The primary differences between a Virtual Assistant and a Call Center Agent encompass aspects of pricing, scope of services, personalization, flexibility, workspace, and training and expertise. However, these are just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond these fundamental distinctions, Virtual Assistants often offer a broader range of services, from administrative tasks to specialized roles like digital marketing or content creation. They are typically self-driven, adaptable professionals who can tailor their services to a client’s specific needs. On the other hand, Call Center Agents are generally specialized in handling high volumes of calls, addressing customer inquiries, and resolving issues in real-time. Their environment is more structured, often requiring them to adhere to strict schedules and protocols.
As businesses evolve in the digital age, understanding these nuances becomes crucial in determining which role aligns best with a company’s objectives and operational demands. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into these differences, providing insights to help you make an informed decision for your business.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant (VA) is a professional who provides a wide range of administrative, technical, or creative services to businesses, entrepreneurs, or individuals from a remote location. Leveraging modern communication and collaboration tools, VAs can work from anywhere in the world, offering flexibility and cost savings to their clients. Their tasks can vary widely based on the needs of the client and can include activities such as email management, calendar scheduling, customer support, data entry, social media management, content creation, and more.
The rise of digital technology and the increasing acceptance of remote work have made virtual assistants a popular and valuable resource for many businesses and professionals seeking efficient and specialized support without the overhead of traditional in-office staff.
What is a Call Center Agent?
A Call Center Agent is an individual who handles incoming or outgoing customer calls for a business. They are often the first point of contact for a company, responsible for addressing customer inquiries, resolving complaints, providing information, or conducting sales and support activities over the phone. Call Center Agents use telephones, computers, and specific software to interact with callers, log information, and sometimes follow a script or set of guidelines to ensure consistent and effective service. They may work in a centralized office, known as a call center, with other agents, or remotely from a home-based setup. Their primary goal is to provide timely and efficient service, ensuring customer satisfaction and maintaining the company’s reputation.
Virtual Assistant vs Call Center Agent: Main Differences
There are so many aspects that differentiate a virtual assistant vs call center agent. However, here we show a list of the most prominent differences between the 2 types of roles.
Scope of Services
Virtual Assistants often have a diverse skill set, allowing them to handle a variety of tasks from administrative duties to specialized roles like digital marketing, content creation, or even bookkeeping. Call Center Agents, on the other hand, are primarily focused on handling customer inquiries, complaints, or support via phone calls.
Training and Expertise
Virtual Assistants might have specialized training in certain areas, making them experts in specific tasks. Call Center Agents undergo training primarily centered around the company’s products, services, and customer handling.
Virtual Assistants can be hired on a project basis, part-time, or full-time, offering flexibility based on business needs. Call Center Agents are typically full-time employees or part of an outsourced team.
Virtual Assistants can often provide a more personalized approach, understanding the nuances of the business they work for. Call Center Agents, due to the volume of calls they handle, might follow a more standardized approach.
Call Center Agents are equipped to handle a high volume of calls daily, while Virtual Assistants might handle fewer calls but engage in more in-depth tasks or projects.
Tools and Technology
Virtual Assistants might use a broader range of tools, from project management software to digital marketing tools. Call Center Agents use specialized software tailored for call handling and customer management.
Relationship with the Business
Virtual Assistants often build a closer relationship with the businesses they serve, understanding their ethos and goals. Call Center Agents might not have as deep a connection, especially if they are part of a large outsourced center.
Virtual Assistants often work on a contractual basis, which can be short-term or long-term, while Call Center Agents are typically employed with a more fixed tenure, either directly by a company or through a third-party agency.
Virtual Assistants are often adept at juggling multiple tasks or roles simultaneously, from administrative tasks to project management. Call Center Agents, due to the nature of their job, focus singularly on handling calls during their shifts.
Since Virtual Assistants can be hired from various parts of the world, they often bring diverse cultural perspectives, which can be an asset for businesses looking to expand or globalize. Call Center Agents might be more region-specific.
Hiring a Virtual Assistant can sometimes be more cost-effective, especially for specific tasks or short-term projects. In contrast, maintaining a call center, even if outsourced, can involve overhead costs, infrastructure, and training expenses.
