Virtual call center to improve customer experiences
In the digital age, customer service is proving more important than ever. Customers have increasingly high expectations—and if your business doesn’t meet them, they can quickly find a competitor who will.
Thanks to widespread connectivity and ownership of devices, companies can use technological advances to improve customer interactions. While phone-based customer support remains a popular method, call centers are branching out into additional channels.
We’ll take an in-depth look at the rise of virtual call centers, and explore how a cloud-based customer service solution (such as RingCentral) can benefit customers and agents alike.
Call center or contact center – what’s the difference?
These days, the two terms are often used interchangeably to describe customer service centers, but technically there is a difference: Call centers handle phone calls, while contact centers use various digital channels to communicate.
However, there’s plenty of crossover between the two types. Many call centers have moved on from their traditional roots, using internet phones and artificial intelligence for recorded messages and call routing—and contact centers continue to make and receive phone calls alongside digital channels.
When it comes to the virtual sphere, the lines are even more blurred. A virtual call center or a virtual contact center may offer omnichannel communication because it’s far easier (and cheaper) to do so when the service is hosted in the cloud.
What does a virtual call center do?
A virtual call center simply means that customer service representatives are geographically dispersed, rather than in one location. They may work from home or from several different offices, all connected via cloud call center software.
This call center model is used by all types and sizes of organization, from financial services and product support to telemarketing and polling companies. It’s often chosen because the business wants to reduce the costs associated with a physical office, and/or to provide customer care across various time zones.
Virtual call centers may be described as inbound, outbound, or both. They may be located within a company, or operate as an outsourced independent contractor.
- Inbound call centers receive incoming calls from customers (complaints, technical queries, payment processing, service renewals)
- Outbound call centers make outgoing calls to potential or existing customers (sales, promotions, market research, appointments).
In either case, virtual call center software is used to automate call flow, increase efficiency, and enable remote agents to communicate and collaborate like a physical team. Because the system is completely cloud-based, virtual call center agents can access the call center platform from any device with an internet connection.
Software solutions usually include a suite of features to provide customer service via multiple channels, from voice calls to text messages, live chat, and video conferencing.
Providers like RingCentral give you predictive dialing (faster and more accurate to dial a phone number), skills-based routing (to match a free agent with the correct abilities to help, with a customer), and analytics tools to measure performance.
What are the advantages of a virtual call center?
- Improve customer experiences
- Increase employee retention
- Easy to set up and use
- Reduce costs
- Improve security
Among the many benefits of a virtual call center is the opportunity to offer a really positive experience at every stage of the customer journey—so they’ll tell their friends how well you handled their issue, instead of the opposite!
By using smart software, a virtual call center agent can resolve queries faster than in a traditional call center. Customers don’t have the time or patience to spend ages on hold, or to be passed from pillar to post—so the quicker the issue is handled, the happier they’ll be.
There are many virtual tools that speed up responses to inbound calls, including automatic call distribution (ACD) that routes calls to the most suitable agent, and IVR (interactive voice response) to offer self-service with no waiting. And outbound calls are faster if you use a predictive or power dialer.
Agents can view the customer’s information on screen and tap into a knowledge base to give personalized and accurate responses. The technology also gives access to loads of data to help you understand customer stories, and analytics tools to create a quality assurance framework and evaluate success.
Virtual call centers are quick to set up and simple to manage. Since everything is cloud-based, agents can log in from anywhere at any time. A remote call center can hire agents from all over the world, which gives you access to a wider talent pool and ensures you pick the best people for the job.
Call center representatives enjoy the flexibility of the “work from anywhere” model, and the easy-to-use virtual tools. Agents who are happy in their jobs are less stressed, which leads to lower employee turnover. They will also be more motivated to help callers, increasing customer satisfaction.
There will be an initial cost to set up a virtual call center, but you won’t have the overheads of a physical office or a ton of hardware—especially if employees use their own devices. Plus, there are no IT maintenance costs, as the service provider handles it all. Many companies also choose to leverage the flexibility of a virtual contact center to have some agents in an office, while some others are remote/working from home. Afterall, since you can have your agents anywhere, hybrid deployments are also supported, providing the maximum flexibility
The VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone systems in a cloud contact center are considerably cheaper than traditional landlines and give you international country coverage. And cloud hosts operate a subscriber model, providing elasticity, meaning you only pay for the capacity you need, when you need it.
