Co-op Travel creates UK’S largest virtual contact centre


The Co-Op Travel Group’s Future Travel subsidiary has gone live with the SmartNumbers Virtual ContactCentre solution to all its 630 ABTA-certified home-based contact-centre agents – creating the UK’s largest virtual contact-centre.


Co-Op Travel uses the SmartNumbers Virtual Contact Centre to handle incoming calls from customers that are booking new holidays and enquiring about previously booked holidays. Incoming calls are distributed by the SmartNumbers Virtual Contact Centre service to agents working across the UK based upon skills, agent availability, entitlement, and equal distribution of calls. The SmartNumber service scales easily, takes advantage of agents’ existing broadband and telephony connections and enables the Co-Op Contact Centre Manager to quickly add or reduce individual queue capacity as required quickly add or reduce individual queue capacity as required.

Setting up home-based virtual contact centres (often referred to as ‘home-shoring’) is one of the fastest growing trends in the Contact Centre market. Teamphone, the developer of the SmartNumbers service, estimates 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, according to Teamphone, 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.

“We worked very closely with Teamphone on the design and configuration of the Virtual Contact Centre.”, said David Picking, IT General Manager at Co-Op Travel, ” we compensate our agents. It was therefore critical that the call.   These problems 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. Teamphone was able to configure its SmartNumber services to match our precise requirements – and provide us with real-time statistics and queue-management tools for fine-tuning these requirements as needed. Since its service works with existing telephones and required no additional hardware or network infrastructure we went live in a matter of weeks, and at a very low cost per agent.

Peter Healey, Technical Director of Future Travel commented “We reduce 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.”

“Even though we have agents operating across more than 600 separate locations across the UK, I can track in real-time the performance and  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.”

Published On: 13th Apr 2006 - Last modified: 26th Feb 2019
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