Virtual Assistants might require a more personalized onboarding process to align with a company’s specific needs. Call Center Agents usually undergo a standardized training regimen.
Feedback and Iteration
With Virtual Assistants, there’s often more room for feedback and iterative improvements in their tasks. Call Center Agents, given the volume of their work, might have less frequent feedback sessions.
Client Relationship Management
Virtual Assistants might have the opportunity to build deeper relationships with clients or stakeholders, given the diverse nature of their tasks. Call Center Agents, while interacting with many clients, might not have the depth of relationship due to the transactional nature of calls.
Virtual Assistants might handle a broader range of data, from emails to project files. Call Center Agents primarily deal with call logs, customer complaints, and feedback.
Virtual Assistants, especially those working freelance, might offer more flexible hours, including off-hours support. Call Center Agents have fixed shifts, although call centers usually operate 24/7.
How Outsourcing to Call Centers Can Impact Your Business
Let’s take a look back at call centers. Like we’ve mentioned, call centers have been a popular option for outsourced work — however, in more ways than one, they’re becoming a less favorable system. After all, call centers tend to neglect some of the core duties of modern-day business interactions.
The Pros of Outsourcing to Call Centers, as a Business
1. You’ll Save Money
Typically, call centers are going to be outsourced to regions with a significantly lower cost of living — India is the most common option when corporations are looking to outsource their centers.
If you’re going to manage a call center, you’ll pay less money when you opt for offshore outsourcing. Alternatively, internal call centers necessitate that you pay for full- or part-time employees — this will almost always be the pricier option. Outsourced call centers allow companies to save on infrastructure, operational, labor, and overhead costs.
2. Call Volume Will Be Easier to Manage
3.When you experience periods with high call volumes, it’s useful to have an outsourced team to help you out. This way, overflow calls can be more easily answered — this is just one way to begin improving business-customer relations, if that’s a concern for your company. Your internal workers are going to be placed under considerably less pressure, as well — all these phone calls will be taken out of their hands, so that they can concentrate on other duties.
It isn’t unheard of for businesses to experience an unexpected surge in calls, which their current staff might be unable to handle. For instance, maybe you’ve just released a new product or service, and word has spread quicker than you’d anticipated. Missing calls from potential customers can be detrimental since these individuals likely don’t have any existing loyalties to your business. If they can’t get through to you, the potential client might simply give up. In this case, a call center could handle the overflow.
3. You Can Focus Less on Staffing Hassles
With an internal call center comes the need to address all the typical hassles of hiring. You’ll need to handle the hiring process, as well as training, managing, and scheduling.
On the other hand, the external provider you work with will likely take care of all these responsibilities, if you choose to outsource your center.
The Cons of Outsourcing to Call Centers, as a Business
Although benefits do exist, outsourced call centers come with their fair share of flaws. Here are just a few key examples.
1. Limited Company Knowledge
Every company has its own unique culture, as well as values and practices. If your call center is run by individuals within the company, they’re going to be deeply familiar with this culture, and all that it entails — after all, they’re a part of it.
Outsourced agents, however, aren’t going to have this strong connection to your company. When an outsourced call center worker lacks dedication, there’s a fair chance that the customer service they provide will be lacking. Their service might not match the standards set by your company, and it could be an inaccurate representation of the company culture.
2. The Agent Isn’t Focused on Your Business
Issues of divided attention are also common when it comes to offshore call centers. Agents might be responsible for the calls of several clients — not just your own. This can lead call center workers to put less of their attention and effort toward your business’s inbound and outbound calls.
3. You’re Sacrificing Control Over Core Business Functions
By handing over call center operations to someone else, you’re sacrificing much of the responsibility for how the center functions. Some companies may see this is as a benefit — less work for them.
Still, there’s a lot of trust that must be involved for this process to run smoothly. For instance, you could be losing the ability to keep tabs on quality assurance, or the ability to create policies that promote customer satisfaction.
