Spotlight on contact centres: now small can compete with big

contact centres for small business

Spotlight on contact centres: now small can compete with big

Small businesses can play big, and often do. But there’s no doubt, a misconception exists in some quarters that contact centre technology is only relevant for large enterprises.  This is clearly not the case.

Contact Centres for Small Business

Small businesses can play big, and often do.

Technology is one of the greatest competitive levellers making sophisticated hardware, software and services scalable and affordable for even the smallest organisations.  As markets mature, technology vendors including Intellicom have quickly realised that the small business sector has significant market power and is not to be ignored.

Accelerating technological maturity heralds decreasing prices and more feature-rich solutions.  This is also true of contact centre technologies, which are well with the reach of small businesses. Now smaller organisations can benefit in microcosm from the same technology currently used by large, multi-national organisations.

Contact centres and call centres are often used interchangeably and this goes some way to explaining why contact centre technology is repeatedly ignored by smaller companies when it comes to looking at the management of customer contact points.

There’s no doubt, a misconception exists in some quarters that contact centre technology is only relevant for large enterprises.  This is clearly not the case.

But before, we dive into how contact centres can help smaller businesses boost customer satisfaction, let’s take a look at the key differences between contact centres and call centres.

Contact centres are dedicated, centralised hubs that deal with multi-channel customer contact points.  That could be via telephony, social media, email or messaging platforms.  Call centres on the other hand are telephony based in that they mainly manage large volumes of inbound calls to a centralised team.

Organisations can choose to run these in house or for very large organisations, outsource them to a specialist provider, who can provide expert teams and resourcing on tap.

Similarly, organisations can choose a hosted or on-premise solution for call centre and contact centre technology.  Each has their pros and cons but we’re certainly seeing more and more organisations choose cloud based telephony to power their multimedia communications as it delivers feature-rich solutions with predictable monthly subscription costs that negate the need for large, upfront capital investment.

contact centres for small businessHow do I know I need a contact centre?

The decision to establish a contact centre is very often, but not always, driven by the volume of contacts made by staff and customers with your organisation.  I deliberately haven’t focused specifically on voice contacts or inbound phone calls as customers are increasingly using other forms of communication including email, social media and chat or messaging applications.

On average a customer will interact with at least six contact points in your organisation during the typical buying process, but research tells us that customers want to reduce this to one. What better argument for setting up a contact centre that can provide just that?

A key question to consider is: when does it make sense for me to establish a contact centre for my small business?

And the answer is:  there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach.  It depends on lots of things including the nature of your business, B2C or B2B, and how your customer services are set up.

What do I need to consider?

1. Contact volumes and contact types

Analyse your contact volumes (including voice, social media, chats and messaging activity) and see whether they warrant a centralised contact centre with dedicated staff.  After all, if your contact volumes are very low, a centralised team to handle all inbound communications may not make sense.  If on the other hand, you have lots of transactional based contacts that could be handled by even a small number of dedicated staff, it might be time to take the plunge.

At least the structures are in place to handle any spurts of growth your business might experience.

Look at the reporting from your existing PBX or key system and feed the information into this mathematical calculation, known as the Erlang calculator.  This assesses how many people you need in relation to the volumes of contacts to be handled.

Here’s an example from this tool hosted by Call Centre Helper which you too can use.  It uses a multi-channel calculation to allow you integrate email and web chats into the mix.

In this case, I have looked at my existing PBX reporting, the number of email and chats received in a 60 minute period.  I can see that roughly I have about 40 contacts every hour.  From a call perspective, I have set a target service level of 80% of calls that must be answered within a 20 second period and a 90% service level for emails and chat with appropriate timings adjusted for the nature of the activity.

conttact centres for small business

Here are the results that the simulation delivers. As you can see, four agents are recommended for this volume of inbound contact requests.

contact centres for small business

This tool is by no means definitive but it does give you a rough guide as to how you might go about properly structuring and adequately resourcing your contact centre.

2. The maturity of your business processes and contact management systems

Having a centralised team to manage inbound contacts means that you must have a robust Enterprise Resourcing Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, or even at a basic level, a good accounts package in place that will allow agents to access the likely information they will require to answer customer queries.
Having customer information pop up on screen as they initiate contact with you can be done through an API.

contact centres for small businessAPIs or application programming interfaces are pieces of software that act as conduits between two applications. They basically get two applications talking to each other. And so, it’s relatively easy to integrate your CRM for example to your contact centre software.

For example, if you get a call from a B2B customer enquiring on delivery dates, you can immediately get a screen pop of the account where you can access the order number and view its delivery status. Similarly, if you’re selling B2C online, you have instantaneous visibility of the transaction and can check on its progress.

CRM technology is one of those things that small businesses sometimes consider beyond their reach. However, the reality is there are lots of affordable, feature-rich, cloud-based systems on the market that can integrate all functions of the business and provide a single pane of glass in terms of customer reporting.

Services such as Zoho, SugarCRM or FreshWorks are easy to use with predictable monthly costs and some even offer free licensing for a small number of users.

Of course, if your systems are not yet at that level of maturity, you can always take the enquiry and call back at a later stage but having that information at your fingertips yields a far better customer experience and completes the task there and then.

Centralising communications through a contact centre does require a certain level of staff training and upskilling. After all, contact centre staff have to be all-rounders and must possess a solid understanding of the ins and outs of your businesses processes. They must have an intimate knowledge of how all departments operate and be able to use that knowledge to deal with those inbound contacts in a speedy and efficient manner.

3. The importance of social media to your business

Some smaller organisations use social media solely for outbound marketing purposes and forget that in fact channels such as Twitter, Facebook and chat apps such as Facebook Messenger can be extremely effective in providing that extra layer of pre- or post-sales support for customers.

Social media used to be a megaphone. Now it’s an intimate conversation where customers want and expect a personalised experience with your staff. And they’re increasingly turning to apps such as webchat and messaging to engage with their favourite brands.

contact centres for small businessBy choosing to open up social media and newer technologies such as chat bots to a wider audience, you increase your customer responsiveness and also your lead generation capability and conversion rates. The more interactions between your organisation and potential customer, the more likely it is they will convert to a paying customer at some point in the future, particularly if that interaction has been handled competently and speedily.

Bringing all contact points under one system yields lots of other benefits too, the chief one being holistic reporting on all contacts with customers. You can’t manage what you can’t measure and being able to track response times ensures that you keep your inbound communications in line with the service level targets you have set for the business.

Centralising those inbound contact points through a well-trained team also delivers consistency of service and a high degree of customer satisfaction, elements that will keep levels of repeat business high.

If you’re unsure whether your current telephony system can provide a flexible, affordable infrastructure for your contact centre, talk to the team at Intellicom today.

Request a free consultation where we’ll come to talk to you about helping you to achieve your business objectives, before we talk technology.


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