U.S. companies are at a crossroads when it comes to customer support. The offshore outsourcing of previous decades – a business model that was promised to save loads of money on operations – hasn’t panned out as well as companies hoped. Costs haven’t been as low as promised once travel and management salaries are factored in, and there have been distinct problems with quality. Many customers become indignant when they cannot understand a foreign call center agent’s accent, or at the idea of shipping U.S. jobs offshore during a time of high unemployment.
As a result, many companies have either avoided the offshore outsourcing model, or brought their customer support back to U.S. shores. But the need to cut costs remains. With the gilded shine off foreign contact centers, many companies are turning to the home-based agent model to save on costs.
The idea is simple: thanks to voice over IP and cloud-based contact center solutions, it’s easy to hire agents who work remotely from their own home offices or living rooms, making and taking calls through their browsers on their PC just as they would if they are in the office. The model does have a great deal of potential to save money, since it radically cuts out infrastructure costs (or infrastructure expansion costs), and when agents are hired as independent contractors, there is no need to pay benefits.
Many companies still worry, however, that they will “lose control” over the workforce once the agents are out of view. They worry agents will not be working, or will be making all sorts of errors that go unnoticed until the point where customer relationships are damaged. Luckily, however, technology is on the side of contact centers when it comes to getting the best possible quality out of home-based agents, according to Monet Software CEO Chuck Ciarlo in a recent blog post.
“Helping work-from-home agents achieve acceptable performance standards also becomes much easier with a quality monitoring solution,” writes Ciarlo. “The in-depth analysis and consistent reporting provided by a QM system exposes areas where improvement is needed, and provides accurate measurement on changes that occur as new standards are adopted.”
Scheduling is another area that can be easily maintained for a home agent workforce by a cloud-based solution. Agents working from home log in just as they would from the office, and are monitored in precisely the same way they would be if they were under a manager’s nose. In fact, home-based agents can be a benefit to scheduling: agents who are at home can remain “on call” to fill in as required when the contact center risks going out of adherence, even if it’s only for a small amount of time. This way, there is no need for the contact center to bring in agents for a full shift when the queues get long.
For companies hoping to keep costs down but provide customers with the same high quality service they have come to demand, the home agent model is an increasingly compelling one.