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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
April 2007 - Volume 25 / Number 11
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With Tim Passios, Director of Product Management
Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert)


Q:There seems to be a lot of talk about the benefits of using at-home or remote agents as additions to the physical contact center. Are those benefits tangible? Is the technology available to effectively implement a remote agent strategy? Are companies deploying remote agents successfully?

A: Remote or work-at-home agents are really catching on. There are a couple of reasons driving this. First, the industry now has enough experience with remote agents to be able to both quantify the benefits and to define best practices for remote agent use. Second, with the advancements of voice over IP, the technology is now in place to allow for successful deployments.

Let's start by looking at some of the key benefits.

• Competitive differentiation. Employing remote agents is one of the most significant differentiators you can use to grasp a competitive advantage in your contact center. You are also protected against the ebb and flow of the costly labor market, you have a hedge against seasonal variations and you can provide an alternative for geographic challenges.

• Business continuity. No one ever hopes that some unexpected event will take their contact center offline. But the reality is that planning for such an event is wise management. With remote agents, the ability to get back up and running quickly is greatly enhanced.

• Cost savings. Facts are indisputable that remote agents are less expensive to the organization overall. There are savings in facility costs, and with the lower turnover rates, training costs are also reduced.

• Improved scheduling. Reports show that there is increased flexibility for agent scheduling when you employ remote agents. At-home agents often find off-hours as a preferable work time. This flexibility will in turn ease the management challenges of the contact center.

How about the technology? Is it in place to allow successful deployments? Absolutely. This wasn't necessarily true 10 or, in some cases, even five years ago. Some of the key parts of your technology assessment should include the following:

• No specialty hardware required for the remote agent. With VoIP, a remote agent can use a SIP headset or remote connectivity to a home phone, mobile phone, etc. There is no need to worry about ISDN lines or ACD routing limitations if you select the right technology vendor.

• No loss of features or functionality for the remote agent. A Windows PC and any telephone device mean that a remote agent can have all of the functionality he or she would experience if located inside the physical contact center. This includes the ability to record calls, access the information database, view the presence of other agents, receive online coaching from a supervisor, etc.

• Completely manageable by the contact center supervisor. With the right product, contact center supervisors retain the ability to monitor remote agents regardless of their location — including on hook/off hook status. All reporting capabilities still apply.

• The ability to handle all media types. Remote does not have to mean limited. Remote agents can still handle calls, e-mails, chats and generic object routing without any reduction in service.

Companies are deploying remote agents at an increasing pace. Datamonitor estimates that within the next two years the population of remote agents will grow to 7.5 percent of the total contact center agent population. The technology is available to allow you to do it successfully, and the benefits are clearly demonstrable. Among Interactive Intelligence's more than 2,500 customers are many who have deployed remote agents. We'd welcome the opportunity to show you how you can take advantage of the use of remote agents in your contact center. CIS

Tim Passios is the Director of Product Management for Interactive Intelligence, Inc., a leading provider of business communications software for the contact center and enterprise with over 2,500 installations in more than 60 countries. For more information, contact [email protected] or 317-872-3000.

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