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How to start a virtual call centre

With so many people wanting to work from home, more and more companies are starting virtual call centres. What does it involve and how do you reap the benefits?

Door Renée Müller

9.7 min read

9 February 2022

Virtual call centre

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In 2022, working from home has become commonplace. Where it used to have to be, we now find it quite nice. Working from home is here to stay and many companies are following suit by changing their on-site call centre into a virtual call centre. Others are building a virtual call centre from scratch.

It is a myth to believe that a virtual call centre is only suitable for challenging times when we need to keep our distance. A virtual call centre is a valuable way to create more efficiency and productivity in your sales and customer service. And it is also a good way for your agents to maintain a good work-life balance.

But what do you need to set up a digital call centre? In a nutshell, you need the right people, processes and tools. Setting up a virtual call centre is not difficult, because if T-Mobile can successfully get 12,000 people to work from home overnight, why can’t you?

Let’s take a look at what a virtual call centre is, why it’s good to consider going virtual and how to get a virtual call centre off the ground.

What is a virtual call centre?

A virtual call centre is similar to an on-site call centre, only the agents are not physically present in the office. They work from home, but can actually work anywhere they have a decent internet connection. One of the reasons digital call centres are gaining popularity is because they drastically reduce the overhead costs of running a physical office.

Cloud technology is fantastic. It allows you to set up a virtual call centre for your inbound and outbound telephony traffic, allowing you to help customers anywhere in the world at any time. And cloud-based call centre software literally blurs boundaries.

Virtual call centre software lets your sales and support staff stay in touch with their stakeholders. What are we talking about when we talk about virtual call centre software? Virtual call centre software refers to a cloudbased telephony system, also known as VoIP.

A cloudbased telephony system often works with other software integrations to aggregate data for call centre agents. It may sound a bit technical, but in practice it all works very smoothly.

When you set up your call centre virtually, you get more options. You have the flexibility to have one team member work on site and others remotely. Or to have them all work remotely. The choice is yours!

Virtual call centre

Why is a virtual call centre good for businesses?

Not ready yet to set up a virtual call centre? It’s possible that you will consider it in the future. It doesn’t matter if you’re a start-up or a larger company, according to a Gartner report, one-third of customer service agents will be working from home by 2023.

In 2017, that was only 5%!

Here are a few reasons why companies are including digital call centres in their business plan:

1. To work outside office hours

Many companies have customers from all over the world and it’s not always practical to set up an office in every country where you have a customer. A virtual call centre allows you to extend the number of hours your call centre is available.

A better customer service results in more loyal customers, but of course we don’t need to tell you that.

2. Reduce overhead costs

With a virtual workforce you reduce costs in the area of office space, materials and utilities.

3. Reduce staff turnover

Most people love to work from home. Personnel turnover in call centres is high and therefore you need to listen carefully to what your people want. Most people already say they want to work at home for most of their lives.

4. Monitoring your call centre is getting easier

Supervisors no longer need to walk around the floor to find out if agents are performing well. With the right software, they can eavesdrop on conversations and monitor everything in real time.

5. Enable virtual collaboration

Virtual call centre software opens up multiple communication channels such as inbound email, chat, and text, in addition to phone calls. Omnichannel Communication offers call centre agents multiple ways to collaborate and communicate remotely.

6. Access to a larger talent pool

When you start a virtual call centre, you are not tied to recruiting in a radius around your office. Handy!

In short: there are plenty of reasons to start a virtual call centre. Let’s see how IT decision makers should evaluate virtual call centre software.

Virtual call centre

How should an IT decision maker evaluate virtual call centre software?

The most modern communication technology of recent years is VoIP, a cloud-based telephony system. Why is this important?

A good cloud-based telephony system makes it possible to use digital call centre software with very many possibilities.

If you use a system from the cloud and integrate it with your other systems, your company can offer a much better customer experience.

Therefore, there are a number of things to consider when picking software for your call centre:

  • Is there a possibility of integration? The right software integrations along with a modern telephony system will help streamline your workflows and improve efficiency and productivity. For example, Steam-connect call centre software has an integration with Salesdock, allowing your agents to send a quote incredibly quickly.
  • Some basic functions such as call recording, call queuing and IVR are simply a must.
  • Is the software easy to implement?
  • Is the software reliable? Is it hosted redundantly, does the provider comply with legislation and is the uptime high?
  • Can you request local, toll free, national and international telephone numbers to give your business local visibility?
  • What about monitoring and reporting capabilities? Monitoring your contact centre is a must and you want software that lets you keep track of everything.

