The call center business model has never been a simple or straightforward one. But especially today, in a sales and lead gen industry transformed by technology, knowing how to start and run a successful outbound call center is no easy task.
Take the first steps toward success with the help of this comprehensive guide to running an outbound call center. Below, you’ll find outbound calling tips and strategies as we cover:
- Setting call center goals and targets
- How to start a call center with the right agents and training
- Rethinking call center management to improve morale and more
- How to implement the right call center technology
Get Started by Setting Your Call Center Goals
Whether you’re planning to start a disruptive new call center, or just trying to successfully run an outbound call center that’s already established, you need to understand just what you’re up to in the first place.
Ask yourself (and other key stakeholders): What is your business trying to deliver to others? What separates your call center from others? In short, what are your call center’s goals?
While this might seem a bit abstract, being able to define clear business goals is hugely important to running a successful call center. With these priorities in mind, you’ll be much better able to understand your practical needs and plan the action required to achieve your goals.
Translate Goals into Targets
To start moving from ideas to a practical (and measurable) reality, turn your goals into concrete targets.
Consider all aspects of your business, in both the short- and long-term: Where do you want your call center to be in six months, one year, five years, or even ten years? How many clients (and what kinds of clients) do you want to have? What are your target sales figures? Do you want to change office locations? What about a virtual call center model?
As you set targets, make sure you abide by the SMART model for goal-setting. Keep your targets:
Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Timely
Keep Track of the Right Metrics
Choosing SMART targets is important to making sure that your goals are realistic—and that you can measure your progress against them over time. And as they say, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
In addition, aligning your targets with the right call center KPIs is essential. No matter your goal, there is likely a metric (or multiple metrics) that will help you truly understand how successfully you’re managing your call center. Explore the most essential metrics for call center success in our complete guide:
How to Start a Call Center with the Right Hiring and Training
Your employees are the lifeblood of your call center. Making sure you hire the right people and provide the best training possible is essential to both starting and growing a successful call center.
In the call center industry, agents come and go—it’s just part of the business. While leaders definitely need to be aware of burnout issues, sometimes you just can’t stop your best agents from leaving. Still, what you can do is make sure that every new hire you make is the best fit for your business.
Call Center Hiring Strategy: Get the Right Agents on Board
In the past, call center managers could be forgiven for hiring anyone who walks through the door and can speak on the phone. But when training is so important, and call centers only have finite resources, you can’t afford to be giving away training to just any candidate. Besides, if the job is harder to get, the candidate may feel more pride and therefore more obligation to make a success of their employment.
Thankfully, it’s not that hard for HR to separate the wheat from the chaff. When you’re next hiring new agents, follow these steps:
- Screen every candidate with a phone-based interview before inviting them in. This is a cheap and effective way to see how they handle themselves on the phone under pressure
- Complete competency-based interviews with the candidates that pass the phone-based interviews. This should test their interpersonal skills and their ability to sell
- Only hire agents that fit your company culture. A call center is one big family, keep it that way by hiring like-minded staff
Equip Your Agents for Success
Hiring the right people, though, is only half the battle. Even once they’re on your team, you need to invest in them.
In our guide on how to train outbound call center agents, we go in-depth on this critical topic. While we recommend taking the plunge and learning everything you can about agent training, here are some key takeaways to tide you over in the meantime:
- If you run an on-site call center, start the training before they set foot in the door. An online training portal allows new agents to start training before they officially start. (Note: Having a robust online training portal only becomes more important if you’re operating a virtual call center
- Practice with fake calls. Make the most of the mandatory first-day training by practicing calls with experienced agents. Get them on the phone to real people as soon as possible, however
- Provide mentors to your new staff, but don’t forget to give mentors support, too
- Make ongoing training a priority, not an afterthought
- Invest in live on-call monitoring and call center QA tools to deliver training tips to agents automatically while they are on the phone
You can’t expect new agents to come in and make sales straight away. As a result, if you don’t invest in training, you don’t provide your agents with the tools to succeed—and the tools to drive revenue and growth for your business as a whole.
Rethink Call Center Management to Improve Morale and Performance
Getting your agents to deliver results isn’t just a matter of training. It’s also closely tied to motivation and morale. In fact, it’s been proven: According to a Gallup study, engaged employees increased profitability by 21%. Plus, the study also found that these employees tend to stick around for longer and even improve customer relations. (Inbound and blended call centers, take note!)
So, naturally, for those learning how to manage a successful outbound call center, then, the million-dollar question becomes: how exactly do you keep your agents engaged? For starters, implement these three solutions to help improve your call center management.
