Your Company May Have a Call Center and Not Even Know It

The classic definition of a call center is a centralized place where calls are answered. Though the answer is straightforward, identifying corporate call centers is not always so easy. Yes, the obvious corporate call centers are those large rooms with rows of cubicles staffed by people who spend their day talking on the phone to customers and prospects. Yet the larger the company the more likelihood they have other call centers, too. These may be harder to find and may require a bit of investigation to uncover them. Consider the following situations: A Team That Fields Phone Calls: Any group of people who handle phone calls for a specific purpose is effectively a call center. This may be for customer service, complaints, a help desk, collections, scheduling, telemarketing, inbound order taking, lead generation, and more. Even if it’s just one person on the phone, he or she is effectively a call center. A Person Who Handles Customer Emails: If one or more employees have the primary task of responding to incoming email messages or monitoring social media, he or she also fits under the call center banner. (Technically we would label this a contact center, but for now that’s just semantics.) Staff Who Answers the Phone, Takes Messages, and Transfers Calls: Employees who we might call receptionists, assistants, or department resources often do a lot of work on the phone, such as answering phone calls, taking messages, transferring callers, giving out information, setting appointments, and even placing calls. Yep, these employees most likely make up a call center, even if it’s only one or two people. Shared Space Where the Phone Rings: Sometimes a group of employees works together as a team. Though their primary task may not be to answer phone calls, this is part of their job description. Collectively they share the responsibility of answering their department’s ringing phone. The unfortunate result is that most of them view phone answering as a secondary duty or beneath them. They hold back when the phone rings, hoping (or expecting) someone else will answer. Taken to an extreme, in stubborn resistance, no one answers the phone and the callers suffer. The result is a most ineffective call center. These are all examples of corporate call centers in disguise. Labeling them as such is the first step to their proper management and to maximizing their value and success. In most cases, standard business thinking does not apply to call centers. Call centers require specialized management, and without the specific supervision they require, they will flounder at best and fail at worst. 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 or 800-901-7706.Peter Lyle DeHaan  is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.