As a call center (from en: call center ( BE ), call center ( AE ) ; dt. " Telephone advice center"), customer care center (to dt. "Customer advice center" or "customer care center"), or in the market research area also a telephone laboratory is a company or an organizational unit that creates market contacts by telephone: active ( outbound: the call center starts the call) or passive ( inbound: the call center is called). In addition to service offers, a call center often implements telephone sales as a form of direct marketing . The Consumer Interaction Center ("CIC" for short) is understood as a further development of the call center. Call centers are operated in-house. Then the respective company takes over the hiring and planning of the employees. Time and again, companies place orders with specialized call center service providers who take over the telephony on behalf of the customer and are paid, for example, according to the duration of the telephony or the deals made.
In several publications, the installation of a digital automatic call distributor for the telephone booking and flight information service of the American airline Continental Airlines is named as the birth of the call center in today's sense . The system ("Rockwell Galaxy") was developed on behalf of the airline by Collins Radio , a subsidiary of the automation specialist Rockwell .
Several authors point out that even before that, companies had already had central facilities for telephone customer service or telemarketing that used more primitive variants of automatic call distribution or manual call distribution. Mentioned here are the Time Inc. subsidiary Life Circulation Co. (today's telemarketing company DialAmerica ), which is said to have operated telephone centers to attract new subscribers to Life magazine since 1957 , the telephone center of the British newspaper Birmingham Press and Mail (since 1965) and customer service for Barclays and British Gas (both since 1972). Also, Continental Airlines operated its telephone booking service before 1973; An electromechanical call distribution system from the then telephony monopoly AT&T was used .
As the first mention of the term "call center" in a regular publication, the Oxford English Dictionary lists an article in the trade journal Data Communications from 1983, which describes the freight forwarding company Federal Express . There it was formulated: “Each of these 'call centers' is staffed with agents who work with Honeywell intelligent terminals, enabling them to quote rates and compute discounts given to large users.” (“The agents employed in these 'call centers' work with intelligent terminals Honeywell terminals that allow you to specify shipping prices and calculate discounts for major customers. ")
In Europe, call centers first began to gain acceptance in Great Britain and Ireland as well as in Germany and the Benelux countries. In Austria, call centers became more and more established between 1998 and 2001.
As the first mention of the term in the German public press, a search in the Genios press database reveals an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on June 6, 1995, which reports on the opening of the German headquarters of the Californian call center technology provider Aspect Telecommunications ("The" CallCenter "technology from the Californians, who are now also starting in Germany, are already using Lufthansa and Mercedes-Benz AG.") As well as a report from Spiegel dated October 30, 1995, which the Bonn call center of the newly founded direct bank Bank 24 describes.
Due to the rapidly advancing development of information technology , the branch underwent a major change. The increasing relevance of the call center can be illustrated by the increasing number of scientific publications on this topic. A search in Google Scholar shows that only 30 publications were recorded between 1980 and 1990. In the years 1991 to 1995 there were 101 publications, but between 1995 and 2000 there were over 2000 publications. The increase has continued in recent years (over 4000 publications from 2001 to 2006).
Call centers can perform a variety of tasks. They are used for information purposes ( hotline , product information), customer service , complaint management , market research , opinion research , order and order acceptance ( mail order companies , ticket services), call number information or as an emergency service ( ADAC , AvD ) and sales with the conclusion of a contract. Call centers are increasingly being used in highly qualified areas such as medicine to care for chronically ill patients. Call centers are differentiated according to task and structure, although there are always mixed forms.
Inbound call center
Calls from customers are received in this form. This applies when the customer places orders, requests information, reports faults, complains or wants to be mediated. These are traditional customer service services . Many telephone service providers have specialized in the tasks of an inbound call center and await the call from the customer.
Outbound call center
Outbound is about the connection to the outside world, existing customers and potential customers are specifically called. Often these are actions in the context of telephone marketing. The (external) client of the call center intends to carry out or activate the sale of products. Other areas of application are to collect statistical data, to determine the expected demand ( pre-sale ) or to ask questions about customer satisfaction ( after-sale ). More generally, it is about activating contacts or updating addresses. Agencies that work with low technical requirements are not call centers in this sense.
