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A customer call center or customer call centre is a central office at which a business receives or initiates phone contact from or with customers. Workers at a customer call center may handle pre-purchase queries, orders and reservations, tech support, or follow-up questions from customers. They may initiate telemarketing calls, handle debt collection, or follow-up on service contract calls. A customer call center may be staffed by people hired through the business’s human resources department, or it may be outsourced to a company that specializes in customer call center administration, often in order to save money through lessening labor costs. With the advent of VoIP telephones and other advances, customer call centers may actually be virtual, with employees telecommuting rather than gathered in a central location.
In most cases, a customer call center is a well-established and ongoing part of a business. Some businesses, however, make use of intermittent customer call centers set up for specific campaigns. This is often true, for example, with public television and public radio stations during the times of year when they run their fund raising campaigns. In this case, the customer call center is often staffed with volunteers and/or local celebrities who support public broadcasting.
There are several persistent issues that managers face with the operation of a customer call center. Changing technology makes it necessary to keep up with the technical side of things in order to have the most efficient operation possible. Forecasting demand in order to provide adequate staff is crucial, and managing the workflow and keeping an eye on the customer process are also essential. Keeping agents apprised of developments that may affect customers is also an important point. There are philosophies of customer call interactions that try to minimize the length of a phone call and others that try to deal with whatever the issue is in the initial call without a follow-up, and managers need to sort out the best approach for the business and for the type of call.
One type of technology long associated with customer call centers is the automatic call distributor (ACD), used to route incoming calls to customer service agents. ACD replaced earlier technology called UCD (uniform call distribution), which had less flexibility. Whereas the initial approach to the customer call center often sought to limit outgoing calls, this approach has changed somewhat. Customers may, for example, feel better served when they are called back after a call has been accidentally cut off, rather than having to call back and begin again with another agent.
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