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What is a Virtual Call Center?

The Business Software Advisor

You ask the questions, and our resident software guru shares her wisdom.

This week’s question: What is a virtual call center and how could it benefit my company?

A:  When you think of a call center, you may imagine a noisy room, scattered with desks and overpopulated with chattering agents in headsets at all hours of the day.  In traditional call centers, agents are housed in a single site and are guided and monitored by in-house supervisors and managers. Quite oppositely, a virtual call center (VCC) is a customer contact center in which agents work remotely and are connected through an online virtual call center software system that centralizes the center’s operations.   

Often referred to as the “call centers of the future”, VCC’s leverage Web and software technologies to achieve greater flexibility, accessibility, and, ultimately, a higher level of customer satisfaction.  These next-generation call centers feature integrated workforce optimization, speech-recognition technology, real-time reporting, comprehensive analytics, enhanced customer surveying and feedback mechanisms.   Several key technologies that support and define the VCC model are VOIP, scripting, intelligent routing, workforce management, and call monitoring/recording. 

According to the American Marketing Association, the average yearly costs associated with running a 200-agent operation top more than $10 million in some industries.  These costs come in part from investment in real estate and capital equipment, as well as from cost-of-living constraints in the headquartered region. 

Ask yourself: is the cost of operating a traditional call center a concern for your company? If so, you may want to consider going virtual.  In addition to cost-savings, transitioning to the virtual model of call center operations brings several other benefits: 

* Having no geographic constraints means companies have broader pool of talent from which to find agents.
* Agent retention improves: studies show that agents who work in more flexible virtual contact center environments experience less stress and greater satisfaction than their counterparts who work in traditional call centers. This, in turn, reduces turnover.
* Strategically placing agents in offices around the globe can ensure more effective and affordable 24/7 service by eliminating such barriers as time zones, foreign languages, and cultural differences.

VCC’s are not solely suitable for large enterprises.  Small-to-medium size businesses have the same goals of effective CRM, multichannel integration, efficient call routing, customer self-help, and first-call resolution as the “big guys”, and providers of virtual call center software are recognizing and responding to this market need.  Today, there are a number of reputable vendors who offer scalable, easily-deployed, cost-effective and readily-integrated solutions, designed specifically for SMB’s. 

If you’re thinking of implementing a virtual call center solution in your company, it would behoove you to research those vendors whose software systems fit with your company’s specific needs and goals.  A good starting point for this research is the free Business-Software.com “Top 10 Virtual Call Center Vendors – 2008” report. Now may be the perfect time to get out of that old customer service office and move to a new location: the World Wide Web.