Customer service center
This form of a call center is more complex, because customers are not only looked after by telephone, the other communication channels such as e-mail or social media channels are also used. Special software such as ERMS systems are used for this. In addition, both inbound and outbound are used in large customer service centers or contact centers. Such a mixed form of the variants already mentioned and the communication options is made possible by various technical possibilities and a greater range of service forms is offered. Such a technique is call blending , whereby outgoing calls are automatically placed if the volume on the other contact channels drops sharply and the workload of the employees becomes low. In this way, times of low telephone income can be filled with e-mail work. In principle, the use of EMS from electronic media to traditional postal traffic applies to such call center forms .
Virtual call centers
Distributed telephone locations are referred to as virtual call centers . Cloud computing forms the technical basis for this special form of call center . Employees are not tied to one location and fixed working hours, but can work flexibly in the home office with the help of special software. Virtual call centers are often used for service or advisory hotlines and information services as a cost-effective solution. A technical requirement is broadband internet access for the employee and a computer in the home office. The volume of dialog is regulated from the control center via automated call distribution.
In the years 2002 to 2013, sales rose steadily from € 253 million to € 2,123 million and remained above € 2 billion until 2016. In April 2008, 435,000 people were working in 5700 call centers in Germany. In 2017, 124,678 people worked in 864 call centers, often close to the minimum wage . The industry turnover in 2008 was 20 million calls (incoming and outgoing) per day in Germany and amounts to twelve billion euros per year, of which four billion euros from service providers. The industry invested around four billion euros in 2007. In 2010 and 2017, 43 thousand and 57 th. Submit written complaints to the Federal Network Agency due to unauthorized telephone advertising .
Call center components
The emergence of an independent call center industry since the 1990s was based on advances in telecommunications technology and the development of powerful CRM software.
The working environment of a call center is mostly an open-plan office with acoustically partitioned workplaces. The employees are equipped with headsets and computer workstations in order to receive and save the necessary information. On the computer, the customer's history and issue can be compared with precise timing. Employees receive customized support in their work from special CRM software or call center software systems.
After the thesis “anyone can make a phone call” initially applied, it became clear that qualified advice and support for customers required qualified staff management. The call center embodies the external appearance of the client and conveys the decisive “first impression”. At the same time, customers expect a high level of competence, so that highly qualified specialists such as doctors and engineers are deployed for special requirements such as medical or technical topics. The special importance of the employees in a call center is proven by an internal investment study from 2014, which shows that 78% of all investments are made in the personnel area.
An essential quality feature for a call center is accessibility. This depends directly on the number of employees deployed in relation to a very fluctuating call volume, which makes operational personnel planning particularly important. The rule looks like this:
- Prognosis (forecast) of the volume of calls per time interval. This is either created from evaluations and experience of the call center itself or transmitted to the call center by the client. An increased forecast can result, for example, from factors such as planned technical maintenance, invoice runs, new advertisements and campaigns.
- Determination of the required number of agents per time segment taking into account a specified service level
- Planning the required shifts
- Assignment of agents and "multiskillers" to the shifts ("multiskillers" are employees who have been trained in several projects and can be flexibly assigned depending on the number of incoming calls)
This is followed by real-time planning, which makes it possible to make short-term shifts in planning and to be able to react to current events. A considerable volume of data has to be processed in operational personnel planning. This processing is only possible with the help of a computer. So-called workforce management systems are used for this.
The technical basis for call center work today is formed by CRM systems ( Customer Relationship Management ) with which all customer relationships can be mapped, managed and archived largely automatically as part of modern customer relationship management. Other database sources such as ERP systems can be connected via open interfaces . The technical basis for the call center functions are standard CTI interfaces such as MS-TAPI, which all common telephone systems or VOIP applications have. An integrated predictive dialer is usually available for outbound . In inbound, the software identifies the phone number of the caller and automatically displays the customer data record with all processes. Most of these software solutions also offer automatic time recording with log-in times, ticket processing times, phone calls and breaks. In addition, extensive project statistics are made available.
