The call centers of yesterday were often huge offices with row after row of agents answering calls that were routed to them using traditional PBX and ACD systems.
At the time, it made sense for dedicated outsourcing contact centers to have teams of agents all in the same place as it was easier to train and manage people – not to mention easier to manage the IT environment. This type of dedicated contact center also has numerous downsides – like high employee turnover and astronomically high equipment costs.
Today’s cloud contact center technology allows for contact center virtualization, which addresses those issues by allowing employees to work from home.
What Is a Virtual Contact Center?
A virtual contact center is a contact center that is hosted “in the cloud.” Employees can work from anywhere – their homes, a hotel room, or even a coffee shop – though noisier public areas might mean the agent can only answer texts, emails or support tickets, rather than phone calls.
This flexibility has a lot of benefits, since it makes it easier for companies to hire a large number of part-time employees, and those agents can come online for shifts when demand requires it. In addition, it means that the company does not have to invest in extra office space, desks or computer hardware, since the vast majority of home workers provide their own equipment.
Virtual contact centers offer other benefits too, including:
- Improved business continuity and disaster recovery planning, since all of your resources are not concentrated in one area.
- Improved agent morale, better work-life balance, and shorter work days (due to the lack of commute).
- Access to a wider talent pool of agents for more specialized jobs; for example, a London-based contact center could recruit highly skilled agents in Scotland if necessary.
- The ability to manage massive teams (potentially thousands of agents) using centralized reporting tools.
- Lower running costs thanks to increased efficiency and the economies of scale.
- The ability for smaller companies to outsource work if they expect to see relatively low call volumes.
Virtual Call Centers vs Virtual Contact Centers
A virtual contact center could potentially handle incoming or outgoing email, support tickets, live chat and text, as well as calls and sometimes even video too. In contrast, virtual call centers handle only telephone calls. They may handle incoming calls only, or both incoming and outgoing calls. Some companies have dedicated inbound or outbound agents, while others use ‘blended agents’ that can switch between the two.
In smaller contact centers and call centers, agents are likely to handle a wide variety of calls. As the team grows, specific skill training becomes more commonplace, and call centers use routing software to send incoming calls to the next available agent that has the correct skills to handle the call. Those agents may be dedicated to working for just one company or they may be multi-skilled agents that work for an outsourcing company who handles customer service work for more than one client.
If you’re evaluating your contact center needs, make sure to reach out to one of our experts for guidance.