Customer expectations have never been higher, yet providing first-rate customer service is a costly and resource-intensive endeavor for most businesses. Instead of sacrificing quality, companies are increasingly opting for efficient virtual solutions that still deliver the kind of world-class customer service experience their consumers deserve.
Employees had already been choosing to work from home in increasing numbers, and the global pandemic has only accelerated the remote workforce trend. While companies are now devoting 20% of their meeting room budgets to collaborative video call technologies, they’re still trying to strike a balance between remote, onsite, and hybrid work, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each.
A remote or cloud based call center is a customer service call center whose support agents and sales employees work remotely. Whereas on-premise call centers hire customer service professionals working at on-site locations, a remote call center is a virtual environment whose customer service professionals work from home.
The rising popularity of remote call centers stems from a few factors. Firstly, the increasing availability of new VoIP or other cloud-based software allows professionals to virtually work from locations anywhere in the world. Secondly, domestic internet services have vastly improved to the extent that professionals can take advantage of this democratization of the service industry and become self-sufficient at-home agents.
Remote call centers are popular due to their relatively low price tag and ability to deliver improved worker efficiency. Companies can cast their net wide and recruit the best people for the job from an office on the other side of the globe. Then there are the lower upfront costs to consider and the eliminated fees of maintenance and running on-site hardware across multiple locations.
By drawing from the best talent in different time zones, virtual call centers enable you to extend your reach and provide customer services on-demand 24/7.
While there is a solid upside to using virtual call centers, it’s not without challenges. For example, delivering training and ongoing support in a virtual setting is more difficult in a remote setting. And this can lead to problems such as communications in the event of issues that need resolving. Furthermore, virtual arrangements can sometimes hurt the accountability of your agents that might wind up feeling unmotivated and unable to give their best performance.
Given some of these challenges, here are our tips on getting the most out of your virtual team.
As in life, as well as managing remote call centers: planning and preparation will support your success. Sure, it’s essential to give your remote agents the knowledge to perform. But more importantly, they require the tools to do the job.
That means working equipment such as headsets and dual monitors, as well as a strong broadband connection to head off any risk of service disruption. Beyond that, ensure call center agents have appropriate security measures in place and give them advice on setting up a dedicated workspace. This will help maintain employee performance in a hybrid or remote work environment.
It makes complete sense to hire the right professionals right out of the gate. But how do you go about this? First off, reflect on your business values. Allow them to guide all of your efforts in realizing your overall vision. Next, do a deep dive on the kind of talent profile and knowledge base you need. Fortunately, you’re free to cherry-pick the best worldwide talent with experience in your industry, no matter how niche.
Much as you might consider leveling up your business benefits by investing in game-changing tech such as process automation, putting your people at the center of your plans are just as fundamental. And once hired, motivating your employees is about more than just getting them to deliver to their prescribed roles. It’s about cultivating trust and investing in your culture of employability, and the future of your business. This starts with a well-crafted remote onboarding strategy that aligns with your call center’s business goals.
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This means implementing an overarching remote call center training strategy of continuous agent learning and development that supports your goals. Provide comprehensive training to develop your agents’ capabilities and equip them with the skills to provide confident service – which can be managed through remote training software such as Whatfix.
This also means creating clear process documentation and knowledge sharing across your organization. With internal wikis and knowledge bases, leaders and senior agents can create step-by-step documents and tutorials that new agents can use to find answers to their questions and troubleshoot common issues. This allows remote call center team members to learn while in the flow of work, reduces support questions, and creates a self-reliant, more productive workforce. You’ll also reduce your employee turnover rate while you’re at it.
Whatfix empowers your users with contextual flows and self-help widgets, improving productivity and proficiency while cutting training and support costs.
Working from home lessens the opportunities to interact with co-workers or talk with management. In this environment, agents can sometimes grow detached and demoralized. Your employees must have that extra support in place to do their job well. Thankfully, technology has filled the gap, and you can keep open lines of communication with your remote workers through various software tools for remote teams.
These tools range from web-conferencing tools such as Zoom or WebEx, internal team collaboration apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, task and project management solutions such as JIRA, Trello, and Asana, and many more.
These solutions allow for quick check-ins and team collaboration, while also fostering a sense of teamwork, team morale, and a company culture of safety and comfort.
The pandemic has brought the issue of setting healthy boundaries to the forefront of employer concerns. Include advice on the importance of self-care and rest in your training package, and you’ll be looking after your employees’ mental health and ensuring they’re at their very best.
Be sure to create an effective and thorough remote work policy for your team that sets clear boundaries and expectations.
As well as taking on board remote management advice, you can utilize new technology to help you manage your virtual contact center. With new technologies emerging on an almost daily basis, there’s really no better time to take advantage of the newest tech.
It hardly escaped notice that one-to-one video call technology has come to the fore and offered much-needed comfort during our splendid isolation periods. And if you’ve made communication a priority in how you manage your virtual call center, then these responsive collaboration tools will prove indispensable.
Connect with remote team members without missing a beat, share resources such as key metrics on your screen, and note down important information. Also, they remove barriers to dramatically improve coaching. With the help of call center recording you can observe past calls to glean invaluable insights. You can also create videos of screen recordings to showcase how to complete key tasks with video tutorial creation tools.
Better yet, why not go further and conduct a virtual classroom session and train up a group of new agents at once? Virtual classrooms are perfect for efficiently imparting essential information to groups of agents simultaneously. That way, your training has a consistent message and isn’t subject to misinterpretation. It’s especially effective in training agents in hard skills involving data and computer tasks since agents can follow interactively in real-time and ask any questions raised throughout training.
Include a variety of resources to break up the monotony of talking heads and make your classroom more engaging. Include self-assessments, course materials, and follow-up resources. You can create these elearning lessons and courses with a variety of different software tools such as employee training software, corporate LMS, and elearning course authoring tools.
Circling back to the importance of training and investing in the employability of your agents, one great tool for achieving this is creating elearning content. That your agents are working from home is no reason to deprive them of the support and resources they need. Empower them to deliver instead.
Provide 24/7 access to such content, and you also encourage them to supercharge their own training and development. Your content can cover the whole gamut of information relevant to your company and how they help customers, from comprehensive self-help guides to products and services to valuable resources on developing key soft skills.
One thing that stays the same when managing your remote call center is the need to monitor and improve company KPIs. Luckily, you can use a raft of analytical tools and reporting systems to track the performance of your agents and identify training needs. Check-in regularly to give feedback on the progress of projects by using these productivity tools. Entirely customizable, they also allow you to check and change details in real-time.
For example, popular unified communication platforms such as RingCentral and its alternatives can automatically trigger features such as assistance cards – which are basically customizable cheat sheets that help professionals deal with more complicated queries.
Quality assurance monitoring tools allow you to guarantee quality throughout your business. Such monitoring platforms enable you to evaluate the performance of your remote call center across the board. Draw on their powerful analytics to find out how agents are faring in all their customer interactions. Moreover, identify any training gaps, spot valuable trends, and evaluate whether your expectations are being met.
For many businesses, the pandemic was a turning point in their work-from-home policies. And, indeed, some hybrid of remote and onsite work is increasingly becoming the norm. This shift to a virtual model has highlighted how workers can be more flexible and productive in their work patterns.
At the same time, it’s also resulted in an increased demand for retraining and has underscored the importance of work-life balance. If you’re considering turning to a remote call center for your own business, we hope these tips and tools will help you make your transition smoothly and keep your team connected.