A call center is an office where a company makes or receives a number of calls. It is also known as a customer support center, or tech support center. There are call centers that focus mostly on incoming (inbound), and mostly on outgoing (outbound) calls. Call centers can be located all around the world. There are different ways to route calls within call centers. With VoIP and IP PBX, there are a host of new tools to help make customers happy.
The person who receives and makes customer telephone calls is called an “agent.” When there are more calls than agents, the customer is on a “queue.” There are different ways of managing the queue. The software that manages inbound calls and tracks agent performance is called an Automatic Call Distributor or ACD. In a linear call queue, calls are assigned to available agents in the order they are received. An “invisible queue” is where the caller has no way of knowing how long the wait will be. A solution to this problem is to have messages every 30 seconds or every minute announcing the caller’s position in the queue or the estimated wait time. “Skills Based Routing” is a way to direct calls to the agents best able to handle the problem at hand. This can be done either by a person taking and transferring a call, or by an auto attendant. There is also what is called a “virtual queue,” where the customer leaves contact information, and is called back when an agent is available.
It is common for call centers to be offshored, which is the practice of relocating a section of business to another country. This has the advantage of saving the company money, but can sometimes cost the company business if the customer has an aversion to offshoring.
With VoIP, calls are no longer location-based. It is easy to have a “call center” be a number of agents receiving calls from home, spread across a wide geographic area. The agents can be using software or IP phones with headsets. UCC software allows for data to be tracked and charted in detail. If there is a service interruption, calls directed at one call center can be seamlessly re-routed to other call centers. And, of course, VoIP calls are extremely inexpensive, averaging only 2.9 cents a minute, or even less with unlimited plans.