Cloud has become a powerful disruptor – across verticals, technologies and solutions. It is enabling organizations to become agile and helping employees enjoy greater convenience, flexibility and freedom – and it is now set to have a big say in the contact center and outsourcing industry.
Cloud is enabling many small contact center in-house operations and large outsourcers to dive-in and explore ‘homesourcing’. Homesourcing represents an evolution of the traditional contact center - thanks to technology (cloud, virtualisation and mobility) and customer expectations for higher availability and expertise, minus the peripheral costs of real estate and several supporting operating expenses. Just as cloud has transformed the way that companies source or deliver IT services, so too it is changing the contact center into an on-demand model – Agent-as-a-Service, if you will - anywhere, anytime
Homesourcing is growing at a fast pace and becoming a viable option across the outsourcing industry. Home-based customer service agents will number 160,000 by 2017 at a growth rate of 17.5% –- that’s about twice the growth of traditional contact centers. Other forecasts report that 34% of companies are planning investment into homesourced contact center agents – so why is putting your contact center infrastructure into the cloud becoming so popular? How will it transform your customer service operations? Why is it more than just OPEX financial play?
There are five main factors driving cloud contact center adoption and homesourcing.
1. reduced costs
Every organization wants to maximize investment and reduce costs wherever possible, and homesourcing can have a big impact by lowering both CAPEX and OPEX. Using cloud based contact centers by home agents means lower set-up costs since there is less office space to rent and no ongoing utility bills to pay.
OPEX is reduced by having no premises-based operational services to fund. Basically all your agent needs is a PC, a headset and a reliable high speed broadband connection. Previous research has estimated that employing an agent on site in a contact center costs $31 per hour, versus $21 per hour for homesourced agents. That’s a 33% reduction in staff overheads right there – a pretty compelling argument for homesourcing by itself.
2. lower attrition rates
An effective contact center operation means reliable, committed staff, so attrition remains a key business issue. Attrition level in various contact center markets can vary between 20 – 45%, but for agents who are offered home working on a full or part-time basis the rate drops noticeably. 72% of employers say virtual working has a high impact on employee retention – a big boon for contact center operators. CTrip — China’s largest travel agency — in a study indicates that attrition rate of the home workers dropped 50% compared to the office group.
Contact center agents who are trusted by their employers and allowed greater responsibility and flexibility, tend to be more satisfied in their jobs and more motivated as a result. As a knock-on effect, they remain more loyal and are in no rush to leave a job they enjoy for a petty salary increase. This means reduced operating expenses for the employer and a more productive and content workforce.
3. environmental and social impact
Companies have worked long and hard enough to try and reduce their carbon footprint –homesourcing can be a significant contributor to this end. The reduction in commuting alone can be a positive for the environment, as too is the drop in electricity and other utilities required to power a large office building. In addition to the transportation, pollution, haze and unfortunate natural catastrophe can be on our way from home to our work location which will cause disruption to the customer service availability.
Your ability to enable home agents, gives your business broader opportunities in access to highly skilled competencies and talents: mothers, senior people, people with mobility handicaps, and others who would have strong constraints to doing full-time job at the office. It is an opportunity to show that the contact center industry can be more and more socially responsible and contribute to sustainable growth in different societies.
4. increased productivity
Let’s be honest –- happy agents make happy customers. They are more content and comfortable in their jobs, and this leads them to be more motivated and productive. A recent study of 250 contact center staff, at home for nine months, recorded their activities versus their office-based, commuting counterparts – the home-based agents spent 9 per cent more time on calls and handled 4% more calls per minute. The myth of the agent needing to be in the contact center and watched over by a team supervisor to ensure efficiency is dispelled right there.
CTrip saved approx.$2,000 per employee working at home (due to increased productivity, office cost savings, and lower turnover) – as a result, leading them to expand the work-from-home initiative.
5. a more agile company
Having contact center staff based at home and doing their job via the cloud also gives greater agility and flexibility to the company. Agent-as-a-Service means you can handle periods of high calls and enquiries more easily since your on-demand workforce can log-in and work for a few hours at these peak times. Scalability is a key element of the cloud, and being able to scale your virtual customer service workforce up or down as needed is a big benefit to contact center operations. This is great for seasonal business, catastrophe management, promotional events, etc…
So in summary, homesourcing is real and is here to stay. Home-based contact center agents can and should now be seen as a genuine alternative to traditional offshoring model – I can even see it becoming a competitive differentiator for companies that get the implementation right. For the sceptics, I will share with you on how top homesourcing challenges can be dealt with in my next post.
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Haytham is an industry enthusiast specializing in technologies that are capable of transforming customer experience and enhancing operational efficiency. With over 15 years of experience in ICT industry across different continents, he appreciates the diversity in consumer behavior and the impact technologies like IoT, applications, analytics and contact centers are making in shaping businesses globally.