Ask The Expert Featured Article

August 03, 2012

Ask the Expert: Remote Agents


This article was initially published in the May 2007 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine. Interactive Intelligence would like to say congratulations, and thanks, to TMC (News - Alert) on its 30 years of promoting the contact center industry.

Q: There seems to be a lot of talk about the benefits of using at-home or remote agents as additions to the physical contact center. So, actually, three questions Is the technology available to effectively implement a remote agent strategy? Are companies deploying remote agents successfully? And are the benefits tangible?

A: Remote or work-at-home agents are indeed catching on, for a couple of reasons. First, the industry now has enough experience with remote agents to be able define best practices for such a workforce and to quantify the benefits. Second, with the advancements of voice over IP, the technology is now in place to allow for successful deployments. Let's look at some of the key benefits, to start.

  • Competitive differentiation Employing remote agents is one of the most significant differentiators you can use to gain a competitive advantage in your contact center. You’re also protected against the ebb and flow of the costly labor market, you have a hedge against seasonal variations, and you can provide an alternative for geographic challenges.
  • Business continuity. No one ever hopes that some unexpected event will take their contact center offline. But the reality is that planning for such an event is wise management. With remote agents, the ability to get back up and running quickly is greatly enhanced.
  • Cost savings. Remote agents are less expensive to the organization overall for a number of reasons. Foremost are savings in facility costs – physical office space, equipment, energy, and so on. Remote agents also save travel costs (and time), which contributes to higher agent satisfaction levels and lower turnover rates. And when turnover is reduced, so are training costs.
  • Improved scheduling. Reports show that there is increased flexibility for agent scheduling, since remote agents often find off-hours as a preferable work time. This flexibility eases the management challenges for off-hours scheduling in the contact center, and further lends to the agent satisfaction equation.

What about the technology? Is it in place to reliably deploy at-home agents? Absolutely, although this wasn't the case 10 years ago or even five years ago. Technology has advanced to the point that remote agent deployments are now straightforward, and allow agents to provide superior service from wherever they’re located. Consider:

  • No specialty is hardware required for the remote agent. With VoIP, a remote agent can use a SIP headset or remote connectivity to a home phone, mobile phone, etc. If you select the right technology vendor, there’s also no need to worry about ISDN lines or ACD routing limitations.
  • There is no loss of functionality or features. A Windows PC and any telephone device can extend the same functionality to a remote agent that agents get in the physical contact center. At-home agents can record calls, access the information database, view the presence of other agents, and even receive online coaching from a supervisor.
  • The contact center supervisor still has control. Again with the right vendor and product, contact center supervisors retain the ability to monitor remote agents, regardless of an agent’s location, and including on hook/off hook status. All reporting capabilities still apply, too.
  • Remote agents can handle all media types. Remote doesn’t have to mean limited. Remote agents can handle calls plus e-mails, chats, and generic object routing with no reduction in service.

The fact is, companies are deploying remote agents at an increasing pace. Datamonitor estimates that within the next two years, remote agents will grow to 7.5 percent of the total contact center agent population. (The results of a recent ContactBabel (News - Alert) survey actually show that remote agent usage had climbed to 42 percent in 2011.) The technology is available to support remote agent initiatives successfully, and the benefits are evident.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi


Related Contact Center Solutions Articles

    Survey: Mobile Experience Trumps Brand Loyalty Among Gen Y, Millennials

    Retailers be warned - brand loyalty counts for less and less among younger consumers, who are likely to head to competitors if their mobile experience isn't what they think it should be. [ Read More ]
    10/30/2014

    Xerox Virtual Customer Care Agent Soon to Enter the Market

    Today, many companies are working toward simplifying the workplace so that they can allocate more time and resources to their core business. WDS is one such company dedicated to making it customer's life easier. Recently, the company has introduced an intelligent, virtual customer care agent that can recognize and resolve customer questions in the same way a human agent would. [ Read More ]
    10/29/2014

    Cyara Partners with GlobalNet

    Cyara, a provider of integrated, automated customer communication systems testing software, recently announced that GlobalNet, a company that provides customer experience innovation lifecycle services, has joined the company's Expert Partner Program. As a result, Cyara's contact center testing software has been integrated with GlobalNet's Customer Experience Innovation Lifecycle, expanding Cyara's market in North America. [ Read More ]
    10/29/2014

    The Personalization of Patient Care

    There is little dispute that the healthcare system is not just one of the largest vertical markets for the consumption of modern technology in general but for ICT-related solutions specifically. Whether it is the digitization of medical records, the establishment of healthcare exchanges in the U.S., telemedicine, enhanced communications for first responders, etc. The appetite for ICT is almost insatiatable. [ Read More ]
    10/28/2014

FOLLOW US

Contact Center Solutions Glossary of Terms

Featured eBook

    All Things Customer Interaction Solutions eBOOK
    It has been said that customer interaction centers are the front door to any organization's value chain. This is an accurate description of the transformations taking place in contact centers as a result of enhancements in multichannel communications, speech analytics, IVR capabilities, integrations with unified communications capabilities (UC) and other collaboration tools and applications, and the move to the cloud...

Featured Whitepaper

    Microsoft® Lync® in the Contact Center: Integrating with Customer Interaction Center™ to Provide a Barrier-free Customer Experience To implement contact center functionality, organizations using Microsoft Lync Server 2010 can follow the unified communications blueprint of open standards interoperability and integrate to a contact center solution of their choice. Customer Interaction Center (CIC) from Interactive Intelligence is a proven best of breed contact center solution that merits consideration ...

Featured Success Story

    Contact Center Solutions Featured Success Story
    Interactive Intelligence all-in-one IP communications software suite integrated with Microsoft Lync helps Bentley save $200,000 annually.

Featured Product Demo

    Contact Center Solutions Interaction Analyzer™
    Interaction Analyzer™
    Real-time word and phrase spotting. Alerting. Analytics. Scoring. Coaching. Watch how Interaction Analyzer turns every moment, of every past and present call, into data that lets you deliver an exceptional customer experience.

Featured Resources

Ask the Expert