May 05, 2009
A Growth Spurt :Demand Increasing for Home-Based Contact Center Model
By Rob Duncan, Chief Operating Officer
Did you know the Aspen tree is the largest, fully connected organism in the world? Enormous groves of identical trees are connected by a single root system. The Aspen grows by shooting sprouts from the existing roots so that all new trees are connected to the parent tree. The largest known Aspen is in Utah and covers 106 acres.
I find this fact interesting because nature’s way of growing an Aspen tree has many similarities to the scalability of the home-based call center model. For example, in nature, trees are connected by an underground root system. In a call center, home-based employees are joined through a technology network. Another similarity is how the individual units are allowed to grow and thrive on their own while constantly supported by the parent.
The topic of expansion is on my mind this month because Alpine Access recently announced we now have employees in over 1000 different cities. This makes us the most geographically dispersed home-based, employee call center in existence today. But what’s more important, is the implication this milestone has for the industry. From our perspective, the home-based contact center model has finally reached what Malcolm Gladwell calls “The Tipping Point.”
In his book called “The Tipping Point,” Gladwell describes a specific point in time when ideas, trends and behaviors converge to create an explosion with far reaching effect. Although his book focuses on the human behaviors involved in creating a social epidemic, there are undeniable similarities to the surge of interest in the home-based model, which proves we have now hit critical momentum. The three factors Gladwell believes are needed to generate widespread adoption are listed below along with how each has contributed to the adoption of the home-based model.
Gladwell explains that for an idea to really take flight, it must have the support of a few key people who have the power to sway many. In our industry, these influencers are the Fortune 100 companies that have selected a home-based contact center partner to handle their customer service needs. Many of these companies initially tried to off shore their customer service but, due to the poor quality of service delivery, brought it back on-shore.
These companies are spearheading a shift from looking at customer service as an expense to be minimized, to viewing service as a key component in creating sustainable customer loyalty. This customer-centric approach to business places a higher value on customer satisfaction because it less expensive to keep existing customers than attract new ones and word-of-mouth referrals are the lowest-cost, most effective method for growing a successful business.
“Sticky” or Compelling Messages
Having a message that people remember is another critical factor in reaching the tipping point. For the home-based model, this is the easy part. The virtual nature of our business provides advantages that cannot be delivered through a more traditional brick and mortar center. These benefits include:
Access to Talent -With no geographic boundaries, at-home companies can recruit and hire talented employees from anywhere in the country. This allows customer service professionals to be hand-picked based on the specific needs of each client. Not only can employees with hard-to-find qualifications be found, but with a database of over 100,000 prospects, they can be contacted within hours, rather than weeks or months.
Business Continuity -The structure of the home-based model creates hundreds, or in our case thousands, of locations throughout the country. This allows virtual centers to re-route calls to other regions in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis. In fact, the greater geographic diversity an organization has, the greater its ability to seamlessly route calls to unaffected regions of the country. Providing business continuity and peace of mind are important advantages virtual center clients have over competitors using a physical call center.
Operational Efficiency - Successful hiring methods, the latest distance-based training program, efficient management tools and leading technology are just some of the elements that drive down the overall cost of customer care within a virtual environment These processes have been honed over the last twenty years and allow home-based centers to deliver superior service at the lowest possible cost of any on-shore solution.
Proven Results -Talented employees supported by advanced communication tools equals higher quality service. At-home professionals consistently outperform in-house staff, delivering higher conversion rates, larger average order sizes, better one call resolution rates and top customer satisfaction scores.
Context is the environment in which the message is delivered. Gladwell found that reaching the tipping point depends on having the right conditions. Before the economic downturn, companies had invested heavily in establishing physical customer service centers and they were reluctant to look at other solutions despite the potential cost savings. .
Now, however, economic pressures have forced companies to re-examine all areas of their business, including service. Doing things the same old way is no longer acceptable especially when there’s a less expensive solution that doesn’t sacrifice quality. Finally, the doors have been opened to key decision makers who are listening and exploring the compelling benefits of the at-home model. At Alpine Access we’ve even seen an increase in the number of companies asking us to help them establish their own home-based programs.
In conclusion, it’s clear the home-based model has come of age. A recent increase in demand has driven expansion within our company and throughout the market. This is good news for the entire industry for, as JFK once said, “a rising tide floats all boats.” The fact that the home-based call center model delivers the highest quality service at the lowest price can not be ignored. These real business advantages are tilting the scales and, like the roots of the tree, sprouting new converts every day. If you have yet to consider switching to a home-based contact center provider, I’d encourage you to take the time to explore it today.
Rob Duncan is Chief Operating Officer of Alpine Access, Inc. a Denver, Colorado-based provider of call center services using home-based customer service and sales employees. Alpine Access clients include Office Depot, the IRS and a number of Fortune 100 financial institutions. Duncan can be reached at 303-279-0585.
Edited by Jessica Kostek