A call handling centre or call centre is basically a centralised internal office, often used for transmitting or receiving a high daily volume of calls by phone. It may be run by a single business to administer received information or product enquiries from clients or customers. A call handling centre also incorporates the transferring of messages from the customer service departments to the sales and marketing departments. It may be a virtual call handling centre (or virtual call handling system) as well as a real call handling centre that handles the transferring calls between different companies. The two types differ primarily by their focus and services offered.
Virtual call handling systems are typically hosted on an individual server or a cluster of servers, allowing multiple calls to be handled at the same time from multiple locations. They can be accessed through a web browser and some systems even offer dedicated VoIP or voice over IP. This type of handling is considered cost-effective as well as flexible since it can be moved, hosted or transferred to a new location. Some call handling applications are based on telecom equipment, such as PC to phone networks or ISDN lines. Call handling providers usually charge for the distance and time spent handling calls.
Real telephone handling systems are typically managed by telecom operators. They are typically deployed to provide customers with superior telephone handling services, including remote control access to the telephone number databases. A customer satisfaction survey is often conducted before roll out of new telephone handling systems so that customers can have an opportunity to assess the quality of the services they receive. Call handling systems may include automated call logs that record call detail information, such as the caller’s name and address, and other parameters necessary for identifying the caller.
Another form of call handling is the call answering service, sometimes known as live receptionist or live customer service agent. Live receptionists are typically employed by call handling companies, but they may also be freelance or refer the customer to a third party call handling company. Customers call into the customer service line and the receptionist greets them and answers their questions. The customer is then given options regarding how to leave a message, how long the call will be, how to proceed (right now, you can talk to the live customer service representative but later you can speak to someone else), how to rate their call and what to expect when they call back.
Automated call handling software has the ability to capture caller information, including the phone number and address. This information is stored in a database and used to reroute calls to the correct representative. When a call gets routed to a voicemail box, the customer does not have to press a button to have a message left on hold. They can leave a message on hold for as long as they want, in the case the call gets answered by an automated call handling system, they can simply leave a message and wait to hear if a response is received. Most systems also have call screening features, so that the call gets routed to an appropriate agent.
The advantage of having live agents on the other end of a call is that customers do not have to put up with being treated rudely by representatives who can’t keep their attention, there are no physical abuse and most importantly, the agent always looks professional. The disadvantages of live agents are that there is only one representative that can handle a single customer, sometimes they don’t return calls quickly and there is no way to know where a call is going to come from. When an automated call handling system is used, it’s important that the callers are greeted by an automated voice that sounds credible. A robotic voice that says, “This is Assistant Customer Service and I am sorry, your call is lost” is far less believable than a real person saying, “Please give us your information and our operator will call you back at your earliest convenience”.
Call handling software, which is also known as interactive voice response (IVR) systems, provide customers with a way to talk to a live representative, in person, if they have questions or need more information after speaking to the computer. IVR systems also give the customer options when they call, such as leaving a message, playing a game or sending a photo. These options are not available when dealing with automated call answering systems. Another disadvantage of using IVR systems is that customers can call multiple times, however, each call is routed to a different agent, so each call does not affect the overall performance of the system. This may be okay for a large call center, but for a small business with a smaller call volume, this disadvantage could be a significant one.
In summary, the call handling process is critical to customer satisfaction and the success of a call handling system. IVR systems offer a simple, effective way for callers to interact with call handlers, and they’re less expensive than traditional call handling services. But if your goal is to get rid of all callers, IVR systems are not the right choice.