With so many people needing to work remotely, you may be wondering how to start a virtual call center, and if so, how to do it right. A remote workforce is a growing trend. Many companies are following the trend by switching their on-site call center to a totally virtual call center. Others are setting up a virtual call center right from the start.
It’s a myth to believe that a virtual call center is only appropriate for challenging times when it’s difficult to set up a row of cubes in an office. A virtual call center is a valuable way to increase the efficiency and productivity of your sales and support activities. It’s also a great way to help your employees achieve a good work-life balance.
So, what does it really take to set up a virtual call center? In a nutshell, it’s the right people, the right processes, and the right tools. Setting up a virtual call center isn’t difficult to do. After all, if T-Mobile could set up a remote workforce of 12,000 customer support employees almost overnight, you can too.
Let’s take a look at what a virtual call center is, why you might consider one, and how you can get one started.
What Is a Virtual Call Center?
A virtual call center is much like an on-site call center, except customer service representatives or sales representatives aren’t physically seated in one of the company’s locations. Most likely, they’re at home, but they could be working anywhere they have a reliable internet connection. One of the reasons that virtual call centers are gaining in popularity is because they reduce many of the overhead costs of running a brick-and-mortar office.
Cloud technology is pretty amazing. It makes it possible to set up a virtual call center for inbound calls and outbound calls that serves customers anywhere in the world regardless of their time zone. With a cloud-based phone system, call center representatives can connect with your customers whether they’re geographically nearby or thousands of miles away.
Virtual call center software keeps all sales and support representatives connected with their managers and with their peers. What are we talking about when we refer to virtual call center software? Virtual call center software refers to a cloud-based phone system, which is also known as a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone system. A cloud phone system typically works in tandem with other software integrations to provide a single source of data and and other functions for call center representatives. It all sounds a little technical and complicated, but actually, cloud-based phone systems and other software programs work together seamlessly.
A virtual call center gives you more options for how to set up a call center. You have the flexibility to have some team members working on-site and others working remotely, or to have all team members working remotely. You can switch things up at any time to meet your needs.
Why a Business Should Use a Virtual Call Center
If your business isn’t quite ready to set up a virtual call center just yet, you might consider the possibility of setting up one in the future. According to a Gartner report, over one-third of customer service representatives will be working at home by the year 2023. That’s a huge increase if you consider that only 5% of customer service employees were working at home in 2017.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why businesses are choosing to set up virtual call centers.
1) Ability to expand business hours
- Many businesses serve customers globally, but it’s not always practical to set up offices in every geographical location. A virtual call center allows you to expand the number of hours that customers can call your business. Better customer service equates to increased retention and brand loyalty.
2) Reduces overhead costs
- With a virtual workforce, you eliminate the cost associated with office leasing, equipment, utilities, etc.
3) Reduces employee turnover
- With more employees working remotely, most of them have decided they liked it. In fact, the vast majority of remote workers said they would love to continue working remotely for the rest of their careers, even if it was only part-time.
4) Ease of managing and monitoring the call center
- Supervisors no longer have to walk by customer service representatives to know that they’re working and doing a good job. The right software allows them to listen in on calls and to view call activity on a live feed.
5) Enables internal collaboration virtually
- Virtual call center software opens up multiple communication channels like email, chat, and text, in addition to phone communication. Omni-channel communication provides multiple ways for call center representatives to collaborate and interact remotely.
6) Opens up access to a wider talent pool
- When you set up a virtual call center, you’re not limited to the talent within a specific radius of your office.
Obviously, there are lots of good reasons to consider setting up a virtual call center, so let’s take a look at how IT decision-makers should evaluate virtual call center software.
How IT Decision Makers Should Evaluate Virtual Call Center Software
The latest cutting-edge business phone technology is a VoIP phone system, as mentioned earlier. A VoIP phone system is a cloud-based phone system. Why is that important?
A good cloud-based phone system makes it possible to use virtual call center software that has a range of voice calling features. Your company can do so much more and offer better customer experiences when you use a cloud-based phone system along with software integrations.
The right software integrations, along with a modern phone system, allow you to streamline workflows and improve efficiency and productivity. For example, virtual call center software often includes a voice system that works in tandem with a CRM system like HubSpot or Salesforce and automatically syncs customer data.
The best virtual call center software will be quick and easy to install. The software service provider will be able to give you a strong sense of reliability, security, and redundancy. In fact, it’s common to find virtual call center software providers that guarantee 99.99% reliability.
To better serve your company now and in the future, IT decision-makers will want to ensure that virtual call center software has the ability to set up local, toll-free, national, and international phone numbers to give your company a local presence.
It’s essential to monitor your virtual call center. Look for virtual call center software that offers dashboard analytics with the capability to access multiple metrics and KPIs.
The next step after setting up your virtual call center infrastructure is to get it started.