- Voice dialog system (Interactive Voice Response, IVR ): frees agents from routine information or, influenced by the caller, can forward certain inquiries to the qualified group of employees. A recorded greeting offers callers various options that can be selected by pressing a button or voice-controlled. The IVR replaces a referral to the agent if the same number of inquiries about simple information occurs. From a business point of view, this computer voice saves personnel costs.
- Computer Telephony Integration (CTI): is a technique that connects the call center PBX to the call center computer system. The caller is identified by the incoming phone number or by entering an account number or a PIN in the IVR system. The customer history can be shown to the agent on the screen at the beginning of the call. The agent knows processes that the caller has already discussed with other employees and is not required to question the customer again or to consult internally. The processing process is considerably accelerated (time saving). The perceived service quality depends on the documented history, ultimately on the input mask created by the supervisor or project manager.
- Predictive dialers (dialers) are increasingly used in the outbound area. Depending on various factors of the project (number of agents deployed, average call duration, expected duration of ongoing calls, expected availability of customers), the system permanently dials numbers from the total amount of the customer database. The dialer recognizes certain events (answering machine, fax machines and busy tones ) and sorts out these calls. A reached customer is immediately referred to a free agent. With the right configuration, an enormous increase in productivity in calls per agent is achieved. After the end of the call, the agent is immediately put through to the next customer on the line. However, this technology only works from a certain number of phone numbers and agents. If a connection is established without a free agent being available, the dialer hangs up. This is perceived by the called party, especially if it happens several times, as a nuisance.
“Feature-based routing” is often used to optimize telephone accessibility. The attempt is made to identify the caller based on the transmitted phone number and to assign them to a specific processing group according to defined criteria. In this way, for example, existing customers can be prevented from weakening the accessibility of teams due to the specialization in "new customers" and technical restrictions due to the specialization in "new customers" and technical restrictions, by deliberately incorrectly selecting a menu item intended for new customers in the call portal are able to process the matter or forward the caller. In addition, customers can be spared the sometimes multi-level classification of their concerns if, based on the data situation, only a certain team comes into question (e.g. if services are withdrawn due to payment arrears, only a team with the appropriate competencies would be used to clarify payment issues). However, feature-based routing only takes effect if the call number transmitted by the caller is stored in the corresponding customer data record.
The Erlang-C formula is suitable for calculating the number of agents required in the call center . This was developed at the beginning of the 20th century by the Danish mathematician and telecommunications engineer Agner Krarup Erlang . The number of telephone lines required can be calculated using the Erlang-B formula.
Erlang-C requires various assumptions that do not quite correspond to the call center process, for example an unlimited waiting time for the caller in the queue or an unlimited number of places in the waiting field is assumed. Therefore, modified algorithms based on Erlang-C are used in workforce management systems , which deliver more precise results through additional parameters. Usually these algorithms are packaged in software and are not published. There are also newer queue models that are not yet widely used in the industry. More and more modern computer technology means that computer-intensive simulation programs are being used to better represent the company's own processes. The mathematical background is implemented with graphically sophisticated solutions from game developers .
Call center agent job description
The priority is further training to become a call center agent with and without an IHK exam with an average training period of 12 to 16 weeks. Since 2006 there have been two state-recognized training professions in Germany specifically for the call center sector. For service specialist in dialogue marketing performs a two-year and based on it businessman for dialogue marketing a three-year training. Both training courses focus on the acquisition of communication skills, cultural competencies, as well as customer psychology and self-management. In the case of a businessman, there is also knowledge transfer in the commercial and human resources areas as well as knowledge in marketing, sales and quality management.
Telemarketing is regulated in Germany by the Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG), the Act against Unfair Competition (UWG) and the Telemedia Act (TMG). Inbound calls in inbound are legally unproblematic, as the customer reports on his own initiative. For outbound calls, a distinction must be made between private individuals (B2C) and companies (B2B) . Promotional calls to private individuals are generally prohibited without consent, as there is no consent or a contractual relationship. Active advertising is already possible in dealings with companies if there is “presumed consent” in accordance with Section 7 (2) No. 2 UWG, i.e. a factual interest of the company being called can be assumed.
