If you’ve never used a call center to help your self-storage property rent space, then you may have some misconceptions about what a call center can be. If you have used or are currently using a call center, whether in-house or outsourced, you probably still have some false impressions of the service. I’ll attempt to cover the most common misunderstandings from my unique perspective as a call-center operator. I may be a bit biased, but I'll do my best to provide a realistic overview.
Misconception 1: Call Center Turnover Is High
Some self-storage operators think call-center agents are a band of free-spirited, counter-culture anarchists who float from job to job. While it’s true that call-center work can be very convenient for students or part-timers who work other jobs, it’s also true that these positions sometimes occur early in a person’s career, making it seem like there’s more turnover at these centers than one might like.
The fact is most call-center employees are long-term professional agents who specialize in sales or customer service. They make a career of this type of work and have long tenures when they find a good environment that suits their skill set.
Many call centers also have a set of performance standards and adherence policies that make it unlikely that underperformers will stay. This can also contribute to a turnover rate. Most call centers have a core group of long-term, experienced agents supplemented by students and part-timers. This mix is ideal for managing seasonal call-volume variations and the fluctuations of client-account requirements. So, really, call-center turnover is not high.
Misconception 2: Call Centers Make a Lot of Money
This is a very big misconception. The competitive nature of bidding on contracts and the tight access to capital for non-real estate-related businesses, coupled with the high costs of labor and technology, means margins are slim in the call-center world. A typical call center may not experience any more than a 20 percent margin.
For storage operators who are often generating bottom-line profit when a store is 50 percent occupied, a 20 percent margin must look like a lot of trouble for not much return. There’s a misconception that technology makes call centers more efficient and cheaper to run. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s costly to buy and very costly to maintain. Most call centers have several different platforms that must work together nicely. It’s very expensive to make all this integration look easy and make everything work to a satisfactory level.
When you get your invoice from your call-center provider, know that it needs to be about 20 percent larger for you to feel the least bit envious about the net operating income.
Misconception 3: Call-Center Agents Don’t Know Anything About My Locale
One positive affect of technology is the ability for call-center agents to feel local even when they're not. Using website information, mapping and photo technologies, an agent can have almost as much information about a location as someone who’s standing right in front of the storage facility. A lack of local knowledge is no more than a minor disadvantage. Before an efficient Internet, this may have been an issue. Now, an agent’s location poses no real difficulties and is almost never a deal-killer with a customer.