What are the Risks of Having a Multilocation Corporate Call Center?

Though by definition, a call center is a centralized place where calls are answered, technology can now expand this basic understanding to include multiple, interconnected sites that comprise one unified call center operation. We’ve discussed the benefits of having a multilocation call center, which are many, but it’s also important to be aware of the risks inherent in a multi-location corporate call center. Duplicated Facility Costs: Each call center location will have its own facility expenses. This includes building related costs such as rent (or land and construction costs), maintenance, and upkeep. Add to this taxes, assessments, and utilities. Balance sheet concerns include depreciation and amortization. These costs are repeated for each call center location. Two locations mean twice the facility related expenses. Five locations result in a five-fold increase. Increased Infrastructure Costs: Besides additional facility costs are additional infrastructure expenses. The most obvious expenses are equipment, phone connections, and internet access. These items also need to be replicated at each call center location. Depending on configuration, sometimes an expensive, highspeed digital connection must be installed and maintained between each ancillary call center site and the main location. Management Challenges: Most call center leaders default to the management-by-walking-around method as the most effective way to oversee their call center and staff. They know they must provide a visible presence to show their employees that they matter. When call center managers spend time in the call center watching and interacting with agents, they can celebrate successes, correct errors, and identify systemic problems. Because of this management-by-walking-around approach, the call center operates in a productive, effective manner. With a multisite operation, the problem becomes how a manager can do this for more than one location—at the same time. They can’t. An Us-Versus-Them Mentality: Aside from management challenges and increased location costs, perhaps most problematic is the difficulty in forming and maintaining a cohesive multilocation workforce that believes and acts as one unit in pursuit of a common good. Instead, the all-too-easy result is one location banding together in opposition against another location. This results in an us-versus-them mindset. Often the original site, with most of the leadership staff, the largest number of agents, and the nicest facility is viewed with disdain by the seemingly lessor secondary locations that receive fewer resources and less attention. On a most basic level, imagine receiving a mass email saying, “There’s donuts in the breakroom!” only to discover that the breakroom in question is one hundred miles away, and no one at the main site even gave your tiny breakroom a thought. These types of slights, repeated over and over, build resentment between staff at various locations, subtly sending the message that the staff at ancillary locations aren’t that important. Another more significant slight can stem from the location of the annual Christmas party, requiring long drives and overnight stays for the less fortunate staff. Or what about an annual employee banquet where most of the recognition goes to the staff and agents at the main location? A celebration can become a time of complaining and hurt feelings. Some these differences are real and others are received, but regardless, they must be successfully addressed, countered, and corrected. These four risks in running a multilocation call center aren’t insurmountable, but they aren’t trivial either. For these reasons, many corporate call centers strive to remain centralized at a single location until conditions force them to add additional sites.  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 contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan  is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.