Currently, it could be the case that the call center workers are answering the phone in a way that feels uninviting to callers. If the call center was internal, it would be far simpler for you to directly receive customer complaints, so that adjustments could be made. However, if the call center has been outsourced, these issues are more likely to go unresolved.
4. Cultural or Linguistic Barriers Are Likely
Seeing as many outsourced call centers are offshore, it can result in cultural and linguistic barriers, between the workers and your customers. If the call center agents lack key cultural knowledge, or if they’re not fluent in English, this can make it more difficult for them to clearly communicate with customers.
How Outsourcing to Call Centers Impacts Employees
Businesses aren’t the only ones impacted by outsourcing call centers. Whenever an employer decides to take this leap, they should first consider how their own employees will be affected.
The Pros of Outsourcing to Call Centers, for Employees
1. Improved Scalability
Sometimes, high call volume is an issue your center will be faced with. These instances could be triggered by a number of factors, including (but not limited to):
- Bad weather
- Special promotions
This can put a fair deal of stress on internal workers, and it can be difficult for you to bring in more individuals. However, an outsourced call center can allow you to take some pressure off your employees’ shoulders. If the number of seats needs to be adjusted (due to high volume), your contractor will likely be able to do this.
2. Less of a Burden on HR and Management
Outsourcing your call center can also take some stress away from those in HR and management positions — they won’t need to handle the staffing concerns that come as a result of an internal center.
The Cons of Outsourcing to Call Centers, for Employees
Unfortunately, it’s possible (if not likely) that outsourcing a call center will cut down on internal jobs. With lower costs, it can be tempting for companies to rely entirely on offshore agents, rather than internal employees.
The Effect of Outsourcing to Virtual Assistants
(on Your Business)
Deciding to outsource a call center is definitely a different experience, compared to bringing in a virtual assistant. Sure, both of these are methods of outsourcing work — in practice, however, the impact on your business (both positive and negative) is going to vary.
The Pros of Outsourcing to Virtual Assistants (as a Business)
Often, the decision to work with a virtual assistant is going to have a highly positive impact on your company — here are just a few reasons why.
1. Unbeatable Productivity
This is actually a primary incentive for many businesses that decide to hire a virtual assistant — it’s a fantastic way to improve productivity by a large margin. Routine tasks can be tackled by your VA, taking mundane duties out of your own hands. Instead, you’ll have more time to focus on the overall objectives and goals of your business — the tasks that only you know how to perform.
Jobs such as speaking with clients and scheduling appointments, on the other hand, can just as easily be handled by a VA. Actually, a VA will likely be able to complete these duties with greater efficiency and ease — this is where their experience lies. You also won’t need to worry about training your virtual assistant, as this will already be taken care of by the VA agency, prior to the assistant joining your team.
2. VAs Are Highly Trained Professionals
In a similar vein, keep in mind that virtual assistants aren’t just anyone — they’re professionals with extensive experience and training. With a VA, you can remain confident that the tasks you assign will be performed exceptionally well.
3. Experience Flexible Services
Virtual assistant services are also highly flexible. Your VA is working from their own home, and you’ll be able to get in touch with them at almost any time. You and your VA can work together and determine which hours of the day are most convenient for both of you. Then, work hours can take place whenever you and your VA have time. This is far less rigid of a schedule than if you were dealing with a full-time, in-person employee.
If you have unconventional hours, for instance, this could be especially beneficial. Maybe you have a busy family life during the day and need to take care of your business in the evening or night. Due to the flexibility of a VA, you can seek out someone able to accommodate this schedule. That way, you can quickly and easily get in touch with your assistant as soon as you need them.
4. It Costs Less Than Hiring Full-Time Employees
Hiring full-time employees is expensive — that’s no secret if you’re a business owner. You’ll need to pay their salary, benefits package, training, and more. With a virtual assistant, you’ll have considerably fewer expenses to cover, in order to receive top-notch work.
The Cons of Outsourcing to Virtual Assistants (as a Business)
Naturally, virtual assistantships aren’t perfect. So, here are a few variables to keep in mind, before hiring your own VA.
