August 17, 2009
Understanding the Widespread Adoption of Home-Based Customer Care
By Rob Duncan, Chief Operating Officer
Jim had a call center but could never find enough people to staff it. So, he followed the traditional solution and put up another call center in a different location. That too eventually tapped out the market so that no more qualified employees could be found. Over and over again, this happened. Frustrated and financially strapped, he took a step back and asked the question “Why does it have to be done this way?” He wondered, “Why does a person need to leave their own desk, computer and phone, just to come here and use my desk, computer and phone?” Thus the home-based call center model was born.
The invention of the at-home model came about by having a problem, spinning it around and looking at it from the sides, the top and the bottom. This model was created because one person was able to break away from a solution created by someone else and embrace the notion that just because something was done a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s the right way.
In his book, Freakonomics, Steven Levitt applies this same philosophy to reveal how everyday life really works. By looking at the hidden economic drivers behind what people have accepted as societal norms, he uncovers intriguing correlations that force us to re-evaluate conventional thoughts and solutions. To do this, Levitt relies on data. He approaches each scenario with the intent of looking at it from a new perspective and begins by asking the unasked question – “why.”
Applying Levitt’s methodology to the birth and subsequent adoption of the virtual call center helps shed light on why major Fortune 500 companies have now fully embraced the at-home model. Of course it didn’t happen overnight. At first, convincing companies that effective customer service could be handled by people working from home wasn’t easy. It also wasn’t easy creating a remote workforce, developing a sense of teamwork in a remote environment and figuring out how to best use technology to provide secure access to information. But just like Levitt’s book reveals, the data speaks for itself. The at-home model provides the highest quality service at the lowest possible cost. The compelling economics of the virtual contact center have turned the industry upside down and propelled this solution into mainstream corporate America.
Highest Quality Service
Simply put, higher quality Customer Care Professionals provide higher quality service. Home-based call centers employ the top 2 to 3 percent of CCPs in the nation. They are able to recruit and hire these top performers because the virtual nature of the model eliminates all geographical hiring boundaries. This allows at-home contact centers to hand-pick their staff members from a massive pool of applicants. Even better, the ability to work from home is such a desirable situation it attracts only the best of the best.
From an economic perspective, home-based CCPs consistently outperform in-house staff to receive the highest scores in customer satisfaction measurements such as:
In conjunction with higher quality service, the at-home model streamlines operations and eliminates many of the fixed costs associated with maintaining a physical environment. While some of the cost-savings are obvious, such as building leases and maintenance, cost reductions can also be found through scalable operational processes and systems. Consider these data point comparisons between brick and mortar centers (B&M) and the virtual model:
Add it all up, and a virtual contact center can save a 100 seat B&M operation approximately $2.8 million to $3.8 million annually.
With the combination of high quality service and low cost, it’s apparent why this customer care solution has reached wide-spread adoption. Not only that, but with the revealing economic data it’s hard to understand why some companies are still hanging on to the old school way of helping customers.
Just as Levitt encourages people to question conventional wisdom and seek out data that illuminate new ideas, I challenge businesses to revaluate how their customer service is currently handled. If you haven’t looked at virtual contact centers, it’s time to examine the data. The at-home model is now the solution of choice for conservatives who base their decisions on hard evidence and demand proof of performance. And to think that it all started when one man wondered why. Now it’s your turn. Why aren’t you benefiting from a more efficient, more effective customer care solution?
Rob Duncan is Chief Operating Officer of Alpine Access, Inc. a Denver-based provider of call center services using home-based customer service and sales employees. Alpine Access clients include numerous Fortune 100 companies in a wide variety of industries.
Follow ITEXPO (News - Alert) on Twitter: twitter.com/itexpo
Rob Duncan is COO of Alpine Access, Inc., a Golden, Colorado-based provider of contact center services using exclusively home-based customer service and sales employees.Duncan can be reached at 303-279-0585.
Edited by Erin Harrison