Why a virtual call center may be the answer post-pandemic

Why a virtual call center may be the answer post-pandemic

Aug 27, 2021

 

Things look like they are slowly returning back to normal – or as normal as they’ll ever be. Restaurants are open again. Outdoor festivals and concerts are now taking place. People are electing to go back into the office.

And while we have one foot ready to take on the world as we knew it, we still have the other foot firmly and cautiously planted home. Come this September, the vast majority of companies are still operating under a complete work-from-home or hybrid model. So, grab yourself a cup of coffee at your favorite barista and bring it back to the home office to enjoy it.

No one can accurately say when we will close the door on this pandemic. One thing is clear. We can never go back to the traditional work model. From employees having a greater work-life balance, to employers reducing their physical footprint and expanding their virtual capabilities, the work-from-home revolution is here to stay.

Not that it’s been a smooth transition. Companies entrenched with cloud capabilities had a much easier transition, while companies with on-premises solutions struggled to find their footing.

 

What is a virtual contact center?

A virtual contact center enables companies with contact center agents spread across offices, home offices and geographical locations – or with no physical locations – to optimally perform as well as any traditional contact center would. Cloud-based solutions support and empower dispersed agents (just as if they were united under the same roof) with the ability to deliver a seamless and personalized customer experience.

Virtual contact centers use VoIP and cloud-based software to allow agents the flexibility to work from anywhere, as long as they have a stable internet connection. This modern contact center operates in a much more unique environment than say your traditional punch-in, punch-out contact center.

 

Virtual versus on-premises contact center

An on-premises contact center is considered to be a traditional contact center with one or more physical locations. They manage their operations using software and hardware hosted locally, though they may also use cloud or hybrid solutions. The key differentiator is that they have a physical location where managers and agents work from.

Even though every call center has its unique environment and distinctive goals, a virtual contact center can deliver the following benefits:

 

– Always have the latest software version

There are generally no servers or software to purchase or maintain. All hardware and software requirements are managed by the provider, rolling out regular software updates, including security updates. Remote and virtual agents can work as one cohesive unit, using up-to-date software, from anywhere.

– Overall cost savings

A key reason companies adopt the virtual model are the substantial $$ savings. No hardware costs. Easy setup and maintenance, with a subscription-based model that’s kind to your cash flow. In addition to a minimal IT investment, there’s also a reduction in physical office space rental and other overhead costs.

– It’s the same great solution

Call it cloud, call it virtual – it’s still the same great contact center solution with interactive dashboards, contact center analytics and insights that provide customers with the choice of channel – chat, SMS, email or call. In fact, most software companies are fazing out or moving away from on-premises solutions, focusing solely on their cloud offerings and SaaS solutions. Whether you want to or not, eventually most solutions will be virtual.

– Improved collaboration in a secure environment

Boost individual and team performance with the ability to easily share data and collaborate from different locations. Remote agents, teams and multi-site offices can share real-time data and updates for instant analytics and reporting. Plus, storing sensitive data on the cloud is far safer than storing it on physical servers and data centers.

– Disaster recovery safeguard

Because all data is dematerialized and stored on secure servers, a virtual contact center automatically safeguards against lost data and other permanent disasters. With in-bred disaster recovery safeguards, a virtual environment is also the safest environment – as long as you partner with reputable companies and fully understand their cloud storage and backup options.

– Flexibility

Virtual solutions are easier to scale, manage and customize. They are also easier to integrate with third-party solutions. Want to add or remove an agent? No problem, you can instantly do it yourself. This is even more important for seasonal businesses and growth-mined companies that expect to scale operations.

– No geographical limitations

As the world gets smaller, and more people want and expect to work from home, a virtual contact center allows you to hire qualified agents from anywhere in the world – increasing your hiring pool for unique skills, languages and the ability to respond to customer inquiries from different time zones. You could even decide to differentiate your customer service offerings by providing 24/7 support.

– Agent retention

As an industry, contact centers have a reputation for high employee turnover and attrition. With a growing number of agents wanting to work from home, agents who prefer flexible hours and the continuing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, providing employees with the ability to work from anywhere, at any time is a major benefit. If you want happy customers, start with happy agents.

 

“Companies allowing remote work have 25% lower employee turnover than those that don’t. 76% of workers would be more willing to stay with their current employer if they could work flexible hours.” – SmallBizGenius

 

Who knew that a virtual contact center was green?

 Having remote teams positively impacts the environment. Though not a top priority on most business agendas, being green or environmentally friendly is a bonus to virtual or remote call centers.

Think about it. No physical office spaces with everything contained within (paper, plastics, energy consumption, etc.) and no long daily commutes (car or otherwise). It’s not just the elimination of hardware, but really all the physical extras required. So, going virtual improves your bottom line, while creating a smaller carbon footprint. Something you can be proud of and boast loudly to your market!

 

Things to consider before going virtual

 It’s a considerable transition to move operations from in-office to virtual. Here are some key things to consider:

 

Agents

Start by hiring qualified and quality agents capable of working independently. Provide a thorough onboarding process with adequate training. Empower your people to work efficiently and effectively. Nurture, nurture, nurture! Also, don’t be limited by thinking local. A virtual contact center allows you to recruit globally so you can hire the ideal candidates to serve your customers.

 

Managers

Managers need to rethink their approach to employee management. Virtual contact center technology provides managers with the tools to stay in constant contact with their agents. But it is up to the manager and supervisor to ensure that they remain involved and present for their employees – more so than if they were in the same office. By monitoring agent performance, you can provide appropriate feedback, and make real-time adjustments and improvements. And don’t forget about praise! Agents need to hear that they are succeeding in their tasks and achieving their goals.

 

Partner

Deploying the right virtual contact center solution is key. Start by understanding your needs and requirements. It’s always advisable to work with reputable contact center solution companies that take a consultative approach towards building the perfect integration of solutions – omnichannel capabilities (voice, email, chat, SMS, etc.), reporting ease, seamless integrations with existing systems and third-party solutions, and of course, unparalleled security.

While all elements are important for continued success, particular care must be taken when selecting the right partner to guide you on this transitional journey as all areas of your operations will be run by the solution(s) selected.

 

Investment

While there are significant cost savings (no hardware, office space, etc.) to incur, transitioning to a virtual contact center does require upfront investments in time and money. Consider the behemoth operation required to disassemble current operations and resurrect them virtually. This takes planning, manpower and some financial investment. Many providers underplay this aspect, but a good partner will help you navigate through these challenges and propose solutions that minimize disruptions.

 

A new way forward

Virtual contact centers are not new. In fact, they have been growing in popularity even before the pandemic hit. What’s new, is a fresh approach that makes the idea of going virtual seem modern, more today. Faced with business continuity issues during this time of crisis, many companies are looking to move their contact center operations virtual to avoid customer service interruptions and provide disaster recovery relief (a growing concern for all companies across industries).

The ability to deliver consistent, personalized customer experiences across any communication channel, regardless of location or time zone – without the need for a physical location – may be a new way forward for call centers looking to expand their global footprint. With all the advanced features and functionalities that enhance the customer experience, a virtual contact center is completely seamless to the customer. They additionally benefit from your ability to provide service in multiple languages and 24/7 support – all made possible by freeing your agents from a central location.

Whether your operations are outbound, inbound, telesales or blended, taking your operations virtual can significantly impact your productivity, efficiency and bottom line over the years to come.

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