1. Less In-Person Communication, If Any
Some employers might be bothered by the lack of in-person communication, when it comes to hiring and working with a VA. While some companies are comfortable staying in touch through remote methods, others might be prone to miscommunication. Whenever miscommunication does occur, of course, the efficiency and accuracy of your VA’s work are going to suffer.
Technical issues can also be more difficult to troubleshoot, if you’re managing a fully remote worker, such as a virtual assistant.
2. Cultural Considerations
While hiring a nearshore VA can eliminate most of this issue, there’s still a risk of cultural or linguistic barriers. To be fair, this can even be a problem with domestic outsourcing — if someone’s in a different region of the country, there’s a chance that cultural or linguistic norms are going to vary. This could result in miscommunication.
The Effect of Outsourcing to Virtual Assistants (on Employees)
Your full-time employees will also feel the effects of you bringing a VA onto the team. But how are they actually impacted? Can hiring a virtual assistant truly help out your internal employees?
The Pros of Outsourcing to Virtual Assistants (as an Employee)
1. Lower Stress Levels
With fewer responsibilities comes lower levels of stress for your full-time workers. They won’t need to devote so much time to routine tasks, which can quickly pile up and become overwhelming.
2. Less Time Spent on Administrative Tasks
Along those same lines, virtual assistants can remove the need for your current employees to tackle administrative tasks, on top of their other work. It isn’t uncommon for admin responsibilities to expand as your business grows, leaving you with more than your workforce can reasonably handle.
The Cons of Outsourcing to Virtual Assistants (as an Employee)
1. Language or Cultural Barriers Between VAs and Employees
Again, make sure to consider the possibility of language or cultural barriers — not just between you and the VA, but also between the VA and your other workers. Collaboration is going to be considerably more strenuous and prone to miscommunication, whenever these barriers come into play.
2. Lack of Supervision
In a sense, the lack of supervision over your virtual assistant could be seen as a downside. Nonetheless, remember that VAs are typically highly trained professionals — not just anyone can go on to become a VA, without the proper qualifications and experience. Even without constant supervision, there’s a strong chance that your virtual assistant will be able to perform their duties with relative ease.
3 Types of Outsourced Work
Of course, outsourcing is a broad descriptor of this type of work. There isn’t just one form of outsourcing — instead, businesses can choose from several prominent forms of outsourced work.
1. Local Outsourcing
When a company locally outsources duties, they’re working with individuals in the same region. Still, these workers aren’t full-time employees, and they typically aren’t obligated to make an in-person appearance.
Whenever work is domestically or locally outsourced, companies can expect to see a few particular benefits. For instance, this way, it’s far more likely that your outsourced team will reside in the same (or a similar) time zone, as well as speak the same language. This can make the communications process far more straightforward, compared to if there was a language barrier or a significant difference in time zone.
For instance, maybe your company provides an outsourced worker (non-local) with simple outlines or instructions before leaving a particular task in their own hands. Then, you step back and allow the worker to tackle the project without intervention. This is easy to do since it’s more difficult to moderate an employee who isn’t physically available.
However, a language barrier can complicate these situations. Even if the worker you’ve hired is competent and an independent worker, it’s far easier to misinterpret instructions if a language barrier is in the way. In the end, the need for revision can slow down the process of completing a project or assignment. With local outsourcing, it’s simple to avoid these kinds of communication issues.
If any issues come up, and your company would like to bring a locally outsourced worker into the office, this is a viable option. It often isn’t necessary, of course — but many companies find it reassuring, knowing that this is on the table.
2. Offshore Outsourcing
Like the name would imply, when companies engage in offshore outsourcing, they’re working with individuals overseas. Typically, this involves bringing in workers from Asian nations, such as India.
When some business owners see the cost of offshore outsourcing, it can quickly seem like a tempting option. More often than not, offshore outsourcing is going to be the cheapest option available, if you’re looking to outsource work.
Nonetheless, before you jump straight into offshore outsourcing, it’s important to take the stipulations into account. When your new team is so far away, it’s much easier for communication issues to come into play. Maybe you give your outsourced workers a project to work on, as well as clear guidelines and expectations — or, at least, what you believe are clear guidelines and expectations. Then, once you receive the finished project, you’re surprised to find that it isn’t what you were looking for — not at all.
