Be prepared with these tips.
We recently discussed some of the top benefits when you consolidate the events booking offices of one or more sister FEC locations. If you’re thinking now might be a good time to dig a little deeper into the idea, we tapped on several long-time call center managers about some of the best ways to determine if establishing a call center is right for your business. Here are five big considerations you’ll need to explore – before you start looking for office space.
1. Set clear business objectives for the reservation center.
The obvious objective for a family entertainment reservation center is to take inbound birthday and event sales inquiries. But also make sure you factor in whether you wish to have a true sales office with dedicated inbound and outbound sales staff specialists working as a team.
If you’re considering outbound sales associates as part of the team, think about time spent in and out of the office, territory management, how you’ll handle individual onsite tours and meetings, etc. If your business offers chat booking via Facebook or your web site, consider how you will manage those inquiries as well so there is clear accountability for “who is selling what” when it comes to events.
And finally, determine how your business will “pay” for its call center. Will you allocate a portion of each location’s event revenue to the call center? Or will you assign a portion of its operational costs to each location? There are many ways to handle this so be sure to discuss it with an accounting professional to determine what makes the most sense so that you can begin your reservation center with the right tracking measurements in place.
2. Conduct a call study.
When consolidating the incoming sales across multiple locations, you need a firm handle on the call volume each location currently manages so that you can determine hours of operation and staffing needs. If you currently record incoming calls, analyze the number of calls, missed calls and call lengths. If you don’t currently track calls, you can do this manually using an agenda worksheet by hour and day, a notepad or a spreadsheet with team members notating the calls that they take each day by hour. Even with just 30 days’ worth of data, a study will help you understand the needs for staffing, office space, and operating hours. In addition, you’ll be able to begin to determine service level agreements (e.g. average call wait times before answering, call handling times, % of calls answered within a certain number of seconds, etc.). Forecasting and predicting needs for the future is also a good idea. Consider historical and projected periods of high call volume for event bookings.
*Note*: if your current sales office takes all incoming calls, including non-sales facility questions, track the number of non-sales calls separately so that you can analyze any new facility staffing needs as well if the individual location will need to manage a lot of site calls on their own.
It’s likely you will need one or two shifts to manage all the calls during the week, on the weekend and to cover breaks and meetings. The last thing you want is to lose business because your events booking staff isn’t manning the phones when they need to be.
3. Determine telecommunication, technology and equipment needs.
One of the challenges that operators face when centralizing booking offices is making the new process seamless for guests. Will guests call a designated phone number to book an event or will they simply call the local facility and be routed to your call center? Discuss with a local telecom company to learn about your options for equipment, call routing, queuing and call recording for monitoring and training. Many phone systems can route sales calls to your call center while identifying the call as coming from the respective facility. This will help your staff immediately know the facility that the caller wishes to book – without causing a friction point if your agent has to ask which facility they’re calling about. On the booking side, the CenterEdge Centralized Booking Platform allows you to manage bookings, offerings and the schedules of multiple locations with ease.
4. Consider the right staffing structure.
Your call study will give you insights into when you need office hours and booking agents. Also, think about how you’ll manage scheduling and break/vacation coverage, training, call escalation, performance management and the like and put the right leadership (systems and people) in place to help you manage an efficient office. Resources like the Erlang-C Calculator can help you calculate the number of staff necessary to meet your call volume and pre-determined service level agreement requirements.
5. Analyze your offerings.
The more differences between each location’s offering, the more likely errors will be made in the booking process. It’s a good idea to review each location’s offerings now and determine the best packages that make the most sense for your brand and your guests. While some variation is expected in some markets, chances are you have some winning packages and some that you could eliminate. Streamline your offerings as much as possible to make it easy for your staff to discuss your packages with product fluency. This means a more cohesive brand experience throughout your entire organization and helps you create a scalable offering as you continue to grow while helping team members get it right every time.
Once you have the information you need to decide if centralizing your events office makes sense, consider whether to establish your own call center or if contracting with an established call center resource locally, or offshore would make more sense. There are certainly advantages and challenges to any option so carefully consider your next steps so that you can make the right decision for your business.