Ranjan K Baruah
Call centre is a common word for many of us. Young people in metros have experiences of working in various call centres. Now, we need to know what is this all about and how one can be involved in this industry. All of us use mobile phones and many times we call up the call centre whenever we have any issue with the network or with the charges or any other offers. This means we have been using the services provided by the call centre. Well, a call centre is a centralized office used for receiving or transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. There may be other definitions too but this one is easy to understand.
An inbound call centre is operated by a company to administer incoming product support or information enquiries from consumers. Outbound call centres are operated for telemarketing, solicitation of charitable or political donations, debt collection and market research. A contact centre is a location for centralised handling of individual communications, including letters, faxes, live support software, social media, instant messages, e-mail, etc. A call centre has an open workspace for call centre agents, with work stations that include a computer for each agent, a telephone set/headset connected to a telecom switch, and one or more supervisor stations.
The origins of call centres date back to the 1960s with the UK-based Birmingham Press and Mail, which installed Private Automated Business Exchanges (PABX) to have rows of agents handling customer contacts. By 1973, call centres received mainstream attention after Rockwell International patented its Galaxy Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) for a telephone booking system as well as the popularization of telephone headsets as seen on televised NASA Mission Control Center events.
During the late 1970s, call centre technology expanded to include telephone sales, airline reservations and banking systems. The term "call centre" was first published and recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1983. The 1980s experienced the development of toll-free telephone numbers to increase the efficiency of agents and overall call volume. Call centres increased with the deregulation of long distance calling and growth in information dependent industries.
During the 1990s, call centres expanded internationally and developed into two additional subsets of communication, contact centres and outsourced bureau centres. A contact centre is defined as a coordinated system of people, processes, technologies and strategies that provides access to information, resources, and expertise, through appropriate channels of communication, enabling interactions that create value for the customer and organisation. In contrast to in-house management, outsourced bureau contact centres are a model of contact centre that provide services on a "pay per use" model. The overheads of the contact centre are shared by many clients, thereby supporting a very cost effective model, especially for low volumes of calls. The modern contact center has developed more complex systems, which require highly skilled operational and management staff that can use multichannel online and offline tools to improve customer interaction.
When we look at the career perspectives then we find that call centres are comparatively a recent introduction to the world of career options in India. In many metros call centres are the first entry points for many freshers as one do not need much experience to join the call centre initially. Globalisation has bought more opportunities for young people in countries like India.
There is no specific educational qualification but any one passing senior secondary may enter this area. But having more qualifications is always an advantage as there is always growth depending upon skills and educational qualification. When freshers join call centres they undergo training and are oriented by experts from the field. Fresher have to undergo intense training to make themselves suitable for the job. In India, the training is usually done by the company itself.
There is a great scope for call centres in India. The large population of educated English speaking people and the comparative low cost are encouraging more and more companies from abroad /inland to base or outsource their call centres to India. Some of the term associated when it comes to jobs are call centre operators, customer care executives, call centre Supervisors and Managers, etc. Performance is measured on targets achieved in the particular business. A call centre experience is regarded as worthwhile experience for customer relations, sales jobs or insurance sector. One has a better chance of moving on to other industries with experience in call centres.
I have seen many of my friends and others working in call centres and then they have shifted to other professions. It may not be a long term profession for all but this is one of the best as an entry level for those who are not very good in academics but expert in language and communication skills.
(Ranjan K Baruah is a social activist and career mentor who has conducted career awareness programme in different parts of Assam and Northeast India and can be reached at email@example.com or 8473943734 for any career related queries.)