When it comes to the world of outsourced work, communication is one of the barest necessities. If this communication is at all strained, the entire relationship is bound to collapse. Not only will you face language and cultural barriers with offshore outsourcing, but the sheer size of the distance is also only going to make the situation worse. If there’s an emergency, and you need to work with your outsourced team, an in-person meeting is rarely an option. Traveling overseas is anything but quick and easy — it’s also expensive, and not every company can handle those kinds of travel costs.
3. Nearshore Professional Outsourcing
If you’re seeking out the middle ground between local and offshore outsourcing, nearshore is generally the way to go. Rather than bringing in workers from faraway regions, nearshore outsourcing allows companies to keep things just a bit closer to home — without actually being at home.
For example, outsourcing work to certain European countries would be considered nearshore outsourcing, if you’re an American company.
Or, you could welcome Latin American workers onto your team — this is another popular form of nearshore professional outsourcing. That’s where Virtual Latinos comes into play. Whenever you work with one of our highly qualified Latin American VAs, you can expect the following perks:
- Virtual assistants who have undergone digital marketing certification and training, through U.S.-based courses
- The chance to work with a VA who is in either the same or a similar time zone
- The knowledge that your Latin American VA is a college graduate
- Lower costs than if you hired a domestic virtual assistant
- No more language barrier — our VAs are tested in English and are fully bilingual
- The option to choose between either direct or assisted hiring
- A wide selection of VAs with strong marketing prowess and experience, hand-picked by us
Outsourcing Solutions Come in Different Forms
Not only can the proximity of your outsourced team vary, depending upon the needs and preference of your business — it’s also possible to choose between several forms of outsourcing solutions.
1. Call Centers or Contact Centers
While call centers and contact centers aren’t exactly the same, they’re similar modes of outsourcing.
A call center is exactly what it sounds like: a department tasked with handling inbound and outbound customer or client calls. It’s certainly not unheard of for companies (especially larger corporations) to outsource their call centers. Often, these centers can be found in India, which is a top pick for large-scale, offshore outsourcing.
Traditionally, the individuals you find in a call center are customer service professionals, focused primarily on answering customer inquiries. Still, this isn’t the only kind of call a representative may be faced with. Call center representatives can also handle debt collection, telemarketing, billing, and more — it all depends upon the needs of your business.
While it is possible for call centers to exist internally, it’s often the case that they’re outsourced.
A contact center, on the other hand, has some similarities to call centers — just with some added advantages. Much like a call center, a contact center is tasked with managing both inbound and outbound interactions between customers and your company.
However, contact center workers aren’t limited to phone calls alone. Instead, these centers take advantage of the many modes of digital communication, now available to the wider public. Contact center workers might use channels such as apps, messaging, email, texting, social media, and other forms of online interaction. Of course, they’ll also handle phone calls.
Like a call center, a contact center can be an internal fixture of a business — still, this often isn’t the case. It’s common for contact centers to be outsourced as well.
2. Virtual Assistant Companies
So, we’ve already drawn attention to virtual assistantship — but what does it entail, exactly? What sets virtual assistant companies, such as Virtual Latinos, apart from other outsourcing solutions?
Generally, VAs will assist businesses with routine tasks — duties that are important to a functioning company but can be tedious and time-consuming to perform. Depending on the type of business and its current needs, virtual assistants might handle business development, administrative tasks, marketing, social media management, and more.
The tasks virtual assistants can handle are vast. Maybe you’ve learned that scheduling and coordinating appointments is the bane of your existence — and not only that, but due to your lack of experience or efficiency, these calls end up consuming several hours of work, each and every week. This could all be remedied simply by hiring a virtual assistant, who can handle these phone calls with experience and ease. Just like that, you’ve freed up several hours of your time to focus on other areas of growing your business.
