What is a virtual call center?
Virtual call centers are a communications solution for businesses looking to access call center services without investing a significant amount of money on equipment, IT management and upgrades. Typically cloud hosted, these call centers can use a distributed workforce or connect multiple smaller call centers into larger units. Now, the more common term for virtual call centers is “contact centers.”
- Contact Centers—Beyond the traditional call center, a contact center handles a variety of different types of communications such as text messaging, chat and email, in addition to phone calls.
- Virtual Call Center—A virtual call center is a hosted business communications solution. Rather than use traditional phone connections, virtual call centers utilize VoIP communications and are hosted offsite in the cloud and accessed remotely. The actual workforce may be remote, dispersed over a large geographic area.
Benefits of Virtual Call Centers:
- Reduce costs
- Hire talent outside the local area
- Use a remote workforce
- Improve productivity
- Scale your call center to your business and grow it when you need expanded services
In this article, we will introduce virtual call centers and talk about how they work. We will also discuss a few of their benefits and help you decide if your business would benefit from a virtual call center. By the end of this article, you should have a solid understanding of virtual call centers and how they can help your business.
- What are Virtual Call Centers and How Do They Work?
- Features of Virtual Call Centers
- Implementing a Virtual Call Center
- Is a Virtual Call Center Right for My Business?
- Virtual Call Center Tips and Tricks
1. What are Virtual Call Centers and How Do They Work?
If you ever considered starting a new call center, then you are probably aware of how much planning and investment is involved. Call centers need physical infrastructure, a location to operate in, networking cables, a private branch exchange (PBX) system, servers and office space for agents. They need IT support, ongoing maintenance and onsite management. They need phone service for many different lines and extensions. In other words, call centers are expensive. They are costly to start, operate and maintain. Requiring ongoing upkeep, they have significant overhead and sometimes it can almost feel like your call center is bleeding you dry.
There is, actually, a decent solution. Virtual call centers are so flexible and they may fix your call center problem by providing you with an alternative that scales, gives you an adaptable list of features and costs significantly less. If you own a small to medium-sized business (SMB), then you may benefit tremendously from virtual call center services.
2. Features of Virtual Call Centers
Virtual call centers use voice over IP (VoIP) for phone services. As such, you can access a large variety of features provided by VoIP vendors. You can use data analytics tools with your calls, connect to your customer relationship management (CRM) software or use a range of other tools.
Hiring a distributed workforce, you can access talent from outside of your local area or allow your current employees to telecommute. VoIP networks can enable members of your team to connect to the business phone system from wherever they are, as long as they have an Internet connection. With a virtual private network (VPN), you can secure that network and make it seem as though everyone is connecting to the same network within the same facility.
Popular Virtual Call Center Features:
- VoIP phone service
- Cloud hosting for software
- Cloud hosted PBX services
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- Computer-Telephony Integration (CTI)
- Web callback
- Find me/follow me
- Virtual extensions
- Call routing
- Call monitoring and recording
- Call bridging
3. Implementing a Virtual Call Center
To begin, you probably will want to find a vendor who offers virtual call center services. Many different companies on the market provide these services at a range of different rates, depending on the features, functionality, number of users and call volume. The exact rate you will pay can vary. Generally speaking, smaller businesses and others who do not want to purchase a large amount of hardware or invest in the facilities for a call center should consider a cloud hosted service. These companies, for a rate that is usually metered according to phone volume or charged monthly per user, will provide access to their own fully established systems for call center services.
You will still need phones even if you choose a cloud hosted service, but phones are an expected part of having a call center. You may already have analog phones that you choose to use with analog telephone adapters (ATAs), you may purchase Session Internet Protocol (SIP) phones, use softphones or smartphones. If you use a distributed workforce, then each person may use their own phone equipment. Many virtual call centers use freelance independent contractors as agents, and these workers are expected to supply their own phone equipment for the job.
If you choose to host your own virtual call center, you will need to buy your own equipment to establish a physical presence. You will need one or more locations, computers, networking connections and a PBX box. You may need other equipment and devices, depending on how your virtual call center is configured and what features you need for your business. Your VoIP vendor can help you design a custom solution for your business.
4. Is a Virtual Call Center Right for My Business?
If you are looking to establish a call center to handle inbound customer requests, outbound sales and telemarketing or some other business phone function, then a virtual call center may be right for your business. You can accomplish more with a virtual call center than you would be capable of doing with a traditional call center.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Carefully take notes as you do your own research, and be sure to ask plenty of questions whenever you communicate with vendors. Many VoIP companies offer customized solutions, as well, so you do not necessary need to sign up for an “out of the box” system.
5. Virtual Call Center Tips and Tricks
As you launch your virtual call center, keep these tips and tricks in mind to make the most of the process and improve the capabilities of your business communications system:
- If you choose to have a remote workforce, make sure your employees are recruited using the same standards you have for your in-house, onsite hires. Reducing your hiring standards during a ramp-up period can result in lower quality talent.
- Look for growth and feedback opportunities for employees, even if they are remote workers.
- Consider using independent contractors. Your business may save money on benefits, plus you can readily scale a freelance workforce to meet actual business need. If you need a talented professional team of agents but cannot afford to hire them fulltime, independent contractors may be the right solution for your business.
- Virtual call centers can help businesses look more professional and provide better customer service, while keeping expenses low.
- If you have a very large business, you may benefit more from hosting your own virtual call center. You could use multiple VoIP vendors, have more direct control over your virtual call center systems and you may even save money if you have higher call volumes.