The branch association Call Center Verband Deutschland e. V. has strengthened voluntary self-control in the fight against dubious business conduct with a code of honor and a seal of approval .
Call center fraud
Networks of international crime maintain call centers for commercial and gang fraud. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), thousands of fraudulent calls from abroad reach Germany every day. Turkey with Istanbul is a hub of telephone fraud . Call center agents there give themselves German names and induce especially good faith and influenceable elderly people to transfer money, for example to settle alleged transaction costs for supposedly high winnings in competitions. By spoofing phone numbers they disguise u. U. also their identity. Payments made by Western Union or paysafecard are lost for the victims of fraud. The BKA puts the damage of the fraud cases reported up to the beginning of 2015 at 120,000,000 euros, only every fifth to seventh case is reported.
- Jens Fuderholz, Ulrike Propach: Dialog instead of marketing. The way out of the image crisis. Hirschenverlag, Fürth 2008, ISBN 978-3-939480-05-1 .
- TA Grossman et al. a .: Call centers. In: Saul I. Gass, Carl M. Harris (Eds.): Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science. 2nd edition. Kluwer, Boston MA a. a. 2001, ISBN 0-7923-7827-X , pp. 73ff.
- Harald Henn, J. Peter Kruse, Olav V. Strawe (eds.): Handbook Call Center Management. The great reference work for everyone who works professionally with the telephone. 2nd revised edition. Telepublic-Verlag, Hannover 1998, ISBN 3-9804361-3-6 .
- Frank Kleemann, Ingo Matuschek (Ed.): Always connection under this number. Rationalized service and subjective work in call centers. edition sigma, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-89404-503-5 .
- Rainer Krumm, Christian Geissler: Outbound Practice. Successfully plan and implement active selling on the phone. 2nd expanded edition. Gabler, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-409-12382-2 .
- Jörn-Axel Meyer , Ellen Kittel-Wegner, Rosi Gerlich (eds.): Call center for small and medium-sized companies. Success factor in regional and supraregional competition (= small and medium-sized enterprises 1). Josef Eul, Lohmar u. a. 2000, ISBN 3-89012-813-0 .
- Michael L. Pinedo, Sridhar Seshadri, J. George Shanthikumar: Call Centers in Financial Services: Strategies, Technologies and Operations. In: Edward L. Melnick et al. a. (Ed.): Creating Value in Financial Services. Strategies, Technologies and Operations. Kluwer, Boston MA a. a. 2000, ISBN 0-7923-8572-1 , pp. 357ff.
- Stefan Rupp, Oliver Kremers: Call Center Practice. This is how you advance your sales . 2nd expanded and revised edition. Hermann Luchterhand, Neuwied a. a. 2000, ISBN 3-472-04056-4 .
- Florian Schümann: Job satisfaction and profitability of call centers. An examination of the profitability of inbound call centers and special consideration of the occupancy (= series of innovative service management 11). Publishing house Dr. Kovač, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-8300-0911-9 (also: Hamburg, Univ., FB Wirtschaftswiss., Diss., 2002).
- Florian Schümann, Horst Tisson: Call Center Controlling. A model for planning, monitoring and managing customer service centers. Gabler, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-409-12680-5 .
- Joachim Weiß, Michael Kleer, Sebastian Engel: Training in dialogue marketing. Volume 1. 4th edition. Bildungsverlag EINS, Cologne 2014, ISBN 978-3-427-23001-4 .
- Wolfgang Wiencke, Dorothee Koke: Call Center Practice. Successfully organize telephone customer service. 2nd revised and expanded edition. Schäffer-Poeschel, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-7910-1388-2 .
