Across the globe, businesses are increasingly relying on call centers to manage inbound and outbound phone calls to and from customers and prospects. Every business strives to make its customers feel valued. However, this is often difficult, particularly when a business has limited facilities and budgetary constraints. Due to these challenges, companies are increasingly opting to outsource their calling tasks and customer service to virtual call centers. With the growing demand for virtual call centers, more and more people are venturing into this lucrative business.
A virtual call center is not bound to a given location. If you plan to start a virtual call center business, it’s important that you know what you need. Below are some useful tips to help you get started with your business:
1. Know the Pros and Cons of a Virtual Call Center
Understanding what you’ll be gaining and losing by running a virtual call center business is the first step to getting starting. The thing is that both virtual and conventional call centers offer unique advantages as well as their downsides. For instance, in conventional call centers, having call agents working in the same space makes some tasks easier. The call agents can interact with each other much more easily, the security risks regarding information and data are significantly lower, and work burdens can be easily shared among the team. Better still, call center managers have an easier job monitoring the service teams that they are in charge of and can more easily keep them motivated and productive.
On the flip side, virtual call centers offer great operational advantages, including more flexibility for call center agents to work remotely and reduced overhead costs for a business. In addition, virtual call centers have the advantage of being able to hire agents from a wide pool of talent and can distribute their teams across multiple time zones to provide support around the clock.
If you plan to start a virtual call center business, you need to find a way to compensate for the loss of interpersonal advantages that come with brick-and-mortar call centers. The best way to do this is to hire call center agents who have experience working and excelling in remote work environments.
2. Hire and Train Call Agents to Work Remotely
When you’re starting a virtual call center business, you need to hire call agents who can work exceptionally well while working remotely. Even though technically any person who has a stable internet connection can telecommute, not everyone is capable of effectively working remotely because remote work calls for a high level of self-discipline and focus. As remote work takes place primarily in the worker’s place of residence, the potential for distraction and procrastination are potentially higher than it would be in a brick-and-mortar business. So, remote workers need to be able to work efficiently without direct guidance and supervision.
When hiring call center agents to work in your virtual call center, consider getting people who have the ability to work independently and responsibly manage their work schedules. They should be good at both verbal and written communication. They should also be able to work well under a highly flexible management style without being afraid of asking questions proactively when they’re not sure about something. These agents will be working primarily on their own, meaning that they cannot simply walk by their manager’s office or ask a desk neighbor for help with something. With that kind of isolation, your agents need to be effective and open communicators so that you can head off any confusion or problem before it escalates.
After hiring agents who can comfortably work remotely, you’ll need to train them on how to complete call center tasks. Since the training will be purely virtual, you’ll need to develop a detailed set of onboarding materials and make them easily accessible to your call agents. The best way to do this is to create content that explains your business procedures, policies, and tools that your call agents should know about. Consider creating training videos demonstrating the main tasks and building a dedicated knowledge base to facilitate the process as well as provide general resources for your agents.
Alternatively, you can use screen sharing and video conferencing to train call agents on the important aspects of the job. If you choose this training delivery option, ensure that you record the sessions and use them to train other employees. After the training, ensure that you set up one-on-one meetings with your agents on a weekly basis to keep tabs on how they’re settling into the job. You can use video chats for these meetings.
Above all else, create an open working environment where your staff can approach you freely with any concerns or questions they might have without having to wait for a scheduled meeting.
3. Make Call Center Tools Available to Your Agents
When you decide to start your virtual call center business, you eliminate most of the overhead costs that conventional call centers deal with, namely those involved in renting out a physical location to host your business and the cost of physical equipment. However, you will still need to invest in technologies that can facilitate the operation of a virtual call center. This kind of investment makes setting up a virtual call center a huge undertaking. This is because, in order to work, each of your call agents will require call center software and hardware.
At the very least, call agents who work remotely must have a good laptop or computer that runs on the latest operating system, a high-quality headset, and a softphone. When setting up your virtual call center business, you need to develop a checklist with all the IT equipment that your remote team needs to have or use to provide the service. Some important items that your list should feature include laptops or computers loaded with the necessary applications, charging cables, privacy screens, and external mouse and keyboards.
You’ll also need to include headsets for videoconferences and calls, factor authentications, and dongles that may be required during setup. In addition to being able to use these tools, remote call agents will need to work in quiet spaces from where they’ll be making and receiving calls, a high-speed internet connection that is reliable, and a private screen layout that’s not visible to other people in their home or wherever else they may be working.
In some instances, your call agents may be required to use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to place calls through broadband internet as opposed to over the traditional phone lines. In this case, consider getting a VoIP service that can be managed and configured easily.
4. Find a Way to Manage Your Remote Call Agent Team
When you decide to run a virtual call center business, one of the most critical things you’ll need to figure out is how to manage an entirely remote team of call agents. Running a virtual call center presents unique challenges because, unlike physical call centers, you cannot see your call agents each day. As such, you’ll need to maintain good relationships with your virtual team in order to navigate the challenges that come with managing remote employees.
When managing a remote team, your greatest responsibility will be to facilitate open communication and foster collaboration among the team despite the physical barriers that separate you and your call center agents. You can easily do this by scheduling regular meetings with your call center agents, both as individual meetings and group meetings. Consider each agent’s individual time zone when scheduling meetings. You can explore a wide range of video conferencing tools for these meetings including Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype. Depending on the sensitivity of your company’s data and the information of your clients and leads, some video services may be more appropriate than others as not all video conference tools provide the same levels of security.
You can also utilize tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Trello to enhance team collaboration and track projects. You’ll also need to check on your team every so often to see how they are doing. While you may be tempted to do discuss work-related issues every time you interact with your call agents, consider making some of those interactions non-work-related. A great way to do this is to send them a message offering a virtual cup of tea. Consider hosting a virtual water cooler or happy hour sessions where everyone gets a chance to talk about something else besides work.
With businesses opting to outsource call center functions instead of setting up an entire team to handle their outbound and inbound calls, starting a virtual call center has never been a better idea. However, operating such a business has its own challenges that you’ll not find in the conventional onsite call center. If you decide to set up a virtual call center business, applying the four tips discussed above will get you started on the right footing and give your business a better chance of succeeding.