Homework pays off

Many contact centers have evolved significantly over the past decade, driven in large part by improvements in residential broadband and the migration of specialist contact center software to the cloud. This has allowed more and more contact centers to use virtual agents. The ‘home agents’ model has experienced rapid growth, increasing at a CAGR of 17.5 per cent, with home-based customer service agents forecast to be around 160,000 by the end of 2017 - double the number in 2014. Further research predicts that 34 per cent of companies are planning to invest in home-based contact center agents, while around 50 per cent of US workers are now in jobs which are at least party compatible with teleworking. Thanks to mobile technology and the digital transformation of the enterprise, it is an area that has continued to change dramatically.

What are the benefits of home agents?

The home agent model is a natural fit with cloud and mobility and the business drivers for both of those technologies.

  1. Cost reduction. Contact centers always need to reduce OPEX, and home agents can help that. Home-based agents mean lower set-up costs, no office space to rent, lower administrative need and cost and fewer bills to pay for the enterprise. Not needing a premises-based operation can be a big incentive to companies. This has been summarized as home agents costing companies $11 less per hour.
  2. Greater productivity. Happy and satisfied workers mean happier customers. Home-based agents have been shown to be 25 per cent more productive and spend 9 per cent longer on calls and handle 4 per cent more calls per minute than office-based staff.
  3. Lower attrition. If you have good staff, you want to keep them. Home-based agents have a much more attractive attrition rate, with 72 per cent of employers saying virtual working has a high impact on employee retention.
  4. Wider recruitment footprint. By utilizing home agents, companies are not limited to the labor force in the vicinity of their contact center itself. With more talent to choose from over a wider distributed area, a higher percentage of quality staff can be targeted.
  5. Geography and time zones. Cloud-enabled contact center solutions can also bridge time zone and geographical barriers. With home agents scattered across regions and time zones, companies can provide an array of ways for customers to get in touch regardless of where or when they are.

How can technology transform home agents still further?

Indeed cloud offers further benefits to the home contact center agent model. Research has revealed that contact centers that offer cloud or hybrid options will have the edge over competitors. Empowering your agents and embracing mobility, cloud and SaaS can help companies get and keep competitive advantage over rivals.

On the perennial issue of security, today’s security technologies offer greater reassurance than ever. A fully secured virtual private network (VPN) can help ensure sensitive customer or corporate data remains safe while also giving remote agents the flexibility you and they want.

Further disruption to come?

Another area where more disruption could occur, and which could tally with the home agent model, is the Uber-style model of ‘surge payments’. The theory is contact center agents who volunteer to work during times of highest call volumes are paid more, and it seems like a good fit with the home agent model. A major challenge for contact centers has always been ensuring enough agents are available at times of high traffic, and having scores of casual employees at home ready to pick up the load could be a smart way forward.

Customer experience remains key

Today’s consumers expect fantastic customer service, and 83 per cent of companies recognize customer experience as a competitive differentiator. In the UK around 50 per cent of consumers said poor customer experience would see them take their business to a competitor, while in the US the figure is 44 per cent. Smart planning ahead and embracing of new technologies can help companies implement home-based contact center agent models that keep customer service ahead of the game.

To read more about how Orange solutions can help companies focus on and deliver the ultimate customer experience, please click here: http://www.orange-business.com/en/customer-experience

Steve Harris

I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.