Virtual Contact Centers- Why They Work

Updated: November 11, 2010

Today, widespread adoption of IP communications has removed the primary technology barrier to putting your agents where you want them - and where they want to be - and forward-thinking companies have aggressively embraced these capabilities with innovative remote and outsourced/offshored agent resources. There are many examples, one of the best-known being JetBlue which provides customer service through remote, usually home-based agents who are able to work flexible hours and eliminate their commutes - the fact that the ‘call center' agent may be sitting in their kitchen is completely transparent to the customer.

Not for Everyone

It should be noted that Virtual Contact Centers are not for every situation. For instance, in a situation where (usually) lower-cost agents are deployed - such as in a simple order-taking center - it is often necessary for those agents to be more closely-managed by supervisors, which is much more easily accomplished when those agents are located in one place.

In addition, there has also been a significant (and I believe, quite unfair) backlash against outsourced and particularly offshore labor. While the number of companies who deploy offshore agents is significantly higher than most consumers realize, many enterprises still prefer to keep their agents not only centralized, but closer to ‘home' and ‘onshore' - in some cases for customer service purposes, but in other cases for PR reasons so they are not portrayed as sending jobs ‘offshore'.

Multiple Advantages

The benefits of Virtual Contact Centers are numerous. They include:

Flexibility - the ability to put your agents where it is most convenient - both for your organization, and for the agents. This potentially opens up the labor pool tremendously, and creates opportunities for such employees as part-timers, seasonal employees, students, retirees and stay-at-home parents to work hours and locations that fit their lifestyles, and who may not be interested in a traditional ‘Call Center' job.

This flexibility also it makes it easier to integrate outsourced operations - onshore or offshore - more tightly into your operation. This is often seen, for instance, in retailers who have seasonal spikes in demand such as retailers at holiday time, who often use outsourced and virtual resources to handle those spikes.

Cost - Cost savings are significant - and include:

  • Real estate - a reduced or often eliminated need to have a contact ‘center'
  • Telecommunications and network equipment - note how we don't hear the term ‘Computer Telephony Integration' (CTI) much anymore - IP communications has converged the technology infrastructure and dramatically reduced both equipment and network costs in both virtual and traditional contact center operations.
  • Labor - as stated above, for some (although certainly not all) operations a virtual operations can eliminate some of the need and cost for a supervisors and managers. In addition, agent resources can be more effectively and flexibly scheduled, managed and deployed - allowing companies to more easily use expensive and hard-to-recruit agents for high-value calls (such as technical support) - while using outsourced, lower-cost agents for simpler tasks (such as order processing).

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