Premise-based Contact Center Solutions are Better than Virtual Solutions
When it comes to outsourced call center customer service, there remains a perennial debate over whether a premises-based or virtual approach is the superior staffing model.
If the goals are a high-quality customer experience with call center agents working at maximum productivity, then the answer is: It depends. But with few exceptions, the premises-based staffing model is the right way to go.
When is virtual, with call center agents working from home, the better approach? Generally speaking, this method is adequate for low-cost / high-volume products for which customers assume that a low price tag also means low end customer support. For them, “buy cheap get cheap” is acceptable – even preferable.
Going virtual also makes sense for low-end product vendors from a financial standpoint as well. They prefer the low-cost alternative for their outsourced call center services solution, and call centers with virtual agents have eliminated the cost of brick-and-mortar office space from the expense equation, enabling them to charge a lower price.
But though the price tag is lower, there is a price to be paid for going virtual. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Performance Oversight: Premises-based staffing means that customer service representatives perform their tasks under the in-person supervision of account supervisors. Team leaders and quality control managers walk the aisles of the call center, listen to and discuss how calls are being handled, and they can provide instant feedback to representatives on the high points and the low points of their customer service skills. In addition, poor performers with poor attitudes are much more readily seen and dealt with a brick-and-mortar staffing model than a virtual one. And team meetings are far more effective when team members sit together in a room.
Client Accountability: With representatives located at a single work site, prospective and existing clients can meet and watch the outbound lead generation specialists and inbound customer service agents assigned to their programs. After a company has committed to an outsourced call center, they can visit the facility, conduct meetings with their account teams and discuss program improvement and management.
Knowledge Sharing: Representatives working together on-site are in a learning environment that fosters better performance, puts a spotlight on top performers whose work habits and execution can be emulated by others. This also enables staff and management to share observations and exchange proposed techniques for handling phone calls, email responses and live chats, as well as encourage and motivate each other.
None of these benefits are offered in the virtual staffing model. When a virtual staffer poorly articulates a client’s message, fails to pick up the phone by the third ring or in other ways underperforms, tracking and correcting the problem is more difficult. And few things make a worse impression on customers than hearing a police siren, barking dog or a television in the background when talking with a customer service agent working from home.
Unless, that is, their customer service expectations are very low.
Mark Fichera, CEO
Beverly, Massachusetts (HQ)
Portsmouth, New Hampshire