How to Start a Virtual Call Center
By now, it should be clear that you don’t need a physical office to get a virtual call center started. With that said, there are a lot of other things you need to take into consideration when starting a virtual call center. The following nine things will help you get your virtual call center off on the right track.
- 1. Make a decision about the purpose of your virtual call center. Will your call center be a sales call center or a customer support call center? It’s also possible to set up a combination of both.
- 2. In addition to a VoIP system, you’ll also need the right software integrations to support the purpose of your virtual call center. Your virtual call center software provider may offer an app marketplace where you can leverage other software applications to manage sales and support activities and improve the customer experience.
- 3. Set up the proper workflows according to the purpose of your call center. For example, for a sales call center, you may want to use software integrations that allow you to set up automated emails to guide customers through your sales funnel.
- 4. Leverage the voice call features and software features that will help you provide the best customer experience. Consider things like an IVR, skills-based routing feature, and self-service options so customers can get the help they need fast.
- 5. Decide what equipment your call representatives will need in their remote work environment. Most often, they’ll need a computer, a headset, and a reliable internet connection. You’ll have to decide whether your company will supply a computer and headset, or if they’ll be expected to get that on their own.
- 6. Hire the best talent. Remember that when you set up a virtual call center, you’re not limited to the talent that resides within driving distance from your office, if you even have an office. You have the freedom to review resumes from people who live anywhere in the world.
- 7. Design a quality onboarding protocol for new call center representatives.
- 8. Set up metrics and KPIs to monitor and track your call center’s performance.
- 9. Establish a program to evaluate your call center representatives’ performance on an ongoing basis and determine how to reward them for meeting their goals.
How to Onboard Virtual Call Center Software
One of the things that you’ll enjoy about onboarding virtual call center software is that it’s super easy to set up. There’s no need to worry about configuring hardware or setting up physical workstations. It’s as simple as downloading an app. No kidding! You can complete the process in as little as a few minutes and start using the software immediately.
Depending on the software you choose, you’ll generally have about eight steps to follow to onboard your virtual call center software. Here’s what you can expect to do:
- 1. Get familiar with your virtual call center dashboard
- 2. Create your virtual phone numbers
- 3. Create your IVR numbers
- 4. Create teams and users, and configure their profiles
- 5. Set up your analytics with metrics and KPIs
- 6. Get familiar with the call center activity feed (for monitoring call center activity)
- 7. Set up call tagging (tag calls for support, sales, tech, etc.)
- 8. Activate integrations (additional software tools for a single source of data)
How to Onboard Your Virtual Call Center Agents
As you look through resumes to hire virtual call center agents, some applicants will already have call center experience and some won’t. On the one hand, experienced call center agents will already have many of the skills they need to do the job. On the other, some companies prefer to hire talent that has no previous experience so they can train them the way they want.
There’s no shortage of people who want to work at home. The important thing is to make sure that they have a reliable internet connection, a quiet place to work, and that they’re trainable.
Next, you’ll need to develop a process that you can use to consistently onboard your call center agents. Include all the tools, policies, and procedures that your call center representatives will need to know to do their jobs well. Many companies find that a digital knowledge base, where call center representatives can find answers to their questions while they have a customer on the line, is a highly useful tool.
For example, Zendesk, a sales and support software provider, requires their call center representatives to have the following:
- Reliable, high-speed internet access with 10 Mbps of bandwidth
- A quiet workspace without interruptions
- A private workspace where their screen can’t be viewed by others
It’s also helpful to set up weekly meetings with new agents to check on how they’re doing and to answer their questions. Use the metrics on your dashboard analytics to set measurable goals for call center representatives that you can use to objectively measure their performance.
It’s also become a trend for virtual call centers to have regular times when call service representatives can enjoy a social time for team building, such as a virtual coffee hour.
The Advantages of a Virtual Call Center
Now that you know the ins and outs of starting a virtual call center, let’s review the advantages that you can look forward to once you get one set up.
- Reduced costs for equipment, facilities, maintenance, and upgrades
- Greater reliability, perhaps as much as 99.99%
- Scale your call center up or down quickly and easily
- Leverage talent from anywhere in the world
- Less reliance on IT staff; software providers take care of security matters
- Boost productivity in the call center with tools like call routing, click to dial, power dialing, etc.
- Live feed gives you real-time insight into call center activities, allowing you to make quick adjustments when needed
- Bring all customer data to the call center representative’s screen for a single source of information
In summary, with a virtual call center, you get all the great features of a voice calling phone system and the ability to use software integrations to establish a fully functioning contact center. The entire system sets up call center representatives to handle a large number of calls and provide an excellent customer experience for every caller. Call center managers can stay in the loop every step of the way, even if they never meet their call center representatives in person. Aircall has the expertise to help you set up the right tools, training, and processes for a virtual call center infrastructure that primes your company for long-term success.