The traditional concept of a call centre involves one centralised location where agents can handle incoming and outgoing phone calls. These days, many more services are offered such as email and live chat functions. And thanks to technology, employees no longer need to be in the same geographic space. This revolution spawned the inception of the virtual call center, where salespeople and customer service representatives can be sitting anywhere in the world to perform various duties such as lead generation, appointment setting, telesales, market research and customer support. Although they are physically apart, agents are considered to be one call center unit.
Perhaps you will create a virtual call center by establishing several small locations that all serve a similar purpose, or you will employ telemarketers to work remotely for your company in their own home-based environments. If you choose to hire people to work outside of your main office, you'll find that there are many benefits. To begin, it can be a great cost saving technique because businesses don't need to rent office space and equipment. Hiring people overseas in various time zones will also enable you to offer sales and customer support around the clock. Furthermore, by filling positions remotely, you can find local people to work on local markets, maximising their cultural understanding and language skills. Finally, through virtual agents you are able to acquire the best candidates for each role, regardless of their location. So if your headquarters is in Beijing but you found a great sales manager in San Diego, you can still hire that person.
Having staff work remotely is not without its challenges. The initial training can be especially difficult because when an agent is working in a virtual call center, the trainer cannot see what they are doing or how they are reacting to new information. Interaction is limited so personal relationships and team spirit can suffer. When agents are working remotely, be sure they have enough support and guidance and feel like they are part of a greater team. Challenges can also come from the technology used; systems can be slow or you can struggle to explain a CRM system (for example) when you can't walk agents through various steps on screen. But on the other hand, new technologies like podcasts, virtual desktops, webcams and webinars can help to overcome some of these obstacles.
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) can link workflow and results of each agent up to the main Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, thus ensuring that employees work in a consistent and highly productive fashion. To increase your knowledge of new technologies, tools and trends, be sure to explore organisations like the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA), the Service Desk Institute, the Resource Centre for Customer Service Professionals and the Federation of European Direct and Interactive Marketing Association (FEDMA).