- Andreas Pichler : Call me Babylon , documentary, D / NL 2003 - 75/55 min, ZDF
Norms and standards
- DIN EN ISO 18295 Customer Contact Centers - Part 1 and 2 - Requirements for customer contact centers and requirements for the use of services from customer contact centers
- Resource planning in the call center - competition "Germany's most customer-oriented service provider" ( Memento from April 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) by Steria Mummert Consulting, the University of St. Gallen and ServiceRating
- Contact Center Network e. V., interest group , accessed on May 10, 2015
- Call Center Association Germany V., interest group , accessed on May 10, 2015
- ↑ a b Committee on the Judiciary, United State Senate (Ed.): The Industrial Reorganization Act: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly - Part 5: The Communications-Industry . US Government Printing Office, Washington 1974, Statement of CM Huntley, Director, Telecommunications, Continental Airlines, Inc., p. 2977 ff . (English,  ).
- ^ A b Andrew Waite: A Practical Guide to Call Center Technology . CRC Press, Boca Raton 2001, ISBN 978-1-138-41254-5 , 1. The traditional Call Center, pp. 23 (English,  ).
- ^ Rockwell Sells Call Center System to Continental Airlines. HPC Wire, May 17, 1996, accessed January 22, 2020 .
- ↑ Peter Emde, Jörg Wissdorf: Praxishandbuch Call Center . Ed .: Jennifer Jahnke, Georg Rabbe. Call Center Akademie NRW, 2001, ISBN 3-8311-1056-5 , 3.1 From Call Center to Communication Center, p. 131 (  ).
- ^ Réal Bergevin: Call Center for Dummies . Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2007, ISBN 978-3-527-70339-5 , 1. A first look at call centers, p. 36 (  ).
- ↑ DialAmerica Marketing, Inc. Company Profile. D&B Hoovers, accessed January 22, 2020 .
- ^ A b Jonty Pearce: The history of the Call Center - Updated. Call Center Helper Magazine, May 2, 2018, accessed January 21, 2020 .
- ↑ Nich DAlleva: The history of the call center infographic. SAS Specialty Answering Service, May 2, 2018, accessed January 21, 2020 .
- ↑ Data Communications Magazine Vol. 12 (1983) p. 14. Retrieved January 21, 2020 (English).
- ^ Quality of work in call centers ( Memento of March 12, 2006 in the Internet Archive ), FORBA, May 2005.
- ^ "An excellent location" - the headquarters of Aspect Telecommunications in Langen . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . No. 129, June 6, 1995, p. 42.
- ↑ Michaela Schießl: The weird daughter . (PDF) In: Der Spiegel . No. 44, October 30, 1995, p. 134.
- ↑ Telekom wants more serious telephone marketing. In: heise online , September 20, 2007.
- ↑ Report: Telekom is about to sell its directory assistance. In: heise online , September 30, 2007.
- ↑ What is call blending? In: wiseGEEK (English)
- ↑ itCampus Group: Call Blending - from must to can ( Memento from February 10, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
- ↑ https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/247248/umfrage/umsatz-der-steuerpflichtigen-call-center/
- ↑ https://de.statista.com/themen/865/callcenter/
- ↑ Information from the Call Center Forum Deutschland e. V. In: heise.de .
- ↑ https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/727085/umfrage/beschhaben-aufgrund-von-telefonwerbung-in-deutschland/
- ↑ Workplace and workplace conditions. ( Memento of the original from August 21, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.
- ^ Günter Greff, Jan Peter Kruse: The ABC of Call Center Management . Gabler, Wiesbaden 1999. ISBN 3-409-11424-6 .
- ↑ Investment study 2014 - actual investments p. 11 ff. (PDF) CCN, accessed on June 2, 2015 .
- ^ Attack by Bill Gates . In: Der Spiegel . No. 28 , 2001 ( online ).
- ↑ IHK Osnabrück on the new apprenticeships ( memento from February 23, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
- ↑ IHK Telemarketing , accessed on May 28, 2015.
- ↑ http://www.callcenterprofi.de/index.php?do=show&id=9150&alloc=179 On the way to the uniform code of honor ( Memento of the original from May 14, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and still Not checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. .
- ↑ Fraudulent profit promises on the phone (call center fraud). Federal Criminal Police Office , accessed on February 5, 2019 .
- ↑ Profit promise. Method. State and federal police crime prevention , accessed on February 5, 2019 .
- ↑ Cheaters on the phone - the call center connection. In: SWR [concerns] , September 2, 2016, video 45 min