When we dream of growing a business, what we often have in mind is actually scalability. It’s easy to confuse tools for driving growth with tactics for scaling a business.
Ultimately though, scalability is different from growth.
On the surface of things, it looks and behaves like growth: the business is improving its bottom line and priming itself to take on more clients, earn even more revenue, and achieve greater success.
But the key difference between growth and scale is that scale is all about driving growth with the lowest costs possible. As a result, scaling a business generates a far greater return on investment—and it leads to a business that’s built to be sustainable.
But how do you actually achieve this? To reach new heights, explore our guide on how to scale your small business call center and put these six tactics to the test.
1. Automate your operation
Deployed in the right places, call center automation tools and artificial intelligence solutions can streamline (or eliminate) manual processes and unlock huge efficiency gains—effectively scaling up the workforce without actually growing it. And while AI and automation cannot replace the value human agents bring to a call center, it ultimately makes it easy for them to deliver that value to the business—through customer contact and strategic thinking, not repetitive and tedious tasks.
Consider your lead gen and outbound dialing process—the most critical function in any successful outbound call center. Dialing, waiting for an answer, hanging up, and moving on to the next number on the list over and over eats away at an agent’s time spent at their desk, with no direct value added.
But by replacing all that unproductive, idle time with the help of automation, companies can see drastic improvements. For instance, at Convoso, our predictive dialing software has increased conversions by up to 75%, quadrupled contact and transfer rates, and boosted sales by 30% or more.
This is a prime example of how to scale a small business call center’s operations. Rather than merely expanding the workforce and hoping additional manpower circumvents the downtime drain, making a targeted investment in powerful automation not only improves agents’ experiences on the sales floor but establishes the conditions necessary to achieve scale.
2. Drive toward small gains
The best businesses, whatever their industry or niche, are in a continuous state of progress. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the graphs are running in a near-vertical trajectory, with revenue escalating and operating costs shooting downward. While plenty of companies undergo times of tremendous growth, that level of progress is simply unsustainable over the long term.
Everyday progress is smaller and subtler, but it’s no less important to the business than those times of target-smashing prosperity.
With experience, drive, training, and clarity, employees can make small improvements every day. This is known as the 1% rule, wherein small, consistent gains are encouraged more than 3-hour meetings that seek to revolutionize the way the company runs.
Rather than a specific set of tactics, this is a mindset that can be key to sustainability and scalability. For instance, if agents miss a target by a mile, don’t change everything at once in a bid to get them there tomorrow. Change the target, and continue to change the target incrementally until they’re back where they should be.
3. Prioritize measurement and transparency
This last example points to another essential component of scaling a call center operation. Targets and goals are important for achieving success. But without the ability to carefully measure and assess performance and progress, how do you know you’ve actually moved the needle?
Luckily for today’s call centers, reporting doesn’t require unwieldy spreadsheets and tedious manual processes anymore. And the power of analytics isn’t just reserved for the biggest call centers out there. With the right software solution, leaders and call managers can have highly automated call center reporting and analytics tools at their fingertips, giving them a transparent view of their entire operation.
With this access to robust real-time reporting, call centers can get granular about their decision-making and unlock efficiencies they never would have known were possible otherwise. For example, what if you could see—again, in real-time, as it’s happening—which lead sources are performing and which aren’t? If you could only dial the right leads at the right time—the leads that convert—just think about the difference that would make in your ability to achieve scale.
And that’s just from one metric in one report. Consider what you could achieve with your entire call center in view.
4. Identify team leaders
While it’s important that you create an environment in which everyone can take measurements and make measurable improvements to their work every day of the week, it’s inevitable that, in any business, a few individuals will stand out as potential team leaders. And to scale your small business call center operation, the right organizational structure can make all the difference.
Structuring the workforce into smaller units, each one led by a capable and engaged team leader, can offer many benefits to productivity and the work environment.
While, in a small business, the temptation is to keep the structure simple, leaders generally prove most effective when they are leading smaller groups. They can implement consistent standards and represent a clear, approachable port-of-call for agents to turn to when they have questions, conflicts, or issues to raise, without ever being outnumbered by a fleet of team members.
5. Invest in employee retention
Many call centers face issues with employee retention, but it’s not always clear how their business’s workforce gets stuck in “churn mode” in the first place. Often, high turnover is a systemic problem with no singular cause, and it can create numerous overlapping issues:
- The problem is often exponential, with high turnover impacting conditions for remaining employees, prompting turnover to grow higher still
- A high turnover rate is a major drain on resources and time. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost-per-hire in 2021 was $4,425
- Replacement demands a lot of extra time and attention. Meanwhile, the remaining workforce is stretched thin for an average of 36 days, according to the same report.
- Once a replacement is found, time and resources then need to be invested into training—ie, the “training treadmill” endured by businesses with a high turnover rate.
Even a relatively low employee turnover rate is costly. A high rate can turn catastrophic.
While, on its own, even the most solid workforce won’t scale up a business, it provides an essential foundation to further development. It’s no wonder, then, that securing your team’s well-being, morale, and productivity is an essential investment—and a critical first step toward scaling your small business stagnation.
Consider the following steps to help ensure your employees want to—and do—stick around for longer:
- Compensate well: You don’t necessarily need to offer the highest salaries available, but employees want to feel valued—and they expect to receive competitive compensation for their hard work. Striking the right balance between guaranteed and incentivized remuneration can ensure things work for both leadership and employees.
- Encourage input: Giving employees a voice and making them feel as though they truly have a stake in their organization’s decisions and direction is also important for retention. Maintaining open communication with employees is critical, but consider utilizing specialized engagement tools to collect feedback routinely and directly.
- Offer flexibility: In just a short amount of time, employee expectations about how (and particularly where) they work have changed drastically. More employees than ever before expect to work from home at least some of the time. Giving your teams the flexibility they desire to work in a remote or hybrid setting can go a long way toward keeping them happy and engaged.
6. Emphasize training and growth over stagnation
There’s more you can do to retain employees and scale your small business, of course. And training and recognition go hand-in-hand with employee retention. Why? Because employees value proper training and clear paths for their own growth. A systemic lack of clarity, structure, or development is a major contributor to call center burnout and the turnover that ensues.
According to one survey cited by RevWork’s Denise Hummel Isaacson, almost three-quarters of respondents felt that their role lacked clear developmental opportunities.
Showing the value of ongoing education, in a past edition of LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees said that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.
Well-trained employees are engaged employees, and engaged call center agents prove significantly more profitable (both in terms of retention and productivity) than agents who are feeling untrained, unclear, and lost in their roles.
But training isn’t all they need—they also require the right resources to get their job done as well and as efficiently as possible.
At the end of the day, scaling your small business call center comes down to unlocking and accelerating efficiency across key areas of the organization. This requires the right talent, the right structure, and the right call center technology.
By executing the tactics and implementing the solutions discussed above, you can improve the performance and productivity (not to mention quality-of-life) of your managers and agents, while being more efficient with your customers and leads, too: a surefire recipe for scale.