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How to start a call center business

By Abhijit Phadke


This is an exhaustive article that describes in detail how to start your own call center. Let's begin with what you will require to start this business.

Call center setup requirements:

Office space

Location:

First and foremost, you need to decide where your call center will be located.

You will need a proper office setup, where your staff and your clients can come over at any time. The location should be such that it can be easily reached by road or trains, and suit you and your people.

If you try to save on costs by opening your new call center too far away from city limits, then it may become difficult to find good people to get to work for you, because office location matters a lot for the staff. And you may find that whatever money you saved on office rent, you have to spend on arranging daily transportation for your people.

While scouring for a proper office location, you will need to get in touch with real estate agents who can show you the possible options.

You will also need to decide whether you want to rent an office space or buy and own the place. Since real estate prices are very high, most of the call centers usually start their operations from rented office spaces.

You also need to decide how big an office space you need. This will depend on how many people you plan to employ. It's better to have a bit of extra space so that you can scale up your call center operations at a later stage at the same place, rather than having to setup a new call center elsewhere.

Choose your location wisely at the very start, because after your call center setup is complete and becomes operational, it will be very difficult to relocate to a new place.

Infratructure:

Office Layout:

Ok. So you decided on a good location for your call center with excellent surroundings, and the right kind of office space that you need to function.

Next up is setting up the infrastructure for your call center. It's not just about connectivity and telephone sets and computers. You have to consider a lot of things.

  • Where will your people eat their lunch?
  • Does your office have a decent freshroom?
  • Where will the agents sit? How will the office layout be like?
  • Will they be seated in rows or cubicles?
  • Will separate call center projects have separate rooms?
  • What will be the distance between two agents, so that they can speak to customers without disturbing each other?
  • Will your team leaders have separate cubicles?
  • Will your call center managers have separate cabins?
  • Where will your clients be entertained?
  • Where will your support staff sit?
  • Where will your computer servers be located?
  • Where will your power backup generators be kept?
  • How will you make your call center floor adequately sound-proof?
  • Where will your trainers educate the new call center recruits?
  • Where will your team leaders conduct their weekly meetings with the team?
  • For all these considerations and more, what you need to do is to hire a good and experienced interior designer and explain your requirements in detail to him/her.

    Together you can come up with a good office layout plan for your call center, and then you can decide and discuss on the flooring options and the colour combinations for your office and the woodwork required, and try and balance costs with needs.

    Once all these things are decided, the interior designer will then use all his contacts and get all the necessary work done, and make your office space ready for you as per the plan on paper.

    Connectivity:

    Ok. So your office setup is in place. Next you will require to setup the most important aspect of your call center which is it's connectivity with the outside world.

    It's critical that you get this aspect right, because if your telephone lines or your computer servers stop working, your call center operations can come to a standstill, and your people will have to sit idle with nothing to do. So you have to get this connectivity aspect right, the first time itself.

    Depending on the scale of your call center operations and your call center business plan you will require some or all of the below:

    Telephone lines setup for your call center

    There are quite a few options available, which I will list below.

    VOIP (Voice over Internet protocol):

    Using VOIP technology the analog voice call is converted to digital signals and is routed to its destination using the internet network. This is similar to internet calling through which you can communicate with others using services such as Skype. VOIP phones are called SIP phones.

    Note that VoIP call routing is not allowed in all countries. As far the Indian scenario is concerned, VoIP gateways are not allowed within India, meaning you are not allowed to make calls to local landline or mobile numbers in India using a VoIP service. However you can still make calls overseas over VOIP since the destination numbers are not within Indian jurisdiction.

    ISDN PRI lines:

    ISDN stands for Integrated services digital network. What this means that its a digital connection and not an analog one. An ISDN PRI (Primary Interface) line is a single wireline connection that will connect the server in your office with the telephone exchange of the company.

    Though PRI is a single line and has a single phone number, it has upto 30 separate channels (in some countries its 23 channels). What this means is that 30 separate telephone instruments can be connected to that one PRI line using an EPBX device, and hence there can be 30 calls in progress simultaneously (either incoming or outgoing calls).

    Note, there is also another type of wireline called ISDN BRI which somebody may mention to you. Don't get confused between the two. BRI is Binary Rate Interface and it has only 2 channels, one for voice and one for data. For your call center you will in most cases require PRI lines, and not BRI.

    DID and DOD PRI lines:

    DID is Direct Inward dialing and DOD stands for Direct Outward Dialing. These are also standard PRI wired line telephone connections that have 30 channels but these directly connect to an EPABX system at your end, and from the EPBAX, individual lines can be taken further to all the agent's desks'. There are no computer systems involved in such a process.

    DID/DOD vs. ISDN PRI

    If you want to start a small outbound call center for telemarketing activities, you may be able to make do with such a DID/DOD PRI line. However in most cases an ISDN PRI is better suited for call centers. The terminating end of the ISDN PRI line connects to your server computer by using a PRI card, and from the computer's EPBX card, the individual lines can go to each of the agents.

    In such cases you can have several kinds of call center software installed on your server for various purposes such as IVR (Interactive voice response), Call routing or Call distribution system, Call logs and monitoring, Predictive Dialer software, CRM software, Reporting tools etc.

    Depending on your requirements you may also require Leased Line data connectivity to your call center.

    Other hardware requirements would include ACD's (telephone instruments) and headsets for all your call center agents.

    Perhaps the easiest way to go about getting the servers and telephone systems set up for your call center is to contact telephone companies in your country to check for what connectivity solutions they offer, or to get in touch with companies that provide complete end-to-end call center solutions based on your requirements.

    People:

    Once you have all the infrastructure in place, the next step is to hire people for your call center. If you want your startup call center business to be successful it is imperative that you hire the right people to join your workforce.

    Depending on the size and scale of your call center you will require some or all of those mentioned in the list below.

  • Call center agents, who will be taking the calls, and becoming the face of your call center.
  • Supervisors and Team leaders to manage day to day operations.
  • Call Center Managers and Quality Managers, to manage, control and evaluate performances and steer your ship towards success.
  • Trainers, to get your agents ready on time for projects and to solve their queries.
  • Technical support and maintainence, to keep your servers and systems running.
  • Sales and Marketing people, so that your call center business can flourish and prosper.
  • Accounts, to handle day-to-day account operations and to disburse salaries to the agents.
  • HR people, to recruit new staff and to reduce attrition rate.
  • Admin and support staff, to keep the show running smoothly.
  • Business and Clients

    This is the crux of the matter. You can have everything else and still fail if you don't have enough clients and enough business pouring in. I would recommend that at the time of starting your call center you should at least have a couple of good projects in hand.

    Ideally your clients should have a well-established business and should be financially stable companies, so that you don't have to worry much about whether they can release your payments on time every month.

    Even when you have steady projects going, it's necessary to be on the lookout for new opportunities, just in case your clients decide that do not need your call center services any longer.

    It's essential to have well-drafted legal contracts with the clients, about the project duration and costs.

    Talking about legalities, there are a couple of other things as well. It's necessary that your call center business is properly registered as a company, and second point is, for making outbound calls you cannot just call up every person on the list directly. As per rules of DoT in India, people who have registered for a 'Do Not Disturb' facility cannot be called by telemarketers. So your out-calling data needs to be scrubbed (looked up) against the DND base, and then the filtered list can be out-called.

    Summary:

    To summarize, starting a call center business is not that difficult. You will need to make some monetary investments though, and ideally you should also have business and clients in hand at the time of starting.

    The investment amount required for starting a call center can vary a lot based on whether you plan to have a small 15-seater call center, or a 50-seater one or a big jumbo-sized 500-seats call center.

    With careful planning and execution, your call center can be as successful, as you want it to be.