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(Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has recently been updated to reflect more accurate and up-to-date information)
A virtual call center is a contact center whose customer support agents or sales reps work remotely.
Instead of working from an on-site business location, virtual agents help customers from a different third-party location, or even from their own homes. Virtual call center software allows teams to work from dispersed locations while remaining a cohesive unit and performing with ease and efficiency.
Cloud technology has democratized the service and sales industry in many ways.
Since virtual call centers are location-agnostic, they usually leverage VoIP or cloud-based software. These remote solutions use cloud-based software so that at-home agents can be active and effective anywhere with a reliable internet connection.
But a cloud contact center creates a very different work environment than a traditional contact center. Given their rising popularity, virtual solutions may even improve worker efficiency.
Call center software: Going virtual or keeping it onsite?
The adoption of virtual call center software has several advantages compared to remaining tethered to a conventional model. Let’s look at how it can benefit your business:
No geographical limitations
A virtual call center allows you to hire agents from across the globe. This drastically widens your available hiring pool, enabling you to select the best people for the job, not just those within commuting distance.
Being able to rely on customer support representatives in different time zones will also greatly benefit your customer service. You could dramatically extend your office hours, or go all the way and provide a 24/7 inbound or outbound call center.
Plus, the number of overseas call centers is decreasing now that domestic agents for small and mid size businesses can work from home. Local service can, in many ways, lead to a more pleasurable customer experience and increase empathy all around.
Lower upfront costs
Another reason outsourced call centers are waning in popularity is their original purpose, reduced costs, is increasingly irrelevant. The most cited upside to a virtual call center is its relative inexpensiveness, even compared to outsourcing.
It’s no secret that the costs associated with starting an onsite contact center can be prohibitive. You need to acquire IT resources which will be costly upfront and whose value will only decrease over time. Furthermore, purchasing hosting servers, a PBX, and phone terminals is just the first level of expenses. If you are running a traditional inbound call center, you must also provide all of your employees with desks, chairs, and amenities. If you are relying on an outsourced call center, the cost of service will absolutely reflect those expenses.
Virtual call center software eliminates the need for almost all hardware, as well as the costs associated with onsite employees. As a rule of thumb, cloud-based software is billed as a per user, per month subscription. This reduces costs and allows for seasonality with no adverse effects on your staff or the happiness of your customers.
Mobility and reduced turnover
Remote call center software allows your agents to work from anywhere. If they are working from home, they won’t need to commute. This would eliminate the potential for lost time or lateness, and most of all, lowers overall stress level.
Studies show, work-related triggers rank higher than any other cause for stress. The call center industry especially is known for its high employee turnover and attrition rate. A relaxed, stress free staff is a more efficient one. Your customers’ perception of your business will improve immediately. A virtual call center can reduce your employee turnover, boost morale, and make for improved customer service.
Environmental benefits of remote teams
Having an offsite remote call center might not just be the smartest option your business, it could also be the greenest. Eliminating daily commutes, physical offices, and hardware doesn’t just improve your bottom line, it also creates a smaller carbon footprint.
Virtual call center software operates on the cloud, which has a number of positive effects on the environment. The dematerialization of data and software, the elimination of hardware and paper products, and the corresponding energy savings are all beneficial to both your business and our planet.
Tips & best practices for setting up your virtual call center software
Virtual call center software has a lot to offer your business. Nevertheless, you must adequately prepare for any change in direction your business plans to undertake.
Empower your workforce. At least a portion of your agents will be working remotely. Therefore, you will need to take special care to motivate them to give their best performance. Make sure to hire great agents, and give them a thorough onboarding experience. Thankfully, good virtual call center software makes it easy to stay in touch and work together, even in a remote situation.
Be present as a manager. Managing a remote team requires a slightly different set of skills than an onsite one. Remote call center software enables you to stay close to your team by monitoring performance, giving feedback, and allowing you to make modifications to your process in real-time.
If you go digital
If you decide to move your company toward using a virtual call center, you need to make sure you are using the right software.