By working with a virtual assistant, it’s easier than ever for your business to focus on what matters most: Providing services or products to your clients. Whenever you’re bogged down by monotonous tasks (such as administrative work or keeping your social media up to date), it’s too easy to lose sight of your strategic goals. Instead, you’re devoting most of your time to these background details, rather than focusing on the actual core of your business. Virtual assistants make it far easier to grow your company, much more quickly.
In fact, it’s even possible for your virtual assistant to directly aid you in growing your business. For example, your assistant might utilize LinkedIn to help you research potential leads. This is especially useful if you’re the owner of a B2B company and need to keep a list of prospective clients. Then, if you’re looking to enhance your proposals, your VA can take care of designing clean, effective presentations.
Small businesses, especially, can benefit from working with a virtual assistant. At this stage, your biggest goal is likely to grow and expand your company — this growth is going to be far more sluggish if you’re distracted by routine tasks. Plus, your small business might not have the funds to hire full-time employees or provide training and a physical workspace. Hiring a VA solves this issue, as it is far less costly than bringing in full-time employees — and although you’re saving money, it’s still possible to receive professional work of the highest caliber. It’s a win-win.
3. Project-Based Outsourcing
Project-based outsourcing has also been steadily gaining popularity, thanks to the internet. Maybe you’ve heard of sites like Fivver and Upwork — both of these services fall into the “project-based outsourcing” category.
When a worker is brought on to tackle project-based outsourcing, they’ll generally only be responsible for a single project. Once this project has been completed, they’ve finished their duties. While virtual assistants manage routine tasks over extended periods of time, the writer you just hired on Fivver will provide you with the specific copy you asked for — generally for a one-time payment.
Sites like Fivver have a variety of other uses, however. If you’re in the process of designing your new company logo, but lack sufficient experience in graphic design, it’s easy to hop on over to a project-based outsourcing service. This is especially useful when you lack someone on your team who has the necessary skill set, but you need the task performed, urgently.
Or, maybe you’re hoping to create a short video to help showcase your company and its services. This is another type of instance where you might turn to a project-based outsourcing service. All you need to do is find a video editor with experience in creating advertisements and other professional videos.
Keep in mind that, rather than handling duties that might be part of a larger project, project-based outsourcing gives workers responsibility for the entire project. From start to finish, the outsourced worker will take care of the project at hand — rather than honing in on specific components or details.
4. Contract Vs. Full-Time Outsourcing
Finally, it’s possible for outsourced workers to work with your company on a full-time basis, or to take the role of contract employees. Sometimes, outsourced workers will be hired based on a project-based contract — much like we described above, with project-based outsourcing.
Still, it’s also possible for workers to become full team members, taking on a long-term role within the company structure. This is often the case for virtual assistants, for instance.
Contract-to-hire is another option, in which the outsourced worker starts out as a contractor, before becoming a full-time team member, later down the road.
Determining the Best Outsourcing Solution for Your Business
So, maybe you’re interested in outsourcing work, but you aren’t sure which road to take. Taking all the information we’ve provided into account, make sure to reflect on the following factors:
- The needs and objectives of your company
- The current stage of your business, in its journey toward growth
- Whether you’d like to prioritize quality services or put more importance on saving money
Why Latin American VAs Are the Best Option for U.S. Companies
Have you decided that a virtual assistant is the outsourcing solution for you? Even then, you’re going to be left with more than a few options. Seeing as it’s a fully remote position, you have the freedom to hire from anywhere in the world. Unsure where to start? Consider getting in touch with a Latin American VA, such as the highly qualified professionals at Virtual Latinos.
An important factor is the cultural compatibility between Latin America and the United States. Certainly, it’s a far narrower rift than with locations that are much further away — for instance, the United States and India. These cultural similarities can work to your company’s advantage, as it will generally be easier to stay on the same page and communicate effectively with your VA. With fewer bouts of miscommunication, comes fewer lags in workflow.
Hire a Virtual Assistant Through Virtual Latinos Today
Virtual Latinos is proud to provide our clients with the most skilled and highly qualified virtual professionals available. Our VAs are from all over Latin America, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Cuba, and many others.
Getting in touch with us is easy — all you need to do is fill out the contact form on the Virtual Latinos site, and we’ll make sure to get back to you.