One of the biggest advantages of today’s software-as-a-service-based call center solutions is their ability to facilitate the “virtual call center,” which basically means the call center software environment can be accessed securely using any computer with a high speed connection.
A “virtual call center” brings numerous benefits, including the ability to more easily take advantage of the remote or home-based agent model
, which brings a whole set of benefits in and of itself, including improved agent satisfaction and retention; better business continuity
and redundancy; lower operating costs stemming from reduced facilities usage; a significantly reduced carbon footprint; and a vastly expanded pool of candidates from which to hire.
In addition to providing “anywhere connectivity,” most SaaS (News - Alert)-based call center solutions offer a Web-based administration portal that enables call center managers to keep track of agent activity in real time. This is key to facilitating the remote or home-based agent model, as one of major challenges in using this distributed model is how to monitor agent productivity.
One company that is benefitting from the home-based agent model, thanks to its deployment of a virtual call center solution, is askAFS, a leading provider of telephone and Web-based financial counseling for employees and members of a variety of organizations.
Several years ago the company decided it needed a virtual call center solution to help it better monitor its brigade of “remote counselors,” as well as to widen its geographic recruiting area, so it opted for Contactual’s fully Web-based OnDemand Contact Center solution.
“We wanted a Web-based call center solution so we could recruit qualified counselors nationwide, not just from the region near headquarters,” explained Mark Guyott, VP of operations and administration, askAFS, in a customer case study posted on Contactual’s (News - Alert) Website. He pointed out that all of askAFS’ counselors are certified or accredited, with four to five years of financial counseling experience, and are required to continue ongoing accreditation.
“With Contactual, we can recruit from anywhere, so we can hire the cream of the crop in the U.S.,” Guyott said. “Without Contactual’s virtual call center solution, we’d be limited to the smaller pool of experts within commuting distance of our headquarters.”
Guyott pointed out that with Contactual’s virtual call center solution, “our remote counselors can use their current Internet connection and local phone system.”
But perhaps more importantly, the system enables managers to monitor all agent activity -- including the ability to monitor all inbound calls -- no matter where the agent is located.
“No matter where I am, I can supervise using Contactual’s monitoring tools,” Guyott said. “I can be anywhere in the world with Internet connection and continue to manage the phone queue. I always know what my counselors are doing.”
“Our president travels a lot and this was his big motivation for choosing Contactual -- to be able to keep tabs on the company, no matter where he was,” Guyott added. “The beautiful part of it is he can monitor everyone and see what’s going on just by logging in.”
With the home-based agent model, askAFS has been able to spread its call center operations across a much wider geographic region of the U.S., which in turn has allowed it to employ a “follow the sun” approach to customer service and also to extend its service hours.
“We are open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST),” Guyott said. “Because of the way Contactual can be set up to automatically route calls, we are able to tailor our hours to our clients’ needs, for the most part without asking our counselors to work evening shift s, and without our company incurring overtime expense. For instance, if an East Coast company wants us to answer calls until 9 p.m., EST, we can accommodate that company by automatically routing its employees’ phone calls to our West Coast counselors who are on duty until 6 p.m. Pacific Time.”Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Contactual’s advanced call routing capabilities and single number reach have also helped the company greatly improve its customer service operations.
“When people call for financial advice, they want to talk to a human being right away,” Guyott said. “Contactual helps us by having one phone number that connects to multiple counselors. We use Contactual to direct callers immediately to the available counselor with the best experience and background to handle that call.”
“This is better than having a receptionist who would have to answer each call and keep people waiting while she transferred or routed them to a counselor,” he added. “Customers appreciate our saving them time.”
To download a free copy of the askAFS customer case study, click here.
Edited by Patrick Barnard