Many companies today are moving away from “standard” call center operations and are instead adopting a virtual contact center model. Unlike traditional contact centers, where all agents reside in a single location and are managed by a team of on-site supervisors, virtual contact centers are more distributed in nature. Representatives – and sometimes even their team leaders – work from a variety of remote locations, including home offices or branches. Some virtual contact center strategies even include the use of third-party call center service providers.
Still, some organizations are hesitant to embrace the concept of the virtual contact center, leaving many companies to wonder: which approach is better – traditional or virtual contact centers?
The Pros and Cons of the Virtual Contact Center Model
There are pros and cons to both the traditional and virtual contact center models, and determining which one is right for your business will depend on many factors, including the structure of your call center operations, the availability of skilled and experienced staff in your local area, your goals and objectives, and your available resources.
First let’s look at the benefits of a virtual contact center. The primary reason many companies are choosing this approach is a dramatic reduction in overhead costs. Virtual contact centers are far less expensive to run that traditional ones. For example, in most cases, remote agents – particularly those that are home-based – already have their own equipment. So there is no need for the company to invest in computers, phones, desks, chairs, etc. What’s more, in virtual contact centers, the high-priced real estate that used to house agents is now freed up for other corporate uses.
The virtual contact center model also presents companies with a greater pool of talent. Instead of hiring only those agents who live within driving distance of company headquarters, organizations can expand their search to areas across the country or even internationally. This allows them to boost service quality by building the most skilled and experienced contact center team possible. Many experts also believe that agents who work in virtual contact centers experience less job-related stress and frustration and are more satisfied with their flexible working conditions. Therefore, they are less prone to turnover.
Virtual contact centers also increase service availability and continuity. By scattering agents across multiple geographic regions, companies can remove barriers such as time zones, foreign languages, and cultural differences.
While the benefits are great, there are also some drawbacks to the virtual contact center model. For example, the evaluation and management of agent performance can become a tremendous challenge when staff is scattered across multiple locations. In traditional contact centers, supervisors are on-site and can closely monitor and control agent activities to ensure optimum service quality.
Additionally, in a virtual contact center it can be difficult to provide the kind of ongoing training that representatives need to stay up-to-speed on new products and services, promotions and campaigns, policies, etc. In a traditional call center, on-site training can be conducted, managers can teach by example, or representatives can learn directly from their more experienced peers.
Ultimately, businesses must evaluate their operations and their needs to determine which model – the on-premise call center or the virtual contact center – is best suited to their requirements.