By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
By classification, a telephone answering service is a call center, a centralized place from where calls are made and received. Yet many of today’s call centers are neither! They are not centralized, nor do they deal with just calls.
The label contact center more accurately reflects the current reality of many operations: handling various forms of contact, including phone calls. Even so, this doesn’t address the reality that call centers are increasingly not centralized, but dispersed, with multiple locations and even home-based operators.
While a centralized telephone answering service is easier to manage and operate, decentralization offers numerous benefits. A key reason to decentralize is to tap new labor markets. After all, it’s hard to expand when qualified workers are in short supply. Opening a second location near where workers live makes a lot of sense.
A second reason is a redundancy. With two operations, each one can back up the other. If both are fully self-contained and interconnected they represent an elegant disaster recovery plan.
A third benefit is time-zone shifting. Imagine one location’s mid-afternoon lull meshing with another location’s 5 p.m. rush. Or what about a location in another part of the world whose first shift staff answers third shift calls for the United States?
Last, consider a completely decentralized answering service with every agent working from home. This broadens the labor pool, even more, provides the greatest flexibility and can reduce or even eliminate real estate costs.
True, a decentralized answering service isn’t for everyone, but it does offer some intriguing possibilities.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.