Starting a new call centre, part 2
Starting a new call centre, part 2
OK, so its been a wee bit more than a week since part one, but I’m a very important and busy person (And no, that’s not my wife you can hear laughing in the background). So stop giving me a hard time and lets get on with Part 2.
So in part one, we discussed the importance of your office location and ensuring that you can get the needed services and in particular the correct type of Internet connection. Of course you check out the availability of services BEFORE you sign that lease!
So you have now signed that lease, bought a new office or are now comfortably ensconced in your Mum’s garage.So what next? Plan, Plan, Plan.
Starting a new call centre: planning
Put a project plan together (you really should have been doing this in part 1). Yes seriously, put a project plan together. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. You can use Excel to enter a list of tasks. You could also use Google Docs which gives you an online/sharable spreadsheet or even better, use Asana which is an actual project management tool (this one is my recommendation).
You need to track the following for each task:
- Task name
- The date you need to start organising the task
- The expected delivery date of the task
- Status notes
- Responsible party
- Estimated cost
As you talk to suppliers, update the dates and make certain things are in alignment.
Starting a new call centre: dependencies
This is a big one that many people overlook.
Its particularly important to understand ‘dependencies’. For instance you really can’t get you office network built until after the electricity has been turned on. So go through your list of tasks and work out what has to be completed first and what the ‘lead time’ is for each task (i.e. how long it will take to have the service installed from the date of order and payment). If you are not certain about the dependencies, talk to you supplier about what you need to have in place before they can get started.
Starting a new call centre: be nice to your suppliers!
This may seem obvious to you, but from experience a lot of business owners miss this very basic step. Now as a supplier, your probably thinking that I’ve got an agenda to push (and you would be right) but the fact is, if you are nice to your suppliers they are far more likely to look after you. If you are a pain in the a**se to deal with, I’m hardly going to be inclined to bend over backwards to help you. If you are pleasant to deal with (and organised) and need some extra help, I’ve been know to do ridiculous things to help a customer out. And yes, I do expect you to be organised 😀
Starting a new call centre: keep your suppliers informed!
Particularly when you are juggling multiple suppliers, its important to talk to them about timing. Don’t leave them in the dark. As soon as you know a date MIGHT move, let your suppliers know. They will appreciate it and when you need to move fast, they will be more willing to try and help than if you surprise them with a date change at the last moment.
Listen to your suppliers!
We have had some very clever owners/call centre managers, some of them however are a little too clever for their own good. Listen to your supplier, if you have a decent supplier then they will be an expert on how to get the best out of their product or service. Of course if your supplier isn’t an expert then find a new supplier. Just don’t go around assume you know everything, unless you’re me of course! It’s a partnership.
You want suppliers that you can trust and have a long term ongoing relationship with. If you don’t think you can work with a supplier, go find another one. But remember its a relationship and in life things go wrong. If you’re not happy with something, then start by talking to your supplier. Be open and communicate CLEARLY what your concerns are and what you would like changed.
Does your call centre have the SaaS?
As a start-up business I would strongly recommend that you use SaaS for all of your core business systems (Accounting software, CRM, call centre system…).
So what is SaaS? SaaS or ‘Software as a Service’, also referred to as hosted or cloud computing, is where you don’t own any software but effectively rent it. With SaaS you don’t install any software on your local computers, instead you access your accounting package, CRM or call centre system all via a web browser. Gmail is an example of SaaS. With Gmail you don’t need to install a mail client such as Outlook, you just use your web browser.
With SaaS you don’t need any fancy computers sitting in an air conditioned computer room surrounded by expensive, Coke-swilling geeks who talk gobbledygook all day (and no that’s not biased as I once had a friend that was a geek).
Why use SaaS in your call centre?
Well that’s simple, we make money from selling SaaS services so what else would you expect me to say! No seriously, whilst I am pushing a particular barrow, there are some very good reasons for using SaaS services. Money.
So the first reason is all about the money. The reality of a start-up is you probably don’t have enough working capital (that’s money in the bank to cover day to day costs). So you need to preserve your cash. If you go out to buy a call centre system, an accounting package and a CRM, you have to pay a whole lot of cash up front and then pay an IT person to look after each of these systems.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are good arguments for buying the above systems outright, but these arguments generally only hold true for larger organisations. If you can’t afford to hire a full time IT person then you probably can’t afford to buy your Call Centres system up front and hence my recommendation for using SAAS.
Just to prove I’ not completely biased, I should say that we also sell systems outright, but these systems usually go to organisations with a $3+ Million dollar turnover. If you’ve got that sort of money then your probably don’t need to be reading this article, as you’ve also hired a Contact Centre consultant who knows all of this stuff.
Call centres and tax
Hmm, talk to your accountant. You have talked to your accountant haven’t you? The simple rule is that the cost of SaaS can be claimed against your tax in the year in which you pay for the service (they are considered an operational expense). If you purchase systems outright then you are likely to have to claim the cost across three years (they are considered an capital expense). That means a bigger tax bill in the first year, just when you can’t afford it.
So its obviously by now that you are going to take my excellent advice, otherwise why are you still here? You are still here aren’t you?
Call centre services
Glad to see you listening. Glad to see you stayed. Its not about the services…Oh hell! Yes it is*
To use SaaS; at a minimum you need the following:
- Internet access (read part 1 of this series)
- Parking/public transport access
- Internal Office Network (LAN): Note a wireless network (WIFI) will NOT be adequate for voice.
- Adequate power points
- Chairs (yes everyone needs to be able to sit down).
- Computer for each staff member
- Phone (or maybe a softphone (yuck!)
- Headsets – don’t skimp on headsets, pay around $100 for a WIRED headset.
- Coffee – lots of coffee or Coke (no not the white stuff).
You may also need:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. CRM Online (these guys are friends of ours).
- Accounting package (consider Sasu or Xero, forget MYOB and Quickbooks).
If you really were not listening and want to bring all of this stuff in house then; you may need:
- A cool room (preferably air conditioned) for the computer(s)
- A UPS – that’s a special battery pack, think 4-8 large bricks, that also cleans the power and stops your computer from being damaged during storms or power outages.
- An IT support person or IT supplier that can provide same.
- A disaster recovery plan (yes you need this for SaaS as well but its a much simpler plan).
- Wads of cash.
- Permission from your Mum to turn the outdoor dunny into a computer room. Just tell her it will be air conditioned and have great Facebook access.
- Plan, Plan, Plan – leave nothing to chance!
- Put a project plan together
- Build relationships with your suppliers
- Listen to your suppliers
- Go SaaS
- Be nice to your Mum.
Next week I will talk about considerations when choosing a Call Centre system, after all there is no such thing as a free lunch. You knew it was only a matter of time before we started spamming this blog with thinly veiled adverts for Noojee’s fantastic products. So why should we disappoint you 😀
Noojee Contact Solutions is a specialist provider of Call Centre Solutions, providing both cloud and on site systems. Noojee’s software is all developed and supported in Australia. If you think we can help you with your call centre needs then give us a call on 1300 666 533.
*So I couldn’t think of anything which rhymed with services.