Should a business have a human telephone operator and is it worthwhile?

A call center operator (photo credit: Courtesy)
A call center operator
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There are few businesses that don't need to provide their customers with a 24/7 telephone support line.  In the past, customers were content to just leave a message with an answering service or to get a return call during the business’s opening hours. Today however, a 24/7 answering service is the accepted and essential standard for most businesses dealing with customer queries. Customers who want instant availability of information about a business on the internet and who are met by an answering machine or even a lengthy and long winded call forwarding procedure on their first call, will, in most cases, just hang up and call the next business on their list. That’s how many businesses lose customers. So, is the provision of a human telephone operator the ideal solution?
In today’s dynamic world with its endless possibilities, the average customer doesn’t have a lot of patience. Their time is valuable and they prefer the businesses they know and the ones that realize this. Everybody wants and expects to get an answer as fast as possible, an answer that includes accurate information, a comprehensive solution and high availability. An automatic answering service, however, causes most potential customers to hang up the phone. People naturally prefer talking to other people and especially those who have all the relevant information available in real time.
Lior Ezra, CEO of CallBiz says: “Advanced technological systems and modern working methods make it possible for call centers to work in complete cooperation with businesses. They can get information in real time and offer the customer the most suitable solutions from all those available, quickly and efficiently. This can be just as important as courteous and polite service – and perhaps even more! Customers who get quick and reliable service tend not to forget that along the way.”
An important issue about image
In today’s competitive business environment, and especially in the digital era, the small things that make a business stand out from its competitors can make all the difference. Ezra adds: “Not only does a readily available human operator let the business provide a better service, it also contributes to the business’s branding as a serious and leading company, one that operates around the clock for its customers”.
Fast availability plus quality solutions based on personal and relevant knowledge that is speedily provided to the caller, promote an image of reliability, excellence and stability -  vital attributes that will motivate the customer to make a purchase and remain a faithful and long-term customer.
Savings for the Business
Today it’s no secret that the cost of hiring a secretary or a telephone operator is an expensive one that weighs heavily on the business’s expenses. If we also take into account social benefits that have to be paid by law as well as the cost of renting an additional room in the office, then this is a big expense for any business. A human operator based call service could result in a significant saving in office rentals and manpower, including the costs involved in training employees and managing them, whether this is for a single secretary or a large team of telephone operators devoted to answering customer calls.
“Take, for example, a company that receives 4000 calls a month”, adds Ezra, “there’s no doubt that this is a significant number of incoming calls. In order to provide a good telephone service, the business owner must operate a call center that works two shifts. To do this, he (or she) will need 3 – 4 agents per shift, or in other words, eight operators. But, because the operators will be working in shifts, a larger pool of operators is needed – something like 12.  The cost of 12 jobs at today’s prices, for the employer, is in the region of 70,000 NIS per month including taxes, health benefits, pensions and everything else. To this figure you also have to add overheads, technical support systems, management, human resources and quality control. When a client with this type of call volume approaches us, we can save them 70% of the cost by using work methods and technological systems that make it possible to completely and professionally manage telephone calls. These clients are surprised when they only have to pay the equivalent cost of a half time to full time position. This is for a service that doesn’t operate just two shifts, but 24/7. A service that includes quality control and statistical tools of the first order”.
Today, the leading human operator call services provide secretarial services and an almost unlimited number of customer service agents who will do the work for you without you having to directly employ anybody. In many cases you’ll also be able to pay according to use or, in other words, for the actual time spent on calls that were dealt with. This is a highly significant saving that doesn’t adversely affect service since, if you select the right, professional company for these services, the operators will receive complete training until they are able to work as if they were physically in your organization.
Maximizing Profits
Today’s customers want to be able to call a business after normal business hours. Many existing or potential customers are lost if the business is closed, the telephone answering service is flawed or even non-existent simply because the secretary is on her lunch break.  In the past, only abroad did customers enjoy excellent service, available 24/7. Now, with the advent of companies offering human operator call services, the standards available in Israel today equal those available abroad. 
Ezra goes on to relate from his personal experience: “Part of maximizing profits is related to making the most of the business’s investment in advertising and other marketing methods.  Heavy workloads and peaks in customer calls to the business are an important factor in its growth. It is at times such as these that it is important that no customer “slips through the cracks” and that every caller gets quality service of the highest possible standard. A professional, human answering service can reinforce the incoming call answering service”.
Correct Distribution of the Work Load
Efficient work in a productive environment is one of the components needed in order to promote and advance a business. The old habits where the boss called his secretary to deal with every incoming fax and every email that needed to be sent, where they asked her to make a cup of coffee, have gone. Today, the modern manager sends faxes and reads his own emails, makes his own coffee in an espresso machine and, when he isn’t available, forwards his calls to a call center using human operators. This approach makes it possible to create a serious and dynamic working environment. An environment that is supported by the valuable time made available by the external answering service which frees up company employees to finalize sales, serve existing customers and devote time to customer retention.   
The Drawback: Possible Problems Regarding Commitment to the Business
It’s true that if call answering services have the correct business orientation they should understand that the success of the businesses they work with is also their own success. Ezra says: “Not every company will perform the work at the highest possible level. Sometimes, call agents will simply take a message. When call center agents aren’t professional, haven’t received training, don’t work in cooperation with the business and don’t feel obligated and committed to its success, then they will provide mediocre or even lower levels of service and won’t be well versed in the information they are supposed to provide and the manner in which to deal with callers. This can be prevented by selecting an experienced and professional company. The process of selecting the company is of vital importance for businesses in this area”.
The article was written in cooperation with Lior Ezra, CEO of the human operator answering service, CallBiz.