Virtual Call Center Gotchas

Updated: April 30, 2009

Perks like cost savings, agent satisfaction and access to a wider talent pool are prompting an increasing number of companies to turn to home-based agents for their call centers. In fact, according to a study from Five9 Inc. , a provider of on-demand customer-service and call-center solutions, 39 percent of respondents are currently using home agents, and of those, nearly a quarter use home agents exclusively or almost exclusively.

But while there's no shortage of semiretirees, homebound and long-distance individuals willing to work as home agents, migrating to a virtual contact-center environment has its fair share of challenges.

According to Michael DeSalles, a strategic analyst with Frost & Sullivan, "The problem is people think it's easy to just move your existing agents in a brick-and-mortar environment and make them home agents."

Here are four ways to avoid common mistakes companies make when using home agents for their virtual call centers.

Prepare to Be Challenged

Sure, it's easy to route calls to a home agent based anywhere in the world by simply using a 1-800 telephone system. But there's more to managing a virtual call center than redirecting voice traffic. Throwing an Internet connection and laptop at every eager agent isn't enough to set the stage for quality customer service. Yet many companies still "treat virtual contact centers like a do-it-yourself project from Home Depot" and "underestimate the complexity involved in moving in-house agents to a home environment," said DeSalles.

Businesses need to carefully examine what they hope to achieve from a virtual call center and what steps they're willing to take to ensure its sustainability and financial efficiency.

Recruit the Right People

Selecting just the right home agents is "a critical element" in developing a successful virtual call center, said DeSalles. After all, an in-house agent that's a superb worker from the confines of a brick-and-mortar location may lack the self-discipline needed to field calls from a home environment.

What's more, many companies fail to recognize that home agents and in-house agents belong to drastically different demographics, requiring different recruitment and retention strategies. For example, the average age of an in-house call-center agent is 23, while the average age of a home agent is 38 or older. And more than 80 percent of home agents have some college education, as compared to 35 percent of in-house agents.

Educate Appropriately

Companies that take a one-size-fits-all approach to training their contact-center agents may be asking for trouble. "The training piece is often overlooked in making the transition to home agents," warned DeSalles. Just as home agents are required to have different skills sets than in-house agents, they're also best suited for different types of training methods. Home agents are more likely to benefit from distance-learning initiatives and Web-based sessions, whereas in-house agents are available for one-on-one personal coaching and in-person sessions.

Supply the Proper Technology

Putting the right technology solutions at the fingertips of today's home agents is an integral part of a virtual call center's success . But it takes more than simply providing agents with a flashy laptop and sizable bandwidth. According to DeSalles, organizations need to level the playing field throughout a virtual work force by setting stringent quality standards for the types of tools and technologies being supplied. Companies should also make sure the right security measures are in place so that the home agents' computer and data don't fall victim to a hacker's ill intentions.

Featured Research
  • 8 Ways Business Travelers Can Save with VoIP

    Do you or any part of your workforce travel for work, or even telecommute? If that answer is yes, then you should be utilizing mobile VoIP. With VoIP, businesses have been found to save as much as 40% on local calls and a whopping 90% on international calling expenses. more

  • Phone System Showdown

    When it comes time to select your new phone system, one of the biggest questions that you will face is whether to go with the hot, new VoIP system or the steady and secure PBX network. There are pros and cons to each of these phone systems, and before making any purchase we highly suggest that you take the time to download and read our latest guide: Phone System Showdown: VoIP vs. PBX. more

  • Signals Your Company is Ready For Unified Communications

    Efficient and effective business collaboration is essential to company success and as you grow your business, you'll discover all the different communication methods that you NEED to stay connected with partners and customers. Implementing a Unified Communications (UC) system can save your company upwards of $920,000 a year due to increased efficiency amongst company employees. more

  • Phone System Implementation Expectations

    Providers would have you believe that implementing a new phone system is as easy as counting to three. However, while the process may not be difficult, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure that your new VoIP system is installed and implemented smoothly. Luckily, the challenges associated with upgrading your system tend to be fairly predictable. Most businesses run into the same set of problems that many others have faced before them, meaning avoiding or overcoming them is as easy as preparing ahead of time. more

  • Your Phone System and Your Bottom Line

    Businesses have been using phones to drive increases to their bottom lines for almost a century now. Telephony, much like the rest of the business world, has seen drastic changes with the increase in technological advancement. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), has enabled companies to connect with consumers at levels that have been seen as unheard of before. And trust us when we say this, it is doing wonders for the bottom line. more