Call Centers Fact: Call centers have evolved into
sophisticated voice operations centers that provide call-handling services,
customer support, operator services, telemarketing, interactive voice response
and web-based services.|
The contact center as it is
has long been envisioned, with long rows of agents seated at their desks,
tethered to their headsets and computers, and watched over by managers walking
up and down the aisles, is undergoing a transformation.
Now, thanks to rapid technological advancements in Internet
Protocol telephony and hosted software, a contact center can look more like a
group of people working from their home office or kitchen, being monitored via
technology. These emerging centers without a physical location, or virtual
contact centers, are providing an alternative to the outsourcing craze.
Companies forced to cut expenses, but concerned with falling customer
satisfaction numbers, are increasingly turning to home-based agents.
Yet moving to a virtual contact center requires careful
planning and investment
Companies that have tried virtual contact centers only to
bring them back in-house have generally done so because of management
challenges, Fluss said.
Organizations need to adjust agents and best practices when
going virtual. For multichannel contact centers, organizations need to
determine if they want home agents handling multiple channels or specializing
in just one. Multichannel organizations need a universal queue to get the
right contacts to the right agent at the right time, Fluss warned.
The benefits of a virtual contact center are compelling.
Organizations that allow agents to work from home generally can attract more
experienced, better qualified agents and see lower employee turnover.
Additionally, high performing agents tend to perform even better when they're
working from home. There is greater flexibility in accommodating split shifts
and expansion of the call center, and companies can pull from a wider
geography when hiring. There are also cost savings. A virtual contact center
saves on facility costs and the pay scale is generally 5% to 15% lower than
in-house agents, according to a recent report from Cambridge, Mass.-based
Forrester Research Inc.
The report also points to potential risks. Virtual contact
centers increase security risks by exposing the center to external breaches
and requires strong policies for the handling of information. Technical
support and training become more difficult. There is also a lack of control
over home-based agents, which can be mitigated by regularly scheduled employee
calls and policies that promote communication with supervisors, the report
While a hosted application, a PC and a phone provide the
basics for a virtual contact center, a successful initiative requires a
greater technological investment, according to Fluss.
Quality monitoring is a must, but with home-based agents,
performance monitoring becomes just as important, Fluss said. Without regular
meetings and a physical presence, it becomes more difficult for supervisors to
|A virtual call center is
a call center in which the organization's representatives are
geographically dispersed, rather than being situated at work
stations in a building operated by the organization. Virtual
call center employees may be situated in groups in a number of
smaller centers, but most often they work from their own homes.
This is an attractive arrangement for many employees: the hours
are often flexible, and there's no dress code or commute. For
the organization, the virtual call center model saves housing
and equipment costs and can lead to lower employee turnover
rates, which tend to be high for physical call centers.
Switching to a virtual call center model can
be very beneficial. One example: My Twinn (a high-end doll
manufacturer) went to a virtual model in 2000. That year, 30%
more inquiry calls were converted to orders, employee turnover
decreased 88%, and 90% fewer calls had to be escalated
(transferred to a higher-level employee), compared to 1999. For
companies whose business is highly seasonal, the virtual model
also means that they don't have to maintain large facilities
year-round. My Twinn, for example, requires over 400 customer
support employees in their busy Christmas season, but only about
25 the rest of the year.
To appear professional and increase customer confidence, even
bricks and mortar call centers attempt to present customers with
a virtual representation of an organization's offices. The
customer, dialing a customer service or technical support
number, is given the impression that their call reaches a
physical department within the organization, when in fact, it is
likely to reach a company that outsources support for several
different organizations. In the case of the virtual call center
the customer's impression is even more illusory, as the number
is quite likely to reach the kitchen of a stay-at-home parent,
or the dorm room of a university student.
Virtual Call Center
enables businesses large and small to communicate remotely to
their own call centers, via computer networks.
Call center is becoming more and more popular.
Call center is a functional area within an organization or an
outsourced, separate facility that exists solely to answer
inbound telephone call or place outbound telephone calls;
Call center is usually a sophisticated voice
operations center that provides a full range of high-volume,
inbound or outbound call-handling services, including customer
support, operator services, directory assistance, multilingual
customer support, credit services, card services, inbound and
outbound telemarketing, interactive voice response and web-based
Call center is applied in many industries.
i.e. in healthcare, call center can be used to offload
non-emergency callers, link consumers to educational messages,
or route them to physician scheduling systems. Call center
technology combined with expert systems also can help attending
caregivers make triage decisions for after- hours calls.
Most commonly, call center is established to
provide customer service. Such call center usually operates 24x7
and can be outsourced to low-cost countries
Centralised offices means that large numbers
of workers can be managed and controlled by a relatively small
number of managers and support staff. They are often supported
by computer technology that manages, measures and monitors the
performance and activities of the workers.
Normally, personnel costs are the most
significant expense of a call centre operation and even
seemingly small inefficiencies can have significant cost issues.
Computer systems that mean staff take 1 or 2 seconds longer than
necessary to process a tranaction can often be quantified in
staff cost terms that may be sufficient to justify a complete
system upgrade or replacement. Consequently the level of
computer support that may be adequate for staff in a branch
office may prove totally inadequate in a call centre