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A virtual call center can be contrasted to a bricks and mortar call center. Instead of having a physical location where all employees gather to answer calls, the virtual call center tends to employ people working from home or in very small offices to take incoming calls. This model saves companies money because they do not pay for housing the call center, and it has other advantages and features that interest many employers.
Employees who work from home for a virtual call center tend to have at minimum a phone, a computer, and Internet access. Special software may be used so that the employee has access to company databases that will help them research customer information, take orders, or answer questions. Some companies establish their own call centers, while others use what are called hosted centers.
These centers are operated by third party businesses and have their own technology and software at a central location. Use of this technology is rented to companies that want employees to work from home, but don’t want to spend a lot of money on hardware and software to make this possible. Instead, employees access this third party technology via the Internet. There can be advantages and disadvantages to using a hosted virtual call center.
Some companies even skip employing virtual call center representatives and allow hosting companies to provide the representatives who are usually trained in taking calls specific to that company. Others businesses prefer to hire their own employees because this can give them better quality control. It allows the company to offer unique training that will make their employees best prepared to take calls.
A business may be concerned that a virtual call center will mean employees at home are less productive. Actually, studies show the opposite is true. Full-time employees working at home for virtual call centers tend to be more productive, and have a much lower rate of absenteeism than do workers at bricks and mortar call centers. Rate of employee turnover also appears to be much lower.
The virtual call center is often contrasted to physical call centers operating outside of the country in which the business is located. Though outsourcing can be less expensive, it has increasingly come under criticism because of communication misunderstandings between people who speak different languages. Many companies still do use outsourcing to staff call centers, but more of them are switching to local virtual centers to increase customer satisfaction. There is some indication that the model may ultimately replace outsourced call center locations.