1. Give Your Agents Clear Incentives
Monetary incentives have always been a staple in call centers’ remuneration packages. And it’s no wonder why: Incentives like sales goals can boost agents’ drive to deliver better performance. In fact, they can increase performance at your company by as much as 44%, according to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF). The IRF also found that 90% of top-performing companies used incentives to motivate and compensate their sales associates.
But this practice doesn’t have to be cutthroat, and it doesn’t have to stand in the way of call centers bringing their teams closer and closer together. As long as competitions are kept friendly, they can be a great way to bond, even in the increasingly common remote work environment.
Digital Market Media’s Kyle Andersson says this practice helped his remote team stay connected: “We have an internal, almost social media platform, that allows us to run daily, weekly, monthly competitions. We’re always thinking of new ways to get our agents motivated with incentives.”
2. Offer a Clear Career Path
Call center agent isn’t a job role known for its clear career progression. Yes, there are very obviously people in roles above you as an agent, but most of your colleagues tend to leave before promotion happens. This can be incredibly disincentivizing. If there isn’t anything to work towards, what’s the point in working?
Make clear an agent’s career path as soon as you employ them. That way agents know what they are aiming for and will be more willing to work hard to achieve it.
3. Keep Agents in a Groove
Not all call center management and morale issues come down to agents’ abilities, though. Sometimes, your technology and outreach strategies might be what’s standing in the way.
When call blocking and flagging issues are so common, agents face the possibility of long stretches of no real conversations and sales opportunities. If you were in their shoes, facing nothing but dial tones and answering machines, would you be particularly happy about your work?
Employing the right people is critical. But you also need to deploy solutions that keep those people happy and that are tailored for the reality of today’s call center industry. To begin with, caller ID reputation management tools that help avoid “Spam Likely” labels and help boost contact rates are essential. So are tools like accurate answering machine detection that save agents from spending hours coding for leaked voicemails instead of talking to leads.
Implement the Latest Call Center Technology
This last point underscores a key takeaway from this guide to running a successful call center: People are hugely important to your success, but they can’t do it all on their own.
To truly achieve your goals and operate a full-scale call center, you also need to support your employees on every level with the right call center technology. That’s why your call center software investment is one of the most important choices you’ll make when establishing your business.
Look for a software partner that helps you accomplish the following things that are essential for success.
Empower More Efficient Call Center Management
It’s not just agents who benefit from the right call center technology. Supervisors and managers need support, too.
Deliver that support in the form of a highly customizable dashboard that makes monitoring agent activity and call center performance as easy and efficient as possible. Payroll is going to be your call center’s biggest cost—so managers need to be able to easily make sure that it’s being put to good use.
But it’s not just agent performance metrics like pause and idle time they need to see as the day unfolds. They also need access to real-time call center reporting and analytics that allow them to make decisions on a dime and steer the call center toward better performance.
Solutions that Support Smarter Outbound Calling Strategies
Management tools can make operations more efficient. And a powerful predictive dialer can help you dial more leads. But to outdo their competition, today’s call centers don’t just need to dial harder, they need to dial smarter.
The days of dialing leads over and over and over again are long gone—or, at least they are for successful call centers. Instead, today’s businesses need to implement outbound calling strategies supported by:
- Omnichannel call center solutions that enable outbound SMS, email, voicemail drops, and more.
- Workflow automation that moves leads through the sales cycle and automates contact attempts at the right time.
- Intelligent skills-based routing that connects the right leads with the right agents.
Outbound Call Center Tips to Support Compliance
At the end of the day, though, new call center managers can’t afford to be single-minded in their pursuit of better performance. They need to rely on a dialer that supports performance and TCPA compliance at the same time. That means choosing a dialer software that:
- Offers easy-to-use integrations to support important compliance tasks like DNC scrubbing
- Makes it simple to abide by state-by-state call time restrictions.
- Offers a click-to-call dialing mode for instances when it’s preferred that agents manually initiate calls.
Not all of your compliance support will come from your dialer, however. That’s why our last (but certainly not least) outbound calling tip is this: As you look to get your call center started, obtain the advice of expert legal counsel in order to help protect your business.
Take the first step by getting your trial of Convoso
Want to kickstart your new call center — or upgrade an existing one? Start with the most important piece of software: your contact center platform. Convoso offers a next generation all-in-one solution that doesn’t just improve the productivity of your team, but integrates your CRM system, automates reports, and helps you train your staff.