It’s also highly scalable, as you can add or remove employees almost at the touch of a button. Providers like RingCentral make it easy to add extra features and channels, or integrate other forms of digital communications.
Making the move to a virtual call center is a big step, and some companies may have concerns about potential downsides, such as:
- Remote team feeling disconnected
- Difficulties of remote management
- Possible security risks.
However, with careful planning and the right tools, those issues can be avoided. In fact, smart technology can actually make communication, collaboration, and workforce management easier—and reputable service hosts like RingCentral ensure your data is more secure in the cloud than it would be with an on-premises system.
How do I set up a virtual call center?
Choose the right tools
Pick an expert service host who gives you the tools you need, and the support to help you use them. With a unified communications provider such as RingCentral, your omnichannel customer service will be backed by optimum security and reliability.
Ideally, you want a business phone system that integrates with other channels, so that customers receive support via their preferred method. Look for software that offers as many tools as possible, from call distribution to analytics. Make sure upgrades are installed automatically, so agents always have the most efficient tools.
The right tools also include hardware. Each agent should have a fully-functioning desktop, laptop, or mobile device with built-in microphones and speakers (or a headset). Equipment like desks and ergonomic accessories may be provided by some companies.
Make sure agents have a strong internet connection (and consider paying to upgrade their service if required). Whether agents are using company-issued or personal devices, make sure they’re aware of security protocols and know how to flag concerns.
Choose the right people
As well as providing the best tools, you’ll need the right people for your virtual team. Since you can recruit for virtual call center jobs from all over the world, it should be easier to find employees with the skills to make customers feel cared for.
Remote workers must be able to work independently and self-manage to a certain degree, and should be great communicators across all channels. They should also be unafraid to speak up, asking for clarification or identifying areas for improvement.
In a remote team, good communication is crucial—between agent and customer, manager and employee, and between team members. Use your tools to keep everyone in the loop, whether it’s informing customers about a service upgrade or explaining a new protocol to agents.
It’s not always easy to monitor and improve performance, but workforce management tools can help you stay connected, even when people are working in their own homes.
Whether agents are full-time or part-time, it’s worth checking that they’re happy and motivated. You could set up regular one-on-one video meetings, and remember to acknowledge and reward team members for their hard work.
What’s the best virtual call center solution?
This depends on the nature of your business and its specific needs, but a reliable, secure, flexible call center solution will enhance any type of organization. Here are some key things to look out for:
- Omnichannel communication
- Collaboration tools
- Quality management tools
- Security and reliability.
Of course, pricing will also be a factor. But remember that even if you pay a little more to get the best features, going virtual will save money in the long run. It’s definitely worth choosing a solution that’s scalable, as your improved customer service helps your business grow.
Think also about the ease of set-up and use, because you want to get up and running as fast as possible—but also because your agents will need to log in and operate the system themselves, and receive remote inductions and training where necessary.
For a solution that gives you flexibility and reliability, coupled with a raft of easy-to-use tools, it’s hard to look past RingCentral. As well as enabling omnichannel customer support, its contact center integrates with other native products in a unified communications suite.
Alongside the virtual call center must-haves like IVR, ACD, CRM integration, and virtual agents, the analytics function shows you real-time and historical data through dashboards and visualizations. Workforce management features include agent scheduling, task management, call recording, and coaching tools.
Agents can use any channel to communicate with customers and each other, from instant messaging to video chat and social media. And, as part of the RingCentral stable, your team can also take advantage of collaboration tools such as file sharing, cloud storage, screen sharing, and whiteboarding.
RingCentral is also committed to enterprise-grade security and reliability, with disaster recovery protocols, guaranteed 99.99 percent uptime, and data stored in secure Tier 1 centers with constant monitoring.
Is a virtual call center right for me?
Again, it depends on your organization, but in an increasingly digital world, customers expect support to be available on any channel, at any time, anywhere. Implementing a virtual call center is more than just a great business opportunity—it may be the difference between success and failure.
The cost reductions of a virtual solution are especially good for small business, but all companies will see the benefits of improved efficiency and increased customer satisfaction. Choosing a trusted provider like RingCentral will help you make the transformation smooth and seamless.