The next step is to start your virtual call center

How do you start a virtual call centre?

You probably know by now that you don’t need a physical office to start a virtual call centre. But there are many things to consider when starting a digital call centre.

1. Define the purpose of your virtual call centre

.Will your call centre focus on sales or on customer service? Of course you can also do a combination of both.

2. What software integrations do you need?

Besides a VoIP telephony system you also need some integrations to make your operation a bit easier. The account manager of your software provider can help you determine what works best for you.

3. Set up the right workflows

Workflows should be built according to the purpose of your call centre. In a sales organisation you will probably want to use the integration with Salesdock, but if you are more concerned with customer contact via social media, then the link with OBI4wan is a must.

4. Only use necessary functions

Use the voice call functions and software features that help you provide the best customer experience. Consider things like an IVR, voicemail, skilled-based routing, and self-service options so customers can quickly get the help they need.

5. Use only necessary equipment

Determine what equipment your agents will need in their home office. Usually they will need a computer, a headset, and a reliable internet connection. You’ll need to decide whether your company will provide a computer and a headset, or whether they’ll need to provide their own.

6. Hire the best talent

Remember that when you set up a virtual call centre, you are not limited to the talent that resides within driving distance of your office, if you have one. You have the freedom to review CVs of people who live anywhere in the world.

7. Get your onboarding right

Set up a onboarding plan for all your new agents. This will reduce turnover and ensure they are up to speed quickly.

8. Metrics matter

Your call centre reports are the lifeblood of your customer experience. Develop a good dashboard and always keep an eye on your performance.

9. Provide your agents with the right feedback

Set up a program to evaluate the performance of your call centre agents. Make sure it happens on an ongoing basis. Then decide how to reward them for meeting their targets.

Virtual call centre

How do you implement virtual call centre software?

One of the things you will love about onboarding virtual call centre software is that it is super easy to set up. You don’t have to worry about configuring hardware or setting up physical workstations. It’s as simple as downloading an app.

Seriously, you can complete this in minutes and start using the software immediately.

Depending on the software you choose, you generally have about eight steps to follow to get your virtual call centre software working. This is what you will have to do:

    1. Get familiar with your virtual call centre dashboard
    2. Create your virtual phone numbers
    3. Create your IVRs
    4. Create teams and users and configure their profiles
    5. Familiarise yourself with the call centre feed (for tracking call centre activity)
    6. Set up call tagging (tag calls for support, sales, tech, etc.)
    7. Activate integrations (additional software tools for a single data source)

 

 

How do you onboard virtual call center agents?

When you browse through the stack of CVs of virtual call centre agents, you will see that you have applications from people with experience and people without experience. Experienced call centre agents already have many skills, but are a bit less ‘malleable’.

There is no shortage of people who want to work from home. The important thing is to make sure they have a reliable internet connection and a quiet place to work, and that they are trainable.

It’s good to develop a process to continuously on-board new agents. Put in there all the tools, policies and procedures your agents need to know to do their jobs well. Most companies have an online knowledge base or intranet that contains this kind of information.

For example, Zendesk has the following expectations of its employees:

  • You must have a reliable internet connection with at least 10 Mbps bandwidth
  • A quiet place to work where you will not be disturbed
  • A quiet place to work where no one can look at your screen

It’s a good idea to meet with your new agents on a weekly basis to measure their performance. Make sure you let them ask you questions and use the data from your dashboards to set measurable goals. Always base your feedback on that data.

There is also an emerging trend for virtual call centres to schedule set hours for team building, such as a virtual coffee break.

Virtual call centre

The advantages of a virtual call centre

Now that you know the ins and outs of setting up a virtual call centre, let’s look at the benefits you can look forward to once you’ve set one up.

  • Lower costs for equipment, facilities, maintenance, and upgrades
  • Increased reliability, perhaps up to 99.99%
  • Scale your call centre up or down quickly and easily
  • Reduce dependence on IT personnel; software suppliers take care of security
  • Increase productivity in the call centre with tools such as call routing, click to dial, power dialing and so on
  • A live feed gives you real-time insight into call centre activities, so you can make quick adjustments when needed

 

 

Build your own virtual call centre

Did this article convince you and are you considering starting a virtual call centre? Steam-connect has the expertise to help you with the right tools, training and processes to ensure your business is ready for long-term success.

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