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Call Center On Demand: Understanding Promises and Pitfalls of At Home Agents

August 28, 2008

By Susan J. Campbell,
TMCnet Contributing Editor

The controversy over moving call center jobs to offshore locations has died down somewhat. Some of the acceptance among the consumer base is the realization that they either had to live with it or move on to another provider.

In other cases, the offending company discovered that the grass wasn’t greener on the other side of the world and decided to move operations back home. While some reverted back to traditional call center environments, others turned to a whole new platform: home-based agents, or the on-demand call center.

At present, there are only 100,000 home-based agents working in the U.S. This number is really just considered a starting point as this model is gaining attention in the call center world and growth is expected to explode.

In fact, industry assessment reports predict that by 2010, home-based agents will triple and by 2016, 10 percent of all call centers will be using home-based agents in some capacity.

There are a number of benefits that a home-based agent model can provide, yet many organizations are not yet ready to make the move to this platform. Right now, home-based agents account for less than 10 percent of the workforce. This gives strong indication that companies may be using this platform as a pilot program as a means to retain or attract key talent.

The at-home agent model has proven to increase productivity. According to the latest Five9 research, at-home agents proved to be either as productive as their on-site counterparts in 37 percent of companies, or more so as in 28 percent of companies. For those that were more productive, the gains were as much as 20 percent.

Call Center On Demand solutions also include at-home agents that have proven to be more likely to remain in their jobs. Five9 research revealed that 40 percent of home agents were less likely to leave a company than on-site agents. For many companies who have already implemented a home-based model, it provides a tool for retaining top talent irrespective of location.

Despite the benefits that the on-demand call center, there are still some organizations that have been leery to make the move toward implementation. Key reasons for this include personnel management issues, productivity concerns and technology constraints.

Some companies also worried that they would lose the ability to maintain a quality experience for their customers if they were to implement a home-based model. There was also concern for background noise, such as dogs barking or babies crying. Executives also cited the challenge of maintaining the quality of the work environment for the employee.

This research reveals that while the benefits of the home-based model are measurable, it is not a guarantee that it is right for every company, every environment or every customer base. Each company has to evaluate the pros and cons of such a platform before making a move toward implementation.
 
Click here to examine Five9’s research to get a more in-depth picture of the current market.
 
For more, be sure to also check out the Call Center On Demand channel on TMCnet.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi