Working Smarter Not Harder for Process Excellence in the Call Center

Darryl Flores

Unique obstacles befall the small call center and requires a unique approach. The small call center, one that employs less than 50 call center representatives, faces a different challenge. In addition the micro call center, one that employs less than 15 call center representatives, also has specific needs. Like many credit unions are often left to try and apply the large call center principles to their centers, which can be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Often the most prevalent challenges are in the following areas: Knowledge, Roles and Responsibilities, Variance/Accuracy, Efficiency and Escalation.


Frequently, the small call center is borne out of necessity. As a result, the call center experience is generally lacking. From IT requirements to benchmarking and establishing customer service level objectives; experience is priceless. Obviously research is key here. Internally, you will need to identify workload drivers (marketing, seasonality, etc.), establish your service level goals that align with your organization’s Mission and communicate your call center’s goals across the organization. Once these items are developed, communication is imperative across ALL aspects of the organization and up and down all levels of the organization. In one way or another all areas either impact or are impacted by the call center.

Allocating Resources for the Small Call Center

Most employees in a call center wear more than one hat—especially in a smaller call center. One person will take on the role of call center supervisor, in addition to the resident call center analyst and scheduler. Call center training also manages quality control and so on. This is great when it comes to cross training in a larger call center but every small call center needs to ensure that call center responsibilities make sense. Should your call center team lead or call center trainer be making copies much of the day? Should your call center representatives be making the phone calls back to customers for additional underwriting requirements? I’d answer no to both of these questions. Consider the cost of the call center representatives and the actual work they are doing in your call center.

Large call centers have the luxury of large numbers…number of calls, call center representatives and support staff to name a few. In addition, they frequently have higher target goals, and lower tolerance for variance. Keep in mind that small call centers cannot expect the same performance or have the luxury of contingencies as larger call centers. As a result, benchmarking performance and variance is crucial from the onset. That’s not to say that the call center can’t set stretch goals but you need to be realistic. A favorite process I have for establishing call center goals and maintaining strong call center operations is the mnemonic device: "EveryBody Seeks To Reap Rewards"

E –
Establish It – Establish the call center metrics you want as your call center’s goals
B – Benchmark It – Benchmark the performance of those call center metrics
S – Stretch It – Stretch the call center benchmark to set your goals
T – Track It – Track the benchmark and all other call center metrics
R – Report It – Report the performance ‘across and up and down’ the call center
R – Reward It – Reward meeting the goals in the call center; share it ‘across and up and down’

When it comes to efficiencies and escalation, these can easily be identified through planning and reviewing. With regard to efficiencies: hold process reviews to discover redundant actions, best practices and establish consistent procedures. This will help maximize your small call center’s potential. Additionally, review shift offerings, hours of operation, the approach to part-time employees, overtime and voluntary time off and the overall day-to-day operations of your call center. There is usually something to uncover or improve.

The Escalation Solution in the Call Center

Every call center should have an escalation plan in place to forecast and schedule effectively. The bottom line is to develop a plan to make additional call center resources available to take the inbound calls that have been queuing for an extended period of time. Thresholds and resources need to be identified and communicated "across and up and down" the organization. Also, don’t forget to document your call center’s de-escalation plan.

Unfortunately there are many more details that could be explored in the realm of operating a small call center that can’t be elaborated on in this segment. Hopefully these high level subjects can help in the day-to-day operations of your organization’s call center. Oh and one last, final bit of advice….hire great people! There are a limited amount of them.

First published on Call Center IQ