Shop around. There are many business phone providers out there, and while they may seem similar at first, be sure to compare them. Perhaps take advantage of some free trials. Make sure you’re getting the best service. This means a phone system that offers training for your team and technical support through the setup phases and beyond.
Consider your needs. What are your team’s unique requirements? Is your activity seasonal? Do you need to operate in a certain language, or from a certain area? Consider what you want to get out of the arrangement, and then do not hesitate to get in touch with a provider. They will be able to advise you, and help you every step of the way. It’s also a good idea to inquire about SLA’s in terms of service. This ensures your phone system is as committed to success as you are.
Virtual call center software: which one to pick?
Now that you know more about call center software, you can consider what you want out of such a solution. That’s why we put together this list of ways that virtual call center software, like Aircall, can benefit your business. Aircall is a cloud-based, VOIP business phone system which caters to in person and remote contact centers. We strive for excellence, and the qualities detailed below represent what we value in our own product.
From the get-go, opting for a virtual call center will save you stress and time. Setting up an onsite contact center requires configuring hardware, setting up physical work stations, and organizing literal miles of wiring.
However, the process of installing a complete virtual call center service is usually no more complex than downloading an app. The whole installation could take as little as a few minutes, and the software is functional immediately.
It can be a financial drain to keep your onsite call center running if you find yourself constantly juggling a surplus or deficit of hardware. Your workforce will naturally expand or contract with seasonal changes in business and demand.
Virtual call center software is easy to scale, even on short notice. Adding or removing users is as simple as adjusting a toggle in the admin dashboard.
Simple to use, in real time
Traditional call centers lose efficiency because their communication tools aren’t built with the customer in mind. One upside to virtual call software is the unified, intuitive, and modern interface. Even with remote agents, you’ll be able to expedite onboarding and training, and work as a more cohesive team because of the simple, well-designed application.
In addition to this, virtual call center software allows you to survey performance analytics, and react accordingly. You can decide which KPIs you want to track, since not all indicators are equally valuable to monitor. This affords you immediate feedback on how your team is doing.
A complete package
Just because a virtual call center system is easy to install and easy to use doesn’t mean its features are limited. A quality solution will offer the same level of service as a traditional model if not more.
One of the differences between a virtual phone business system and an onsite one is that the former is constantly being updated and optimized by its developers. Cloud-based platforms are continually making sure that their software is user-friendly and powerful. They are working to present you, and by extension your customers, with the highest quality of service.
Some features are just what you’d expect from a standard setup: interactive voice response (IVR), programmable open/closed hours, custom voicemail greetings, click-to-call…
Others build on that and make handling calls even simpler: desktop notifications, advanced transfer features, custom hold music, and more.
Some features allow your agents to handle an influx of calls as one cohesive team at every stage of customer interaction: flexible call distribution, shared inbox, shared contacts, etc.
And others still allow you, the manager, to stay closely involved in the process of your call center: setting priorities, call routing, real-time monitoring, and call recording preferences.
A host of integrations
In addition to these features, virtual call center software will integrate with other cloud-based software tools in order to provide you with a streamlined process. Rather than expecting your team to master several programs, all with differing (and sometimes overlapping) functions, you can let your virtual call center software integrate with the rest of your tools. For example, Aircall integrates seamlessly with Salesforce, Intercom, Zendesk, HubSpot, and Slack, to name a few.
Much like with the call center software itself, you don’t have to stay on top of potential integration updates. The software provider is always working to supply new ways to make your work day easier.
Once you modernize your call center, it will operate through the cloud. Your data will be dematerialized, and the servers used to store it and to power your applications will be delocalized.
Cloud computing has many ins and outs. However, it can be an excellent disaster recovery safeguard for your call center. On top of its productivity features, a virtual call center is an excellent way to keep sensitive customer information safe.
You’ve seen how a virtual call center can improve on an onsite model and you know how to pick the right software, you’re ready to make a change for the better!