With the COVID-19 pandemic, the world moved online.
Digital software and online shopping became increasingly popular among customers, which intensified the need for excellent customer service. And to match that, several companies like Amazon and Microsoft embraced the virtual call center model.
In a virtual call center, agents handle incoming and outgoing customer calls while they work remotely.
This article contains:
(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- What is a Virtual Call Center?
- 6 Major Advantages of Virtual Call Centers
- 4 Simple Tips to Manage a Virtual Call Center
Let’s get started.
What is a virtual call center?
A virtual call center is a cloud-based customer service center where the agents handling customer calls aren’t in a single, centralized location. These agents work from different places such as offices, homes, cafes, and even across time zones.
However, these remote teams can work together efficiently by using virtual call center software.
In addition to virtual software, remote customer support teams also need a secure internet connection and a workspace free from distractions to interact with customers efficiently.
Let’s take a closer look at how virtual call centers differ from traditional call centers.
Traditional call center vs. virtual call center
While both traditional (on-premise) call centers and virtual ones serve the same purpose, they go about it differently.
Here’s a quick table summarizing the differences between the two:
|Traditional Call Center||Virtual Call Center|
|Setup||Analog phone system||Online live calls and communication|
|Hardware / Software||Physical equipment installed at the office — landlines, servers, headsets, a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system||VoIP technology, cloud-based PBX system, and high-speed internet connection|
|Integrations||Can be tough to integrate with new software — may have to do everything manually||Can easily integrate with billing software, CRM, project management tools, and more|
|Maintenance||Need to upgrade regularly due to new innovation and hardware issues, like overheating server||Minimal issues — if software issues occur, your provider takes care of them remotely|
|Scalability||Can be costly and time-consuming — need to add new phone lines, servers, maybe even require additional office space||Can easily add new user accounts to the software — no additional hardware required|
6 major advantages of virtual call centers
Here are the six major benefits of having a virtual call center:
1. No geographical limitations
This is one of the main advantages of virtual call centers.
As all virtual call center agents work remotely, your talent pool widens dramatically. This allows you to build a distributed team of professionals from anywhere in the world.
Allowing your employees to work remotely can also improve your customer service.
Since you have a team across multiple time zones, a virtual agent will always be available to resolve an issue. This way, your team can offer round-the-clock service.
Additionally, a virtual call center usually uses API (Application Programming Interface) software. This is an intermediary that allows data transmissions between one software product and another.
The API negotiates with network carriers in different countries on your behalf, and you can enjoy global connectivity without delay.
2. Simple and cost-effective
If you start an on-premise call center, you need to deal with the operational costs of setting up an office.
These costs include rent, electricity, phone numbers, a PBX system, servers, reliable internet connection, desks, and many more. In addition, these resources can quickly become outdated, so you’ll also need to spend more money to keep them updated.
Virtual call center services eliminate all these operational and infrastructural costs.
Cloud technology doesn’t require on-site developers to update your software platform constantly. Instead, your API integration providers do all the work for you.
They provide a whole host of software solutions that are continuously updated. The pricing of these is usually covered on a per-month, per-user basis. So you receive up-to-date functionality at no extra cost.
Most businesses need this high level of financial flexibility because it allows them to adapt right when they need to.
This is also helpful for your remote workforce. All employees need to do is familiarize themselves with the cloud based software, and they can go about their tasks quickly.
3. Lower attrition rates
Did you know that employee turnover rates in the call center industry are between 30-45%?
These attrition rates require a constant flow of new hires and training, which can tie up existing customer care agents and reduce their overall productivity.
Additionally, the stress of constantly training new telemarketing agents only for them to leave is financially draining and frustrating. It further contributes to the high turnover rate and operational costs of a traditional inbound or outbound call center.
Virtual call centers, however, attract a very different applicant pool. These applicants are usually more experienced and accomplished.
They have extensive training and are more likely to view their call center job as a career move. This increases the retention rate for remote agents up to 80% compared to in-house agents (25%).
Retaining competent virtual employees reduces your HR costs and provides a high-quality, consistent customer experience.
4. Improved agent productivity
A common fear among managers is that employees slack off during remote work. However, studies have shown that this simply isn’t true.
Agent productivity is either the same or even higher during remote work.
When your employees work from home, it reduces their commute time and transport costs. Additionally, they’re more comfortable in a familiar environment and have an increased sense of responsibility.
Remote working usually includes a flexible work schedule, which can help create a better work-life balance and allow your full-time employees to work during their most productive hours.
It’s probably why over 70% of customer service representatives want to continue remote work even after the pandemic.
Additionally, when your employees work remotely, you could invest in contact center software that improves agent performance. For instance, your API can integrate with your CRM (customer relationship management) software to streamline operations.
And if you opt for a cloud contact center solution with an IVR (Interactive Voice Response), you can handle a significant portion of customer calls without human intervention.
IVR also ensures that the call context is transferred with the phone call, improving your first call resolution (FCR) rates. This way, you can improve your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), employee productivity, and customer satisfaction.
5. Optimized customer experience (CX)
With a virtual call center, you can reach a broader base and provide customer service. This can increase your overall brand presence.
However, it’s important to keep your current customers happy as it can cost 5 to 25 times more to acquire a new one.
