Call centres are comparatively a recent introduction to the world of career options in India. The career avenues provided by call centres is one of the best suited and growing option which even a fresher can opt for. With the opening up of the Indian economy and the advent of globalisation more and more companies from abroad are basing or outsourcing their call centre services to India, a trend started by GE when it established a call centre near New Delhi in 1998.
A call centre is a service centre with adequate telecom facilities, access to internet and wide database, which provide voice based or web-based information and support to customers in the country or abroad through trained personnel. Call centres exist in all sectors of business including banking, utilities, manufacturing, security, market research, pharmaceuticals, catalogue sales, order desk, customer service, technical queries (help desk), emergency dispatch, credit collections, food service, airline/hotel reservations etc. The wide area of services provided by the call centres makes it a lucrative career with a range of opportunities.
Traditionally, call centres meant only voice-based customer support. But now most call centres are more of a contact centre, offering e-CRM services, that include voice based customer support as well as e-mail response, web-based text-chat services and other customer interaction channels. The call centre services can be 'inbound' where in calls are received from customers enquiring about a service or product that an organisation provides. The call centre services can be 'outbound' where in calls are made to customers to sell products or collect information/money etc. Call centre services can also 'specialised' say in business processing where in calls are made from one company to another company.
Some call centres stick to only domestic businesses dealing with customers within the country called domestic call centres while others such as an International call centre mainly deal with clients from abroad say from US, Europe etc. There is a great scope for Call centres in India, with a large population of educated English speaking people. The wide range of opportunities, comparatively well paid jobs for the minimum qualification it requires and the facilities the companies provide like to and fro transport, subsidized meals and medical facilities makes Call centres a good option.
There are no specific educational qualifications required to become a CSO ( Customer Service Officer/Operator or call centre adviser/ representative, customer service representative) in a call center. It is a good option for plus two or fresh college graduates as well as even housewives and retired people.
Personal Skills and Attributes: The skills required vary depending on the project and the type of business that is being handled. A very good command over English language is the main skill required. Computer literacy, typing speed, knowledge of consumer behaviour, marketing skills (a certificate or Diploma in Marketing in case of 'outbound' telemarketing is preferable), the ability to enter and retrieve information quickly from databases and an ability to analyse problems are other useful skills that come in handy.
Good communication and listening skills are important. CSO ( Customer Service Officer) should have the patience to listen to and comprehend the need, be unfailingly polite, good natured, reasonably intelligent to choose between options and remedy problems effectively to the satisfaction of the customer. Persuasion skills are needed in an 'outbound' contact centre where you either collect money from defaulting customers or try to promote sales and encourage customers to use your client’s products. They may be required to work at odd hours especially in International Call centres where the customers may be calling from places where the timing may be several hours behind IST.
Training: Freshers have to undergo intense training to make themselves suited for the job. The training include accent training, listening skills, 'slang' training, accent neutralisation, telephone etiquette, telesales etiquette and cyber grammar, interaction skills, customer relationship, management skills and call centre terminology. They will also be given a thorough knowledge about the product of the company, even how it could malfunction, breakdown and fail its objective, to deal with complaints from customers. Continuous training at regular intervals including updation on the latest references and slang the callers are likely to use, updation on the new products, developing faster ways of accessing information is a must for growth in this field.
There is no standardised training period. It can be between two weeks to twelve weeks depending on the project. There will be an initiation programme, which includes familiarising the companies work culture and the international environment in which they deal with their clients to have an awareness of the culture abroad. Then the actual training begins which includes both theoretical and on the job training.
In India, the training is usually done by the company itself. There are many institutes that give training in this field abroad, recently the trend is picking up in India also. International certifications from STI Knowledge, a leading provider of call centre training in the US have recently been introduced in India. STI offers international certifications following a Web-based exam after completion of the course. The certifications are Help Desk 2000, Call Centre 2000 and Knowledge 2000 for all the three tiers, that is the operators, managers and director.
There is a great scope for Call centres in India. The large population of educated English speaking people and the comparative low cost are encouraging more and more companies from abroad /inland to base or outsource their call centres to India. GE capital, American Express, Wipro Spectramind, Infowavz International (Mumbai), Daksh, Reliance Infotech are some of the call centres which are on a recruitment spree.
This is the entry level in call centres. Your general duties include answering telephone calls, taking down details of the caller’s query and logging this information on a computer, providing the caller with appropriate information or advice, in some cases, selling a caller products or services. In outbound call centre services such as tele-marketing, an operator will also need to identify potential customers and make outgoing calls marketing their organisation’s product, occasionally following-up calls by sending letters, faxes or e-mail, deal with customer complaints etc. A call centre operator’s duties will depend on the type of product or service that the organisation provides and the type of client he/she is servicing. Customer service executives can move on to the technical, financial or the insurance sector etc.
After working as an operator for three or four years, you will be promoted to a supervisory level based on your ability and performance. As vacancies occur it will be published in house, an interview will be conducted and promotions made. As a supervisor, you will be in charge of the various operators working under you. Then you can be promoted to the managerial level depending on your experience, ability and skills acquired.
Performance is measured based on targets achieved in the particular business. In outbound centres, like telemarketing your performance is calculated on sales per hour, or in collection department of a bank, performance is measured on contacts made and money collected. In inbound call centres, performance is measured on the basis of average talk time, that is, the time you take to satisfy the customer, analysis and understanding of the problem and the courtesy extended to the customers.
A call centre experience is regarded as worthwhile experience for customer relations, sales jobs or insurance sector. One has a better chance of moving on to other industries with experience in call centres. for eg insurance sector if you have had experience dealing with insurance clients.
As a fresher, one could start his/her career in an International Call Center as a Call Center Executive and earn highly attractive pay packages ranging from Rs. 6,500 to Rs.10,000 approximately per month other than bonuses for outstanding performances.