen-
Reena Patel, Working the Night Shift: Women in In-
tatives. Journal of Management. 30 (1): 149160.
doi:10.1016/j.jm.2003.01.007. dias Call Center Industry (Stanford University Press;
2010) 219 pages; traces changing views of womens
[44] Aguir, Salah; Karaesmen, Fikri; Aksin, O. Zeynep; Chau- work in India under globalization.
vet, Fabrice; et al. (2004). The impact of retrials on
call center performance. OR Spectrum. 26 (3): 353376. Fluss, Donna, The Real-Time Contact centre,
doi:10.1007/s00291-004-0165-7. 2005 AMACOM
8 11 EXTERNAL LINKS

Wegge, J., van Dick, R., Fisher, G., Wecking, C.,


& Moltzen, K. (2006, January). Work motivation,
organisational identication, and well-being in call
centre work. Work & Stress, 20(1), 60-83.
Customer Operations Performance Center Inc.
website for more information on the COPC-2000
CSP Standard.

11 External links
Media related to call centres at Wikimedia Com-
mons
Mandelbaum, Avishai Call Centers (Centres) Re-
search Bibliography with Abstracts. Faculty of In-
dustrial Engineering and Management, Technion-
Israel Institute of Technology.
9

12 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


12.1 Text
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12.2 Images
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telephone_call_centre.jpg License: CC BY-SA 3.0 Contributors: Own work Original artist: Petiatil
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? Original artist: ?
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domain Contributors: Own work Original artist: Earl Andrew at English Wikipedia
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nal artist: ?
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License: CC BY-SA 2.0 Contributors: Flickr: Day 210 - West Midlands Police - Historical photo of Police contact centre Original artist:
West Midlands Police
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domain Contributors: Own work Original artist: Jbarta
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main Contributors: ? Original artist: ?
10 12 TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

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CC-BY-SA-3.0 Contributors: This le was derived from Wiki letter w.svg: <a href='//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
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letter_w.svg/50px-Wiki_letter_w.svg.png' width='50' height='50' srcset='https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6c/
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12.3 Content license


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