At the end of 2019, Coronavirus began to spread worldwide. Within a few weeks, businesses had to rethink their working models and get serious about digital transformation. Overnight, automation became the new business goal. Work From Home (WFH) and Remote Working have become inevitable alternatives to the "working from the office" protocol. The pandemic made the customer service industry more challenging as such businesses had to make dramatic changes to overcome the face-to-face communication barriers caused by the virus.
Customer call centers were heavily impacted by the changes enforced with the virus on the loose. Simultaneously, big and small companies had to adapt to the new business scenarios to deal with an ever-increasing volume of customer calls, as everything had turned digital.
Now, when it's clear that these effects may not subside immediately, working from home is becoming more and more popular. It's expected that over 70% of employees will continue to work from home after the pandemic. That means that today's call centers must carry these new lessons with them into the new norm to make the transition into Virtual Call Centers more smoothly and hassle-free.
Discovering Weak Points
Before COVID-19, call centers functioned in a predictable environment. But even back then, waiting on hold was common. A large volume of calls would come in at once when in reality, call-center agents could only handle a limited number of calls in a given moment. Nevertheless, this experience was widespread among customers and clients. They would either hang up to call later if it wasn't urgent or wait a few more minutes for a response. Even though it's considered a weakness for the call center industry, we got accustomed to it and let it slide.
However, since the first wave of COVID-19 headlines across the globe, each day has brought us unprecedented events, and most of them were shocking for us. Call volumes, along with impatience, anxiety, and callers' persistence, spiked massively, and the call agents had to work even harder to handle all those calls. This threw call centers off their balance into a world of chaos and extensive overload.
And then, at the worst possible moment, almost every weak point of the traditional call center model was exposed, especially when flawless communication just became the critical point that a business required to function correctly. Call centers were unable to immediately respond to callers due to lockdowns and quarantines, in addition to insufficient workforce capacity to handle such large call volumes.
There would often be chaos as contradicting information was shared from different sources. This questioned call centers' reliability to function as a bridge between organizations and the customers like never before. That is how the demand for virtual call centers dramatically increased. And there was a new standard of communication efficiency demanded from call centers to keep up with their customers' needs.
Rise of Virtual Call Centers
Before the pandemic, the call center industry was already adopting remote capabilities, but it was slow. However, COVID-19 fast-tracked this transition at a drastic rate. The outbreak sparked massive digitalization across every industry of modern society. Here are some quick stats.
Gartner revealed that, before the pandemic, nearly 7 out of 10 customer support and service organizations had worked as traditional call centers. At the same time, the remote workers were less than 10% of the employees. But that's already past. It's predicted that 71% of call centers will be remote soon.
Nevertheless, transitioning into virtual call centers was a daunting task. Most businesses never had plans to implement a Work From Home (WFH) culture in their operations to begin with. As call centers across the world were shuttered in merely a few days, businesses had to have their customer support professionals answering calls and managing frustrated customers from their homes.
Many businesses struggled to initiate their pre-COVID work environment without any proper software and hardware for call support. Eventually, companies adopted virtual call centers to emerge from the chaos. Agents were able to answer calls and respond to customer queries from the comfort of their own homes with technologies like VoIP, CRM, Remote Access, and much more.
This helped businesses serve their customers better and manage operations within the organization, sometimes even better than a physical call center. They were able to restructure themselves to be more productive, efficient, and, more importantly, cost-effective by going virtual.
Moving to The Cloud
As work invaded the territory of homes, cloud technology piqued call centers' interests, and the implementation of cloud systems increased dramatically. This is because cloud-based software offered several advantages for virtual call centers amid the new business atmosphere.
The cloud made it easier for call centers to scale businesses as required, manage operations and customize their work models without any expensive and additional hardware. With a reliable and stable internet connection, cloud-based software solutions transitioned a seamless experience for virtual call center representatives without any disruptions.
Moreover, the steady adoption of cloud-based call center software helped businesses eliminate a significant amount of overhead expenses. It decreased employee turnover, among other advantages, to stay ahead of the game.
As workforce levels and call volume kept fluctuating for call centers in this business scenario, the need for automation was at its peak, more than ever. Virtual call centers preferred cloud-based solutions over others due to all their benefits, especially when paired with the much-needed remote work culture. Now, this trend continues to see a substantial increase and will stay highly relevant for the years to come.
The New Normal
The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed all sorts of buttons for business around the world. While we'd like to believe that the world will soon go back to everyday life after a while, this is far from the truth. We won't return to the old world but will move to a new one with a renewed business outlook and goals. The current situation is the new normal nowadays, and we need to accept and move on.
Call centers need to truly embrace their transition to Virtual Call Centers to succeed in this new world. We have to implement new processes and operations and fine-tune ourselves with the latest technologies to accomplish a delicate balance that will set us apart from the competing crowd.
The future of virtual call centers comprises world-class voice bots that will automate large volumes of voice interactions. This will provide a seamless customer experience through a highly-secured voice channel. Additionally, with proactive human representatives who complement a conversational AI, you can offer your customers and clients a spectacular voice-first experience.