Utilizing suitable software can help you provide a consistent customer experience across various channels. For example, through skills-based call routing, you can prioritize inbound calls and direct them to the right virtual agent.
The analytics you gain from a virtual phone system can improve your customer interaction strategy. You can also record customer calls and use these call recordings for training new support agents.
Additionally, you can conduct post-call surveys through outbound calls or SMS to understand how to improve your customer satisfaction scores (CSAT).
6. Better scalability
With a virtual call center, you don’t have to worry about scaling costs.
As the software is hosted in the cloud, you can easily change your virtual call center solutions to meet customer demands. And since most API software works on a per-user basis, it gives you the flexibility to use the software without worrying about extra subscription costs.
This adaptability is invaluable during seasonal business fluctuations.
As the software remains constant for all support agents, new and existing, you have the freedom to focus on the overall company development.
4 simple tips to manage a virtual call center
While virtual call centers offer several advantages, remote customer support teams come with their own challenges.
Here are four tips on how you can manage your virtual call center and employees efficiently:
1. Hire compatible personnel
One of the best advantages of remote work is the global talent pool you get.
But not everyone is suited for remote work. After all, remote employees need to have excellent organization skills and self-discipline to meet their goals.
When sorting through candidates, look for people who can self-manage work, have proactive problem-solving, and excellent communication skills. And most importantly, they should be comfortable with remote work.
With the rise of AI (artificial intelligence), you can also consider hiring a person with disabilities as a remote agent or a virtual assistant.
By reducing traditional barriers, skilled people with disabilities can work from the comfort of their own homes. This can help boost overall productivity and retention rates.
2. Use the right virtual call center software
To choose the right software, you need to understand what your business needs.
Do you mostly handle incoming calls or outgoing calls?
Do you require a virtual queuing system that keeps the caller on the line?
And how about an answering service for off days?
Once you’ve decided what your company needs, you can choose the software that best fits your requirements and budget. Most vendors also let you customize your contact center software depending on your business requirements.
Let’s check out three essential software for virtual call centers:
A. Management tools
Managing your team has never been easier with cloud based software for project management or customer relationship management.
With a single admin dashboard, you can get a bird’s-eye view of all your virtual employees. This will help you keep track of key business metrics and agent performance.
Through CRM integration, you can address any challenges your agents face with customers in real-time. It also allows you to record all incoming calls for training and analytics.
You can also use speech analytics tools to help agents pick up emotional cues from live calls, while you can evaluate your agent’s behavior and performance later.
B. Communication and collaboration tools
By utilizing remote work software, you can manage your team efficiently and effectively.
For instance, Google Drive allows your remote workforce to store, view, and update all their files and folders in one location.
You can also hold virtual meetings on Zoom to discuss how things are progressing and what can be improved. It can even help you train new agents and strengthen team bonding through virtual happy hours.
Additionally, communication tools like Slack can help you organize business conversations and share relevant files with your virtual agents. You can also organize Slack games for virtual team building, even if your agents are miles apart from each other.
C. Productivity tools
When your staff is spread across different locations, it’s important to keep an eye on things and ensure they’re working productively.
Fortunately, that’s easy with Time Doctor, one of the best employee productivity management software available today.
Trusted by large companies as well as SMBs, Time Doctor helps boost agent productivity across the board.
With Time Doctor, you can:
- Track the time spent on each call down to the second.
- Analyze real-time productivity reports for each virtual agent.
- Check whether an agent is present, late, absent, or partially absent.
- Set up shifts and work schedules for every agent.
- Pay your employees through an in-built payroll management feature.
Read more about Time Doctor’s features and benefits.
3. Ensure data security
Cybercrime is an ever-increasing danger for even the most secure organizations.
And since a cloud contact center stores valuable data of several customers, it’s essential to ensure advanced data security measures are in place to protect the data.
Some simple ways you can ensure data security are:
- Provide top-of-the-line antivirus software.
- Require remote agents to update their software regularly.
- Secure agent log-in through strong passwords (that should be changed often).
- Set up IVR to collect payment information.
- Encrypt live calls and recordings.
- Disable commands such as “print screen” to avoid screenshots.
By investing in cloud technology, you can even provide backup and safeguard features. This way, your client is more likely to trust you as you care for their privacy.
4. Collaborative goal setting
Occasionally, remote work can feel isolated and demotivating for your agents — no matter how skilled they are.
However, you can motivate your remote employees through collaborative goal setting. You align the agent’s personal goals with the company’s.
Giving employees a space to align personal and work goals can make them feel included and heard.
Moreover, this boosts employee engagement as they are trusted and accountable for their actions. They’re able to visualize how their performance directly impacts the company.
And since goal setting requires regular check-ins, you can use this as an opportunity to have virtual team meetings and one-on-ones. This gives your remote worker a greater sense of belonging.
A virtual call center empowers employees and companies alike. Employees get the flexibility to work from home while companies can reduce overhead costs.
By offering remote work facilities, your hiring pool spans the globe. This enables you to employ and retain the best call center agents. Additionally, you can use virtual call center software to make virtual call center management a breeze.
With increased productivity, scalability, and improved customer satisfaction ratings, virtual call centers seem to be the future of the customer service industry.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.