Virtual Call Centre
The word ‘virtual’ for a call centre can be defined as ‘not physically existing as such but made by computer software to appear to do so’. While the dictionary captures part of the definition for ‘Virtual’ for a Call Centre, when applied to the phrase ‘virtual contact centre’ or virtual call centre, the interpretation doesn’t go far enough. Clearly we need a broader definition. We could say that a virtual contact centre is something that enables.
Call Centre Landscape
The call centre landscape has so far been driven by the technology. To drive bigger efficiencies – agents have needed to be concentrated into agent groups – and hence into large buildings – often into giant warehouses. These often gave the feel that workers were just a cog in a giant machine.
The problems started to arise when you could not fit enough agents into a big building. New buildings had to be built and this is when the real problems started.
Because of the limitations on the cost of bandwidth and also on the technology used in the ACD systems, calls would be shared between call centres. This was typically for load balancing across expensive private line circuits.
Agents would be split into agent groups in each of the different locations. To distribute the calls between the different locations, and to keep costs down – calls were answered locally and the excess calls were sent to the other locations to help balance out the peaks and troughs.
With the adoption of IP on premise routing technology, along with plentiful amounts of available bandwidth in the internet and private networks, virtual call centres now look to take the call centre world by storm.
The whole geographical basis of call centres is now changing – it doesn't really matter where you are located now. As long as you have an IP connection you could be located almost anywhere in the world and be able to take calls.
Rather than setting up your call centre at the head office, which can be very expensive, you can now more easily employ clusters of agents as remote locations where you can get the skills that you require. This could be in your own location or it could be offshore, or even near shore. It makes outsourcing a lot easier.
One of the biggest advantages of Virtual Call Centres is the ease of management. You can put all of your call centres into a single agent group, or you can put all of agents into different skill groups – irrespective of their location. It is also much easier to be able to track management information.
Virtual queuing is a concept that is used in inbound call centres. Call centres utilize an Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) to distribute incoming calls to specific resources (agents) in the centre. ACDs are capable of holding queued calls in First In, First Out order until agents become available. From the caller’s perspective, without virtual queuing he or she has only two choices when faced with a queue: wait until an agent resource becomes available, or abandon (hang up) and try to call again later. From the call centre’s perspective, a long queue can result in many abandoned calls, repeat attempts, and customer dissatisfaction.
Virtual queuing systems allow customers to receive callbacks instead of waiting in an ACD queue. This solution is analogous to the “fast lane” option (e.g. FASTPASS) used at amusement parks, which often have long queues to ride the various coasters and attractions. For an additional fee, a computerized system allows park visitors to secure their place in a “virtual queue” rather than waiting in a physical queue.
While there are several different varieties of virtual queuing systems, a standard First In, First Out that maintains the customer's place in line is set to monitor queue conditions until the Estimated Wait Time (EWT) exceeds a predetermined threshold. When the threshold is exceeded, the system intercepts incoming calls before they enter the queue. It informs customers of their EWT and offers the option of receiving a callback in the same amount of time as if they waited on hold.
If customers choose to remain in a queue they will hear music on hold and then their calls are routed directly to the queue. Customers who opt for a callback are prompted to enter their phone number and then hang up the phone. A “virtual placeholder” maintains the customers' position in the queue while the ACD queue is worked off. The virtual queuing system monitors the rate at which calls in queue are worked off and launches an outbound call to the customer moments before the virtual placeholder is due to reach the top of the queue. When the callback is answered by the customer, the system asks for confirmation that the correct person is on the line and ready to speak with an agent. Upon receiving confirmation, the system routes the call to the next available agent resource, who handles it as a normal inbound call.
Call centres don't measure this "virtual queue" time as "queue time" because the caller is free to pursue other activities instead of listening to hold music and announcements. The voice circuit is released between the ACD and the telecommunications network, so the call does not accrue any queue time or telecommunications charges.
At premiercallcentre.co.uk UK's leader in Virtual Call Centres, we cover all aspects of the industry. Our office is a centralized and used for the purpose of virtual calling. We work as an advisor to companies to support and advise on any business solution.
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