So many business applications are being taken to the cloud these days. You might even wonder if a large call center can be treated that way, and if so, then what some of the pros and cons of such a thing might be.
In at least one way, it is possible to take a large call center to the cloud: You can re-task some of your qualified agents to answer customer questions via SMS text message. This will allow your customers to feel as if they have more control, and can get their answers quickly, rather than being on endless hold, listening to the same looped music.
SMS messaging is actually a preferred mode of communications for many people, simply due to its immediacy, ease-of-use, and convenience. Over 275,000 SMS messages a second are sent worldwide — that's over a billion a minute. It only makes sense, then, for a business to leverage that power to communicate with their customers. By doing so, they will be rewarded with better response rates. Reports show that more than 90 percent of SMS messages are opened, most of them within three minutes of receipt.
Pros of SMS systems:
- Automatic responses can be configured for certain situations or questions
- Text conversations can transition easily to a live agent
- History of an SMS conversation can be viewed, giving an agent context
- One trained agent can handle multiple conversations simultaneously, thereby lowering customer frustration levels and wait times.
Cons of SMS systems:
- SMS messages are prone to delivery failure. Your messages might not get through, thereby angering the customer.
- Space must be allocated in the SMS message for user to opt-out at any time.
- SMS messages are just that — short. 160 characters is all that will send at any one time; anything longer will have to be broken up, which can often be clunky and difficult to read.
Is there Another Way of Taking the Call Center to the Cloud?
Yes, there, is. The savvy business owner doesn't have to invest in a brick and mortar building any more, along with all the overhead associated with it. Nor do they have to limit themselves to hiring the talent available in only that one geographical area, because let's face it — people will travel only so far for a job, no matter how good it is.
Another way of taking your Call Center to the Cloud is by making it virtual — in other words, having a central piece of hardware that can exist anywhere; your geographically dispersed agents (who typically work from home) call into it using their own phones, Web connections, and computers. This central hardware acts as a connection point that routes incoming calls with available remote agents.
So what are some of the benefits of doing business this way?
- Dramatically reduced overhead can be repurposed for other corporate uses
- The Virtual Call Center (VCC) model offers a company a greater pool of talent, across the country or even internationally
- This model also allows a company to build a better skilled team
- Agents who work at home are less prone to stress and frustration, therefore are more satisfied with their jobs. Thus there is usually less turnover in these positions.
- VCCs also offer greater availability and continuity of service. Agents can be hired to break barriers to work that couldn't be broken before, such as language, time zone, or cultural differences.
There are a few cons, however:
- Monitoring, management and evaluation of agent performance can be quite a challenge when staff is scattered across multiple locations, and may not be there at the same time.
- Ongoing training on new products and services, policies, campaigns and promotions, etc., is difficult to provide.
The bottom line is that a business must decide, based on a candid evaluation of its needs, which model of call center is suited best to their way of working.
Michelle Patterson is an avid technology blogger and writes extensively about IP/VoIP and Unified Communication. She works with some leading companies to understand the trends of these modern communication technologies.