Call centres are often viewed as cost centres within organisations as they tend to incur large costs through high staff turnover and training. To mitigate this, companies have sought various ways to restructure their contact centre, such as through introducing new technologies, outsourcing call centres entirely, or offshoring them.
However, these different structures come with some drawbacks. For example, outsourcing call centre functions could affect staff training and product knowledge levels, which leads to a subpar service being provided. Similarly, offshoring call centres can create language and cultural barriers for customers, negatively affecting customer experience and therefore customer retention.
But what if there was a way for companies to keep contact centre agents local, whilst keeping costs down and staff turnover to a minimum? Well, there might just be a way – the virtual contact centre.
The virtual contact centre
Traditional call centres work under a familiar model, with all staff working in a fixed office location under one roof. Virtual call centres, on the other hand, allow for staff to be geographically dispersed, working either from home or in other smaller office locations.
In a virtual contact centre, all incoming calls and queries are distributed by the cloud across a network of remote agents, based upon factors such as staff availability or even knowledge and skill level. This allows for queries to quickly be dealt with by the staff as and when they arise.
With basic hardware (computer, telephone and internet connection), cloud and unified communications tools in place, remote agents can perform the same tasks an office-based agent can, bringing about plenty of benefits for customers, businesses, and the agents themselves.
Benefits of virtual contact centres
A 2015 study based in a travel agency in China found that call centre staff who worked from home were 13 percent more productive than their counterparts working in an office over a nine-month period. This increase in productivity was explained by a reduction in break time and sick days as well as being in a more comfortable working environment. This shows that employees do not necessarily need to be based in an office in order to achieve great results.
As staff do not need to be physically present in an office, it means that businesses can save money on office items, furniture and rent in order to place these employees. In the case of the travel agency mentioned above, the study found that the agency was able to save around $1900 per employee on rent and fixtures over the nine months. This allows organisations to utilise existing space on other revenue-generating areas or save money by not taking up unnecessary extra space.
Working from home could be very beneficial to call centre staff. Factors such as not having to commute in, being able to work flexibly around their schedule, and by working in a quieter environment can all contribute to increasing employee happiness and lowering stress levels. This can lead to lower staff turnover rates in call centres which can save costs on hiring and training down the line. Also, happier staff means more productive, which will benefit the business and the customers.
Better customer experience
When customers speak to a contact centre agent (i.e. in the UK), it is preferable to them that the agent they are speaking to is a native English speaker, as it helps with sorting out issues more quickly and easily. Offshoring can lead to language barriers, which can make it difficult to sort out queries over the phone, thus harming the customer experience. As contact centres can choose from a large pool of national staff in a virtual contact centre, it can ensure that customer can always reach a staff member without any language barriers present.
Easier to scale
Since virtual contact centres are hosted in the cloud, they can be very flexible, allowing businesses to quickly scale up or down to meet any changes in customer demand. Businesses can scale the types of technologies they have in place, as well as the levels of staff available without having to worry about adding any space or hardware to their existing physical location.
Having virtual contact centres in place makes organisations more emergency ready. Imagine a scenario in which the phone lines in a call centre went down, or there was an internet connection issue which meant the staff couldn’t access their CRM system. This call centre would struggle to operate, and customers wouldn’t be able to get through to the desired team. With virtual agents working remotely, were something to go wrong in a call centre, there would still always be a team of agents on hand who can assist with customer queries.
Hire better staff
Typically, companies looking to hire staff into a call centre will look for candidates who live close to the location of the centre. This places a cap on the quality and quantity of candidates the business can select from. However, because virtual agents are location independent, businesses can look to the whole country or further to select candidates to work for them. This means that more skilled staff could be hired, which will be a great benefit to customers as their experience in dealing with the company will be improved.
In conclusion, implementing a virtual contact centre into an organisation can create tangible benefits for businesses, customers and staff. Working remotely has shown to increase worker productivity and happiness, which improves customer experience and retention, as well as employee retention. This leads to a reduction in costs for businesses, as well as potential increases in revenue from the improvements in productivity. Also. virtual contact centres also make it easier for businesses to scale, as well as safeguard their contact centres against any unscheduled downtime or issues.