The standard operating procedures for call centers

Written by matthew schieltz
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The standard operating procedures for call centers
Standard operating procedures may dictate the type of headset an agent wears. (customer service image by Kurhan from Fotolia.com)

Standard operating procedures promote uniformity across an organisation and enable anyone--even those with hardly any experience--to follow guidelines that have been set forth to reach company goals. A standard operating procedure (SOP) manual for a call centre outlines day-to-day operations so that qualified customer service representatives can be hired and employee training can go smoothly. Following these procedures--and revising when necessary--helps call centres strive for a good reputation in the customer service industry.

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Human Resources

A call center's standard operating procedures includes protocols and standards for hiring and compensating employees. Provisions often include hiring agents, call centre supervisors, managers and quality control individuals, among others. Call centres set ideal candidate profiles. For example, agents need to have average to above-average typing skills, interpersonal skills and computer skills. Supervisors should fit the profile of motivational leaders and organised individuals. Call centres also may administer typing and keyboarding tests to make sure agents have the appropriate abilities. Compensation for agents, supervisors and call centre employees depends on the specific type of call centre; some call centres offer performance-based pay, commissions and even team-based bonus programs.

Training

Call centre agents typically go through training programs to prepare for entering a call centre environment. Training programs often include computer-based training to learn specific software programs, simulated calls and customer service training. The standard operating procedure sets forth the requirements for each of these areas, stating the classroom- or training-hour requirement, learning objectives and whether agents need to pass a final test. It also outlines agent procedures, such as call scripts, call-handling procedures and customer management.

Quality Control

Call centres set quality control metrics and measure the performance of agents. Quality control agents or other human resource departments measure and interpret these performance standards, often listening to agents on live calls to assure quality. The standards and metrics call centres often use include factors like the average speed of answering calls, call handle time, average hold time for customers, customer satisfaction, call quality, number of calls in queue and abandonment rate. The standard operating procedures tell quality control agents how to measure these indicators and how stats are to be evaluated. Procedures also document guidelines for notifying managers and leaders or creating action plans if performance falls below a certain level.

Technology

The standard operating procedure addresses technologies used in the call centre environment. Call centres need software to track the flow of calls and also specialised software to accomplish tasks for call centre clients and/or customers. The operating manual states the type of software and technology important to the call centre, such as automatic call distributors (ACD) to distribute calls to agents, call recording systems and interactive voice response (IVR) technology to handle routing of incoming calls. In addition, workforce management software helps call centre supervisors and managers project call volume so that optimal agent scheduling can be achieved.

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