Future Travel, a division of the Co-op Travel Group, has upgraded its virtual contact centre to cope with an increase in staff numbers and improve reporting on their performance.
The unit is using a hosted service from Teamphone instead of the proprietary call-handling system it had used for more than two years. The legacy system had limited reporting capabilities and was "near to breaking point", said David Picking, Co-op Travel's IT general manager.
More than 600 home-working staff spread across the UK are now using Teamphone's browser-based Smartnumbers software to take holiday bookings for the direct operation travel agency.
Call-handling statistics are fed via data feeds to the firm's dedicated SQL Server datawarehouse, with queries being run using the Report Building module of Microsoft's Reporting Services 2005 software.
Picking said the Smartnumbers software was being used to report staff performance on a batch basis for senior managers, but sales support managers with direct responsibility for the contact centre were using real-time data to help monitor performance and manage staffing levels to meet peaks in demand.
"Compared with a traditional call centre, we have massively reduced operating costs as we are siteless," said Picking. "We also have better staff attrition rates than in traditional contact centres, where 40% annual agent churn is common."
But Picking said the challenge of running a virtual contact centre was managing training needs and maintaining adequate staff communication.
"We have an intranet site which is the main way for the business to communicate with home workers," he said.
"But it is training that poses the real challenge. Our principal way around the problem is to put training videos on the site for staff to download and replay. We are constantly introducing new packages and updates, so all staff need to be fully briefed to maintain the service."
For staff who encounter technical difficulties with their broadband connection or PC, Picking said there was a dedicated IT helpdesk for remote workers, with IT staff being able to take control of the PCs remotely to deal with the most common problems.