What image comes to mind when you think of a brick-and-mortar customer support call center? Is it endless rows of gray cubicles, phones with outdated curly cords, and clean-cut humans in white button-up shirts with the requisite red, blue, and black pens peeking out of their pocket protectors? No? Admittedly, contemporary in-house call centers have evolved significantly beyond this very eighties picture of office life. But in the past couple of years, customer service has moved even further away from the traditional model, existing almost completely in the virtual sphere.
Of all the professions to go remote in 2020, customer service is both the most and least surprising for its ease of transition and implementation. Not the equipment-heavy and in-situ occupation it once was, virtual customer service centers just make sense.
What is a Virtual Call Center?
A virtual call center is a customer service and communication hub which exists in the digital realm, rather than a physical building or place. The “call center” itself may exist within a specific program, but its operators can be spread across the globe, either operating in smaller, distributed offices, or entirely from the comfort of their own homes.
The requirements of a call center representative are simple: all they need is a computer, a phone connection, and reliable internet in order to successfully assist callers. And the benefits of a remote call center workforce are felt company wide: the employees themselves have flexible hours, and ostensibly no commute time. The business as a whole additionally sees a huge reduction in overhead if it is not paying for costs associated with running a brick-and-mortar office building.
Additional benefits of running virtual versus in-person customer support include:
- Increased data security.
- Boosts to productivity and efficiency.
- Improved CRM.
- Global hiring capabilities.
- Reduced customer churn.
Virtual call centers are not a new idea. Outsourced customer support has been around for decades, but the level of sophistication of many customer service solutions makes the contemporary remote customer service model look positively science fictional.
Virtual Call Center Essentials
As with all things, the virtual call center model must be done right in order to be successful. Here are the basics:
- Hardware. Basic-basic. Depending on the software you’re using, a computer and a headset will do it. But they need to up to basic functionality standards: you can’t expect your employees to be able to do their jobs effectively on clunky and outdated equipment. Most companies provide these basics for their employees, as well as costs for high-speed internet.
- Speaking of internet... 3G, 4G, 5G won’t cut it. Ideally, your call center representatives will be taking inquiries over a broadband ethernet connection, thus mitigating most connectivity issues which could potentially disrupt a conversation. If your employees are working from home, ask them to speed-test their connection to make sure it’s up to the test. If they’re working in satellite offices, be sure you’re getting the best internet product available to you.
- Security. The less control you have over your employee’s browsing habits, the more important a quality security system becomes to keep the information of both your business and your workers safe from hackers. Investing in high-quality anti-virus and spyware protection solutions must be a top priority.
- In-house communication. The one thing that’s lost in implementing a virtual model is the speed at which teams can communicate with one another. Using chat solutions such as slack, skype, or another messaging platform can help everyone stay in touch without needing to refresh their email inbox every few minutes. (Some comprehensive customer service solutions have an in-built feature which allows real-time team interaction.)
Modern Call Center Software Features You Must Have
As call center software has evolved, so has your ability to cater to the needs of your customers. Here are some must-have features of contemporary call center software that will launch your customer service capabilities into the space age.
- Omnichannel support capabilities. Call center support should not be limited to voice-only interactions. Hard of hearing and deaf members of your audience must also be able to reach you when you need! Your call center software should feature text-based as well as voice-specific communication options to focus on the entire omnichannel customer experience.
- Interactive Voice Response. IVR, the electronic options menu at the beginning of most support calls, is the easiest way for customers to navigate to the appropriate agent who might best be able to help them resolve their problem. Your call center software needs to have this almost-basic feature for maximum functionality.
- Call recording. The best way to learn is from your mistakes, and a call-recording feature allows you to pour over past customer interactions to analyze what can be improved, and which successes should be nurtured. Having examples of customer-representative interactions is also an asset when training new employees.
- Customer relationship management integrations. All of your customer data should be easily accessible to call center representatives, if you want to deliver an excellent and effective experience each time. Caller inquiries can be resolved in one fell swoop (as opposed to the average number of 6 interactions) with a unified support solution.
- Advanced reporting. Planning for the future, and examining the possibilities for your virtual call center, requires the ability to analyze operations as they are in the present. Call center metrics, including volume, efficiency, and customer satisfaction can help you improve and project call center function.
Last Thoughts: Virtual Call Center
A virtual call center is the way of the future (and the present!) It’s already well within the capability of your business to run highly successful remote customer support. So what are you waiting for?