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July 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 2
Innovative SOLUTIONS

Attaining And Retaining Mature Agents

By Tracey E. Schelmetic,
Editorial Director, Customer Interaction Solutions

If you manage or supervise a call center, chances are pretty good you are familiar with drama. According to Booz, Allen, Hamilton, the average brick-and-mortar call center agent is between 18 and 28 years old. Not to disparage the youth demographic as a whole, for there are many terrific and enthusiastic workers in this employee group, but as a manager, you’ve probably noticed that personal drama is more likely to emanate from this age group. Not only that, a lack of professional experience means this group is still in its learning phase as professionals in terms of job performance, interpersonal employee relationships, time management and response to criticism. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, more youthful call center workers are more likely to view call center work as a step to something else: a way to pay the bills before the “real” career begins. Therefore, they may not have as much to invest in customer support jobs as an older worker.

According to that same Booz, Allen, Hamilton study, the average at-home call center worker is between 30 to 48 years old. Because of the very flexible nature of home call center agent work, it is more likely to attract the parents of young children, veterans, semi-retired persons and people with physical disabilities. Quality at-home work is extremely valuable to these demographics of workers. Personal maturity reflects in job quality and reliability, interpersonal skills, life experience to draw upon and a vested interest in retaining the job and viewing it as a career rather than a step to somewhere else.

The expectations of the number of home agents in the U.S. in the next several years vary between 225,000 to 300,000. Regardless of which estimate is correct, it’s undeniable that hiring home agents is on its way to becoming a normal operating procedure for contact centers and customer support operations. Whether it’s the price of gas, the price of building overhead, the need to pull support operations from foreign shores or the need to improve customer service to retain customers in a slow economy, it seems that the “perfect storm” that will make the home agent model succeed is brewing. It’s vital that companies with large customer support needs begin evaluating their technologies and services with a goal of putting a framework in place that can enable the home agent model in the near future.

Because as the economy splutters and it becomes ever more important to keep the customers you’ve got, can you afford more drama in the call center?

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