Advances in technology, specifically cloud-based solutions, are quickly transforming the customer service landscape. Businesses are exploring the benefits of remote agent teams, using online business tools to create virtual customer support call centers that replace or support their current operations.
While remote contact centers use many of the same tools, they do present unique needs that require additional resources. We’ve created this guide, The Virtual Contact Center Starter Kit: Top Tools You Need, from Free to High-End, to help you discover and determine the resources you need to build your own successful virtual contact center.
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How do I set up a virtual contact center?
Your remote contact center starts with your agents. Since you aren’t limited by geographical constraints, you can hire local employees or use a globally distributed team. The resources you’ll need include internet connectivity, a marketing software solution, conferencing tools, and any hardware your agents need to connect.
We’ve discussed these top tools in detail below to help you find the solutions that will empower success stories in your virtual call center. While some of these tools are high-end, more costly options, there are many tools designed for small businesses and budgets. As you build your virtual call center toolkit, work with providers to design the solution that best meets your customer service and budget requirements.
Your customer service now relies on team collaboration, so you need to equip your agents with resources that allow them to reliably connect with coworkers and customers from their homes.
Working remotely relies heavily on your agent’s internet connection and speed. When setting your agents up, test their network’s performance and speed. If the results aren’t ideal, consider paying to upgrade their service. While it might not matter which IP address they use, you don’t want to limit productivity with poor connections.
Computers and mobile devices
Agents can use either company-issued or personal devices in their home offices. Your platform will work with any laptops, desktops, and mobile devices that meet software, video, and audio requirements. If you need your agents to participate in video meetings, for example, make sure they have video streaming devices that meet your needs.
Phones and headsets
Most people don’t have the hardware they need to make and take customer service calls at home. As you build your remote center, provide your agents with microphone-enabled headsets that work with their computers and/or phone systems. Some companies allow agents to use physical phones when working remote, but you can also provide built-in softphones to improve agent efficiency and call quality.
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What is the best call center software?
The contact center solution you choose for your contact center is by far the most important decision you’ll make about your remote operations. There are numerous platforms to choose from, each offering the different conversion rates, management tools, competitive pricing, and customer experiences.
With so many options, we wanted to help you understand the key features you should look for when selecting your call center platform.
Essential virtual call center software features
To achieve virtual contact center success, these are the top capabilities your solution must include. Your contact center solution will be the most expensive part of your virtual operations, so look for the option that balances these features with your budgetary restraints.
1. Easy implementation
Whether you’re starting your remote contact center from scratch or transitioning to a virtual set-up, you need to be up and running as fast as possible. Virtual contact centers eliminate the need for physical set-ups, but you also need an option that can go live in just minutes. Look for a provider that offers active guidance during the implementation process to save time and avoid downtime for your agents and customers.
2. Collaborative support
When your agents work exclusively through your system, you need a tool that supports easy collaboration. Your solution should offer live chat for internal communication and video conferencing capabilities for more formal meetings. If your team will offer both private and public discussions, such as webinars, look for these capabilities as well. Additional collaboration features include cloud storage, file shares, screens sharing, image management, and the ability to collaborate with the entire organization.
3. Workforce management
Your managers won’t be able to physically monitor your agents’ work and productivity, so empower their success with workforce and agent management tools. Your supervisors should be able to use your solution to view data for every inbound and outbound call. With the ability to access real-time analytics for each agent, they can identify potential weaknesses that can damage your customer service.
Workforce management tools also help your managers with scheduling tasks. Effective scheduling can help you avoid agent burnout, so give your managers a solution that optimizes their decisions.
4. Flexibility and scalability
A virtual contact center eliminates the typical constraints you might experience with a physical operation. To maintain this flexibility, you need a contact center platform that allows you to build custom solutions for your specific needs. Look for software that allows you to adjust the size of your workforce with ease and speed. You won’t need to sit on unused chairs or equipment during the off-season. Instead, you can design a solution that fits your budget and call volume at all times.
5. Reliable security
Virtual contact centers operate completely in the cloud, so powerful data protection is absolutely critical to your customer service. When your agents input personal customer information or your customers submit sensitive data through your system, you need to know that this information will remain secure. When considering a software option, evaluate the security features and tools the provider offers. If a software’s security fails, after all, your customers and business will be most at risk.
