Working from home can seem like a dream for some individuals, a mistake for others. For those companies that are implementing telecommuting programs and home-based models, the same thoughts are considered – will it be a good fit for the company? Will it create more cost than it can save? Do we have an employee base that can handle the responsibility?
In the contact center industry, the questions are often the same, yet many obstacles are easily overcome, simply due to the nature of the work. Despite the benefits, the home-based model is not always used in every region. In the U.K., for instance, only a fraction of the contact center use home-based agents as a means to cut costs, motivate staff and improve customer service.
According to ContactBabel, of the United Kingtdom’s 960,000 contact center staff, only a few thousand actually work from home. This statistic is way behind the U.S. where IDC has predicted 330,000 home-based agents are predicted by 2010.
Those contact centers that have implemented a home-based agent model have experienced greater operational efficiency and improved customer service. These benefits are not inherent in the platform as much as they are a result of a strong home-based strategy implemented by the contact centers.
BT is one example of successful home-based agents within a U.K. contact center. The company currently has 15,000 employees working from home, with plans to increase. The company’s strategy is to target over 55s, mothers returning to work, home care providers and the disabled to help with corporate inclusion and CSR agendas.
Contact centers using this strategy can also reduce employee attrition rates from 26 percent per year in the physical contact center to just 10 percent in the virtual center.
Absenteeism is also significantly reduced and the home-based agent platform is considered to be a step in the right direction for taking a more environmentally friendly approach to conducting business.
Mona Sultan of analyst group Datamonitor said that virtualization of the contact centre was the natural next step in the industry's evolution. Sultan noted that in the near future, virtualized contact centers will become the norm and will no longer be distinguished as ‘virtualized.’
The home-based agent platform provides significant opportunities for contact centers throughout the world, although specific strategies and protocols must be in place in order for this approach to be successful. Considering the benefits that this platform provides, it is likely to continue to grow.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for Market Drive News. To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.