Virtual Options

Virtual Options

The term ‘Virtual call centres’ can mean different things to different people.

To some, ‘virtual’ means the seamless linking of any number of geographically disparate call centres whereby incoming calls can be intelligently, and seamlessly directed to the most appropriate agent. Also known as networked call centres,

these solutions were invariably provided by the Tier 1 carriers via their Intelligent Networks (IN) platforms but, more recently, the linking of a number of different sites has been achieved by taking in calls to one, or more, proprietary ACD platforms and re-distributing the calls to other sites using any number of different technologies – but most recently VoIP.

There are a growing number of vendors addressing this market – some supplying a distributed solution via a carrier’s IN platform charging on a pence per minute basis, some selling hardware and software which is located in a selected carrier’s exchange and others providing the more conventional linking of traditional proprietary ACDs. All have their benefits, and all have a different charging method, but these types of networked/virtual call centres can be extremely complex and may not be best suited for the smaller telecoms reseller to become involved with.

To others, virtual call centres are just that – in that they physically do not exist because everybody works remotely, either in small satellite offices or individually from the agent’s own home.

To many, ‘working from home’ in a call centre environment still conjures up visions of people answering calls in their pyjamas or with the baby in one hand and the dog barking in the background! But this could not be further from the truth.

Remote working, whether it be as a call centre agent taking or making calls as a fully integrated member of a much bigger centralised call centre, or simply working more flexibly from home rather that commuting every day to that place we all call ‘work’, is now becoming established as an accepted alternative way of working.

The remote workers’ philosophy is very simple.

“Work is a thing you do, not necessarily a place to go…so in the 21 st Century why continue to drag the workforce to a centralised place of work when, with technology available today, you can take the work to the workforce…no matter where they are located.

So why not think in terms of access to a ‘global workforce’…with everybody seamlessly linked together with voice and data communications… and managed remotely as though they were in one central place of work.

Furthermore, there are so many competent people available for work, who simply cannot go to a place of work yet could be gainfully employed using this technology. The disabled, single parents, young mothers, the mature workers who have to care for ageing parents could all become self sufficient wage earners – referred to by the Government as “social inclusion”.

It is a fact that more and more SMEs, looking to upgrade their technology for the first time following their last big spend for Y2K, are looking to take advantage of new ways of working. Not only by adopting modern, cost effective and fully scaleable technology, but also to reduce their conventional overheads such as office rents, service charges, security, maintenance costs. Equally, employees are becoming more disillusioned with the long commute to work; with the ‘work life balance’ becoming the buzz word in HR departments.

In addition, more and more telecoms dealers are being asked for solutions to deliver this level of functionality. The good news is there are an increasing number of products and services now available. Solutions range from the truly virtual technology comprising of third party software solutions which simply carry a pence-per-minute charge for the use of the service; to solutions such as GemaTech’s, which can be sited in a selected carrier’s exchange to deliver true virtual ACD and/or location independent call routing, to the more conventional ACDs and IP enabled PBXs, with an added capability of distributing calls to employees working from any number of disparate locations.

To quote the old adage, successful salespeople “sell products that customers want to buy – not products that they want to sell them”. Clearly the market is telling us that SMEs want to buy technology that delivers more flexible ways of working. Dealers will ignore this at their peril.

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