Every day, more and more businesses are making the transition to remote work. The increased popularity of a remote-first environment is influencing every industry—and contact centers are no exception. Virtual call centers provide more flexibility for agents and managers to connect with their customers.
Working remotely, however, does come with its fair share of challenges, especially for managers. How do you ensure agents are using their time effectively? How do you handle training in a remote environment? How do you help an entire team focus on a unified goal when they’re separated in different locations?
In this article, we’re going to share our top tips for virtual call center management. We’ll dive into how virtual call centers work and how managers can successfully overcome common challenges associated with working remotely.
What Is a Virtual Call Center?
Simply put, a virtual call center functions the same way as a regular contact center, except with a team of agents who each work remotely rather than in one central building. Virtual call centers take advantage of software solutions so agents can still connect with and assist customers while enjoying the added benefits of working from home.
With more companies transitioning to remote work environments than ever before, it’s never been more essential for managers to understand how virtual call centers operate.
How Does a Virtual Call Center Work?
Virtual call centers utilize the cloud to connect a team of agents to a unified online server. Call center agents subsequently use software to make and receive calls, connect with customers, and manage regular tasks like scheduling and lead management.
There are plenty of benefits that result from going remote. Contact centers can save on leasing expenses because they don’t need to provide office space for their agents. Because of virtual call center software, equipment costs are also decreased. And managers can also recruit better talent because the employees they hire can work from anywhere.
Effectively Managing a Virtual Call Center
While there are few disputes about the benefits of a virtual work environment, managing a call center remotely is not without its challenges. Keeping remote agents motivated, accountable, and generally happy requires managers to be at the top of their game.
The following section contains our advice for the most important steps call center managers can take to effectively manage the work their agents do each and every day.
Stay Connected on Company Goals
When agents aren’t interacting with team members regularly, it can be easy for them to feel like their daily work isn’t making an impact. Keeping your team regularly focused on business objectives will motivate them and align their work with the company’s mission. Additionally, when agents are working towards a common goal, it helps prevent them from becoming distracted and inattentive while at work.
It’s a good idea to regularly gather performance metrics and use some sort of KPI dashboard to display progress so that everyone can see it (regardless of where they are working from). Using a dashboard like Hiya Connect will help you keep an eye on your team’s progress so you know if working remotely is affecting your contact center’s performance.
Although working from home can provide agents with increased flexibility, it can also make them feel isolated from the team. Set up a regular meeting via video conferencing software to give everyone a touchpoint. These meetings should always be live where possible, as opposed to sending out pre-recorded messages.
Encourage teammates to collaborate by setting up communication channels for people to ideate, ask questions, share resources, and cheer each other on. As a manager, your participation in these channels is essential for building unity.
When contact center agents aren’t showing up physically to work each day, accountability between them and their managers is often the first thing to get thrown out the window. Combat this by clearly and regularly defining what agents’ responsibilities are, as well as the results you expect from them each day.
Another way to create accountability is to provide regular training opportunities to ensure that agents are constantly developing their skill set. The last thing anybody wants is to plateau in their career, so use training as an opportunity to hold agents accountable for their growth.
One of the biggest differences between an in-person call center and a virtual call center is that oftentimes nobody is checking in to ensure that agents are managing their time wisely. This unfortunately can result in wasted time and valuable resources. That’s why agents must know exactly what is expected of them, so they don’t need someone to micromanage every moment of their workday.
To help foster autonomy, create a “best practices” document that contains guidelines that apply to a variety of scenarios agents may encounter while on the phone. Some examples to get you started include:
- Know your script by heart
- Deliver a memorable first impression
- Resolve issues quickly and reliably
- Put yourself in the client’s shoes
Encourage agents to use these best practices so they know to make the right decisions. Teach agents to use critical thinking to tackle hard situations, and communicate your confidence in their abilities.
Good company culture is one of the reasons employees enjoy going to work. In a virtual work environment, you can still build a positive culture by making sure communication channels are regularly firing, so that agents feel connected. Consider organizing an online tournament or game with prizes to spark up some friendly competition between co-workers.
Technology is the primary component that makes the virtual call center workflow possible. That said, it’s extremely important to know the tools you’re using inside and out—to train your employees to do the same.
There are countless areas where technology can improve a remote call center environment. Just a few include:
- Communication channels for information sharing
- Video conferencing
- Call center scheduling software
- Metric tracking
- Outbound dialing software
It can be easy to go overboard with your use of technology solutions, so be sure to only focus on utilizing technology that will have a significant impact on your call center’s productivity.
Make Necessary Adjustments
The most important thing you can do is constantly seek and gather feedback from your agents about what is working—and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to adjust your virtual call center strategy where necessary. After all, in a rapidly changing work environment, the most valuable trait any manager can possess is adaptability.
For more information about the latest trends in the call center industry, download our State of the Call Report.