Beware the Risks of Running a Hybrid Call Center
A Hybrid Call Center is a call center that handles both incoming and outgoing calls. For upper corporate management that doesn’t understand call centers—and upper management in most corporations lack this requisite background—an inbound call seems little different than an outbound call. As such, they may dictate that you turn your happily humming inbound call center into a hybrid operation that handles both inbound and outbound calls. After all, the work involves calls and happens in a center. The direction of the call has little bearing, or so they think. Here is the reality about hybrid call centers that attempt to answer incoming calls and make outgoing calls. Contrasting Skill Sets: Inbound agents have a reactive job. They wait for the phone to ring. When it does they react. The rate that calls arrive determines the pace of their work. When properly scheduled, inbound agents work at a brisk, but manageable rate. Outbound agents have a proactive job. They make calls (or the system does it for them). When the person answers the call, the outbound agent takes control and directs the called party toward a desirable outcome. Opposite Mental Approach: For inbound work, quality interactions are key. For outbound work, sales are the goal. While it’s wrong to assume quality doesn’t matter for outbound, it’s hard to maintain high quality standards when the compensated outcomes are production and not professionalism. Management Style Variations: Inbound agents, with their reactive work and hourly pay, expect to receive managerial recognition for their work and accomplishments. Relationships matter. Knowing that they help people serves as a reward, in addition to their paycheck. Managers of inbound agents must focus on their person and encourage professionalism. Outbound agents, with their proactive work and incentivized compensation, expect to receive affirmation through their paycheck. Money matters. Racking up an impressive number of sales is their reward, in addition to their paycheck. Managers of outbound agents must encourage agents to produce, using either the carrot or the stick to drive results. Contracting Compensation Packages: Inbound agents are typically paid an hourly rate. Though there may be some incentives involved, they are usually small. Inbound agents can look at their schedule and know approximately what they will earn for the pay period. This allows them to better plan their finances, and they appreciate that. Outbound agents have a significant commission element in their compensation, sometimes as high as 100 percent. Without these financial incentives, they would struggle to produce and fail to meet their production quotas. Scheduling Differences: Inbound agents are scheduled to work based on the number of calls projected to arrive in each increment of time. As a result, their shifts can start and end at odd times, be of varying lengths, and can be cut short or extended if call traffic doesn’t align with projections. Plus inbound agents must be scheduled around the clock, 24/7. This is hard on agents and the schedulers who set their shifts. Outbound agents enjoy a simpler schedule based on the number of calls that must be made and the hours available to make those calls. Scheduling outbound agents is far easier than inbound, but both require a different skill set. To successfully embark on establishing a hybrid call center, management must be prepared to address all these differences between inbound and outbound calling. The failure to do so poses a huge risk. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy for corporate call centers, whose team possesses decades of relevant business and call center experience. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.