I recently caught up with Rick Bloom, CEO, Support.com to talk about what it takes to run a virtual call center and the further impact of Coronavirus has on work from home. Part 2. (Part 1 here)
Maureen Jenson: So tell our readers Rick, what does it take to run a virtual call center?
Rick Bloom: Setting up and running a virtual call center requires transforming operations – including recruiting and training, managing teams and productivity, establishing system requirements and security protocols, and developing the appropriate business processes and policies, and even adapting the company culture.
Setting the right expectations for employees is critical. A telecommuting policy must specifically state compliance expectations, including equipment standards and the internal IT processes to validate, as well as timekeeping and response expectations (e.g. chats and phone calls). It must specify confidentiality requirements, such as the expectations of privacy and a closed-door environment and should include the ability for managers to remotely review an employee’s office set up regularly and without notice.
Managing a remote workforce requires technology and digital systems to ensure security and replace in-person management practices like “walking the floor.” Tools such as a virtual meeting platform, chat rooms and internal social media platforms are important to ensure collaboration and relationship building, and to foster a sense of community. Changes to internal processes such as recruiting, training and coaching need to be modified for success, including spending more time and resources on pre-interview screening for personality and behavior traits that excel in a WFH environment, and “virtualizing” training.
MJ: Do you think that the Coronavirus will impact what the future of support and call centers look like?
RB: Not only has the Coronavirus pandemic required call centers to change the way they operate, but it has brought to light the need to strengthen business continuity plans in the event of future forced closures due to health crises, weather, or other events impacting brick-and-mortar facilities. We’ll see that more companies will opt for a remote support model for at least a portion of their needs.
Those that embrace the change in-house will be faced with the complex challenges of setting up and managing a virtual call center. Such challenges include the need to transform every aspect of your operations, enhance and secure technology platforms, modify management techniques, and work to preserve the company culture. Being a work-from-home business requires more than just moving employees from a physical office to their homes. It takes rethinking and reworking everything about the way the business operates.
Others will simply outsource to industry leaders (like Support.com) who provide end-to-end, custom, full-service virtual call center programs. Such programs can often be stood up in as little as a few weeks, causing minimal disruption to customer support levels and operational processes.