6. Disaster recovery
When comparing cloud-based and on-premise contact center solutions, disaster recovery is one of the greatest potential benefits. If your business’ office location experiences an emergency, such as a natural disaster or power outage, your platform should keep your contact center running without interruption. If your software solution has adequate security, you can also protect your call center from any security breaches that affect the rest of the business. Many software providers offer nearly perfect uptime guarantees, so look for a solution that is known for its reliability.
7. IVR systems
There are already many demands on your agents’ time, so streamline the call process with an interactive voice response (IVR) system. When customers call, they’ll be routed through a series of automated questions that connect them to the right agent and department. For frequently asked questions, such as queries about office hours and simple billing info, customers can get their answers without talking to a live agent and wasting time. IVR systems also improve the customer experience by sending them to the agent best-equipped to resolve their problems.
8. Coaching tools
These tools are especially important when working with a remote team. If you notice a call escalating, for example, you can use a whisper coaching tool to guide your agent through the interaction. If the customer remains unsatisfied, a call barging tool allows you to take over the call when necessary. Coaching and call monitoring tools are invaluable to your training and quality assurance processes, helping your managers guide agents to their greatest potential.
9. Analytics and reporting tools
In our digital world, data analysis is a must for customer success and support. The ideal contact center solution should offer access to in-depth metrics that you can use to measure and improve your customer service. Look for a platform that offers real-time and historical data on calls, interactions, service levels, queues, and more.
Your software should also offer numerous options for reports on your contact center metrics. Rather than spending hours downloading and charting the data yourself, you can get a comprehensive understanding with just a few clicks. When presenting data at stakeholder meetings, this feature is a valuable resource that you can use to demonstrate growth and success.
Call center software integrations
No contact center platform can offer every feature you need, so it’s vital to select an option that offers an open platform and seamless integrations with the tools you already rely on. With these integrations, you can eliminate the need to find new alternatives to the processes you have in place. Your agents will also be able to get to work faster and more effectively on your new solution. Best of all, many integrations are either free or available for a low cost, helping you maintain great service within your budget needs.
1. CRM integrations
For a call center, no marketing tool is more important than your customer relationship management (CRM) system. This integration gathers and records customer data with every interaction, building a comprehensive history that your agents can use to more effectively understand their needs and personalize their service.
When a customer connects with your contact center, for example, your CRM shows a pop-up that offers their data, relevant social media, and details about previous interactions with the company. This instant information allows your agent to quickly meet the customer’s needs without re-asking questions about their account.
Though you can use a CRM system that isn’t connected to your call center platform, this often frustrates agents and lengthens customer interactions. Your agents will have to jump back and forth between tools, disrupting their service and affecting their customer support. Instead, put their needs first with a built-in integration.
2. Work management apps
Like CRM integrations, work management app integrations limit the number of programs your agents have to use during the workday. If your company uses an app such as Asana, Trello, or Slack to manage your projects and assignments, you can use this integration to further streamline your work.
3. Industry-specific tools
Along with popular third-party integrations, your software should also have the ability to integrate with apps that are specific to your industry and business. While some integrations are universal to customer service operations, your business or industry may use lesser-known applications to support your work.
If you want to integrate these specialized tools with your call center solution, the software you choose should offer open APIs that allow you to customize your solution’s features. If you have a software developer on staff, they can give you the freedom to manually build these apps into your platform. If not, however, look for an option that offers numerous out-of-the-box integrations. While you can still customize your software features, this eliminates the need for extensive coding knowledge without limiting your capabilities.
4. Customer service features
Even though there are numerous call center platforms that offer many of the features on this list, you may not be able to find an option that checks every box. If you are struggling to find the perfect balance for your solution, look for a platform with integration capabilities that can help you fill the gaps.
If, for instance, you run a small operation that doesn’t have the budget or need for an extensive omnichannel solution, consider supplementing your call capabilities with a live chat integration for your website. When your CRM system strains your budget, see if you can find a free or low-cost alternative that easily integrates with the platform you use. Many contact center solutions offer incredible flexibility and customizing abilities, so choose the option that will support your every need.
Give your virtual contact center the tools it needs to thrive. Connect with our sales team to learn more about the integrations, features, and capabilities included in our cloud-based omnichannel contact center software. For a comprehensive look at how it can work for your business, request a personalized demo today.
Originally published Apr 13, 2020, updated Jan 30, 2023