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Future Travel Virtual Call Centre

The UK's largest virtual contact centre

We've all heard about the "offshoring" of call centres: outsourcing them overseas, especially to the Indian subcontinent - all made possible by new technologies.

Even newer technologies, however, raise the possibility of "homeshoring" - using home-based call centre agents in the UK as a cost-effective  alternative.

While these virtual call centres cannot compete on labour costs, the reduction in property costs and telephony costs plus the advantage of having first-language English speakers is now making this a competitive option.

Having 630 ABTA-certified home-based operatives makes the Co-operative Travel Group's Future Travel subsidiary the largest virtual contact centre in the UK.  And they are convinced of the benefits.

According to Peter Healey, Technical Director of Future Travel: 

"We've reduced staff churn by offering flexible home working to, for example, new mothers returning to work part-time, or older people looking to reduce their hours but not yet ready to retire. In the travel industry, an effective home working centre means that you keep valuable knowledge and experience within the company. Being able to add or reduce lines to fit peak booking times, such as evenings and weekends, means that we can plan capacity."

Because of these kinds of benefits,  home-based virtual contact centres constitute one of the fastest growing trends in the contact centre market.

Industry experts estimate that by eliminating office-costs and associated administrative overheads, the home-based contact centre operates at around half the operating costs of a traditional site-based contact-centre.

Other benefits include:

  • Home-based contact centres see a considerable reduction in agent churn, usually down to single figures. In a traditional site-based contact centre, agent churn can be as high as 40% per annum
  • Home-based agents enjoy a net benefit equivalent to a 15% increase in salary - as a result of travel-to-work time being eliminated, greater flexibility and associated work-life-balance benefits.
  • Quality of service is improved. Organisations are able to recruit from a much broader pool of available specialists, ensuring they can recruit the highest quality agents and deliver a high quality of service to customers.

How does it work?

Future Travel uses the SmartNumbers Virtual Contact Centre service to handle incoming calls from customers that are booking new holidays and enquiring about previously booked holidays. Incoming calls are distributed by the Virtual Contact Centre service to agents working across the UK based upon skills, agent availability, entitlement, and equal distribution of calls.

The SmartNumbers service scales easily, takes advantage of agents' existing broadband and telephony connections and enables the Future Travel Contact Centre Manager to quickly add or reduce individual queue capacity as required.

According to David Picking, IT General Manager at Co-operative Travel,

"We have some unique business models reflecting both the quality of service goals we provide to our customers, and also how we compensate our agents. It was therefore critical that the call distribution achieved both a high-quality experience for the caller, as well as the optimum distribution of calls to the most appropriate agent.

"These issues were compounded by the fact that inbound calls have to be managed not just across one or two sites, but across more than 600 unique locations."

The solution was implemented by Teamphone, who were able to configure its SmartNumber services to match the precise requirements and provide real-time statistics and queue-management tools for fine-tuning these requirements as needed. Since the service works with existing telephones and requires no additional hardware or network infrastructure it was possible to go live in a matter of weeks, and at a very low cost per agent. It was important that the service worked on existing as well as VoIP and Mobile networks both for business flexibility and business-continuity reasons.

Benefits for call centre management

In addition to full interactive voice response and automatic call distribution  technology the Virtual Contact Centre also provides real-time and detailed statistics of all telephony and messaging interactions with customers.

Call Centre Managers can see on real-time wallboards detailed information on:

  • Service Level Attainment - The quality of service being provided to customers and the performance metrics required by their suppliers
  • Agent Utilisation - The efficiency and effectiveness of the agents working at remote locations. Agents can be switched from queues that are under-utilised to those queues with higher traffic in real-time.
  • Call Resolution - Determining the first-call resolution rate and further statistics on each customer calling in.

"Even though we have agents operating across more than 600 separate locations across the UK, I can track in real-time the performance and effectiveness of each our agents", says Alistair Rowland, Managing Director at Future Travel. "In many ways, this provides me with better information agent utilisation than I would normally get if all the agents were operating in the single location. Here we can configure queues and teams based on hard facts - and not just perception of performance."


Further info

One of the growth areas of the call centre market is the "Virtual Call Centre".  This means having home-based call centre agents, with calls routed to them seamlessly as if they were all working together in the one building.

Here we present a case study of The Co-operative Travel Group's Future Travel agency, the largest implementation of a Virtual Call Centre in the UK - so far, that is.

There's further information about how the home-based call centre works at their Future Travel's recruitment site.

Further information about the technology and the Virtual Contact Centre hosted service is available from Teamphone.





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