This article was originally published on 31/03/2020.
This article will talk about virtual call centres and how businesses can set up the same. We will also discuss the advantages of a virtual call centre and the difference between an inbound and outbound call centre.
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With the global call centre market expected to reach US$496 billion by 2027 as per GlobeNewswire, businesses might be planning to invest more in this industry. However, the concept of a virtual setup over traditional call centres might be gaining prominence among companies, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to this, a report by TechRepublic mentioned that 67% of employees feel more comfortable working from home.
This data could indicate that a virtual setup may have helped increase employee productivity and led to better customer service. Having said that, for starting a virtual call centre, businesses would need a proper strategy and appropriate call centre software for enhanced customer experience and workflow management.
Traditional vs virtual call centre
A virtual call centre is typically a space where a support agent can receive and make calls to customers from multiple remote locations. The idea behind setting up such a virtual space could be to support different customers around the globe in various time zones. In contrast, a traditional call centre setup involves a designated office space for agents to sit together and collaborate.
In addition, initial installation costs for virtual centres may be less compared to traditional ones. Other than this, additional infrastructural costs —such as electricity bills, WiFi costs, salaries of support staff, and maintenance costs— might be associated more with such traditional office spaces. On the other hand, virtual call centres can provide employees with the flexibility to work remotely, which may lead to increased productivity. In addition to this, an office space would generally function on specific shifts —for instance, 9 AM to 5 PM. But, with virtual call centres, businesses can hire employees working in different geographical locations, helping to ensure that the customer’s concerns are answered 24/7.
5 Steps to set up a virtual call centre
Call centre tools can help set up a centralised platform your business can use to provide your customers with any necessary support. This section will outline five steps for setting up a virtual call centre.
1. Identify the objective behind your approach
Before deciding on the equipment and other software requirements, the first step would be to understand your objective behind setting up a virtual call centre. You might need to ask yourself a few questions such as:
- Would it be an inbound or an outbound call centre?
- Which industry would you be catering to?
- What sort of skill level is required for employees?
- Would you be doing short-term calls or long-line conversations with the customer?
- Does your business require 24/7 availability?
After precisely deciding on the approach, you can further move on to create a practical plan for starting your call centre.
2. Set a specific budget for your call centre
After identifying the type of call centre and its approach, the next step would be to define a specific budget. You might need to consider everything this set-up would require —be it software, hardware, or the number of employees.
3. Decide on the type of equipment your agents might need
For effectively working in a remote call centre setup, your employees might need specific equipment such as a stable internet connection, good-quality headsets, and reliable computer systems. You might also need to make sure that all the pieces of equipment are up to the mark for better customer interaction and increased productivity.
4. Look for different software options available to you
Call centre software can help you set up a virtual team of agents. You can even integrate your call centre software with other tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) software for better customer interaction. It would be ideal to explore different options to cater to your specific needs, but overall, you should be looking for software that helps your agents to:
- Receive and make phone calls from internet-enabled devices
- Assign calls to other agents, meaning call routing
- Collect, analyse, and record calls and maintain a repository of all recordings
- Offer other communication options such as video chat if needed
Since such a business would require the transfer of business information and customer data through a virtual call centre, it might be essential to consider appropriate security measures to protect your data. You can use firewall software to protect your business from unauthorised intrusions to your private network, and other network security software to shield against any viruses that can erase or exploit confidential data.
5. Hire employees and invest in training them
Businesses should focus on hiring people with the appropriate skill sets for operating in a virtual call centre environment. For instance, as per Indeed, someone with clear and understandable communication skills, good listening skills, in-depth knowledge of the company, a positive attitude, talent for sales, and a personable manner that can help in dealing with issues and providing informed solutions would be a good fit for the role.
In addition to this, essential communication guidance and a trial run via dummy phone calls might be a good idea to ensure your agents have the right skills to understand the role. This might also help you assess the candidate’s experience level and cover any possible knowledge gaps.
The advantages of a virtual call centre
According to Business Wire, ‘poor customer service can lead to US$4.7 trillion loss in the annual revenue’ for businesses. The report also mentions that about 80% of customers have had a poor customer experience, while 43% say that customer service support needs to be improved’. This report highlights the importance of offering effective customer support. In light of this, we have listed a few advantages of having a virtual call centre.
Businesses could hire agents working in different time zones
A virtual call centre might help businesses provide support to multiple customers in different time zones. This way, companies would be able to provide round-the-clock support to customers. Additionally, they might also gain the flexibility to hire remote agents and manage them using centralised software.
Can be more economical than on-site call centres
You might need to make more substantial investments for a traditional call centre setup, such as electricity bills, office equipment, rent, furniture costs, WiFi bills etc. However, with a virtual setup, such investments might not be as costly.
Could lead to improved customer relations
Virtual call centre software allows businesses to integrate with other applications such as CRM, there enabling efficient customer interactions. With insights and reports generated from these tools, agents might get an overall idea of the customer’s concerns and their history and then respond to them accordingly. As customers’ problems, queries, and feedback are captured and analysed effectively, business products can be adjusted to fit the demand better.
A Garter report says that by 2024, ‘cloud contact centre agents will outnumber on-premises contact centre agents, and about 30% of organisations would move their contact centres’ operations off-premises’ (full report available to clients). The report also mentions that by 2024, there will be a 60% increase in agents working in a complete remote setup. This data could indicate that businesses might focus more on starting up a virtual call centre with more advanced technology and space. Therefore, it might be beneficial for small businesses to focus on adapting to this virtual shift to reduce employee turnover rates and potentially grow their business.