Blog // February 26, 2015
Blog // February 26, 2015
In a recent blog post about Remote Management in Virtual Call Centers, I discussed how to manage a workforce you cannot see and how the Vector of Influence provides three pillars of remote workforce management; support, development and coaching.
In today’s post, I’d like to expand on the benefits of the remote workforce by discussing the advantages of the virtual model’s distinct differences which are inherently more flexible than you’ll find when working within a physical call center’s operational model. With a virtual call center, the relationship between the company and the work-at-home agents is more collaborative than it is with on-premise employees. This flexibility is inherent in the very nature of the virtual call center model and is one of the reasons that the arrangement pays off for both the agents and the company that chooses this model.
The beauty of a virtual call center is that agents are empowered to select when they want to work. Scheduling can be done based on fractional weeks and fractional hours. Because they don’t have a commute, it’s often easier for virtual agents to cover hours that are unappealing to location-based workers. And, it’s also easier for virtual workers to stop and start work periods based on their lifestyle requirements.
Each week, virtual agents submit their availability for scheduling and also have the option of putting themselves on the flex list to gain more hours than the regular schedule may offer. This enables workforce managers to back-fill for vacation time and the flexibility to adjust schedules for heavier needs based on product launches or other events. By the same token, because virtual agents work in as little as 15-minute increments, it’s much easier to scale down should the call volume forecast not materialize.
There is simply no efficient means of enabling the physical call center to accommodate this type of flexibility. For example, once you let an agent go home early from a shift due to a lower volume, it is next to impossible to reverse that decision and get them back on site quickly if call volume spikes. In comparison, a virtual agent who has put themselves in the “waiting room” can be actively taking calls within minutes of notification that they’re needed. The waiting room provides a ready slate of resources that allows call center managers to fill in the gaps in staffing in the event of an unexpected absence or to scale up quickly if an unexpected market need occurs that spikes call volume.
As you can see from the above scenarios, virtual call centers offer a level of staffing efficiency that’s not easily achievable with a physical call center. The operational models of workforce management are different by nature. A full-time employee has expectations of full-time work. Getting employees on site requires a commitment from the company that they’ll work and be compensated for the hours agreed to. This makes it tough to send people home if volumes are lower than expected, raising cost-to-serve ratios that all call center managers work to optimize.
Both operational models for call centers provide value to companies. But the virtual call center model provides benefits reaped from flexibility that the physical model just can’t deliver. From scheduling to efficiency to lower effort and less stress involved in meeting customer needs at volumes that are often hard to predict with accuracy, a virtual call center can mitigate risks that can put call center performance in jeopardy. Consider how the two models — virtual and physical — working together, can reinforce the value of the call center to providing a consistent and reliable customer experience.