Step One in Mobilizing Your Contact Center: Send Your Agents Home

K. Landoline
K. Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Initiating a remote agent program is an effective way to get started in mobilizing your contact center.
  • The economic and human resource benefits of a remote agent program to the enterprise and the agents are too important and substantial to ignore in contact center planning efforts.

The mobility revolution is affecting every aspect of the business world today as workers are expected to be available from anywhere at any time, and customers demand 24×7 corporate access from the device of their choice. In the long term the shift to mobility will affect all stakeholders in the customer care environment including the agents, the contact center managers and the customers. In this initial blog on the topic I will focus on the agents.

If your contact center mobility strategy ended with supplying your agents with wireless headsets, it is time to rethink your customer care strategy. Making at least a portion of your agents more mobile and shifting them from a centralized contact center environment to a remote or home environment offers significant cost savings and productivity boosting potential for the contact center. In addition, it often provides a better work environment and more flexibility for the agents themselves. Enhanced technologies, the expansion of broadband access to the home and shortages in qualified human resources, as well as the need to manage the rapidly rising costs of operations in the contact center are driving this trend to home-based agents. In addition, conversion to the at-home agent business model enables agent optimization via a pay-as-you-go model where agents can be called upon on an as-needed basis to handle unusual daily and/or seasonal spikes of incoming customer traffic or provide coverage should a natural disaster occur.

The redistribution of agents from the centralized contact center to remote environments is reinforced by the continuing shift to IP technology and the SIP standard, making a remote customer care workforce more feasible, easier to implement and less expensive to put into practice. The growing difficulty in attracting qualified labor pools and the economic need to reduce office space rentals during the recession also make remote agents a more attractive alternative. In addition, the increasing cost of gasoline has become a major deterrent to the agent’s willingness to drive to a centralized, distant location to earn the usually rather modest pay of a contact center agent.

An often overlooked factor supporting the move to home agents is that it increases the availability of new sources of labor that, until recently, have been unavailable to many contact center operators. The growing complexity of the multichannel agent’s role, combined with the contact center manager’s difficulty in recruiting agents to work at enterprise-based centers, have forced businesses to look for new sources of talent. The home agent option is a boon for people who need to care for young children, as well as the well-educated and growing senior population that is available to work from home. The physically disabled—another group of talented individuals available to work from home—will also flock to fill this growing demand for home-based agents. The primary attraction for all these groups is the flexibility offered by such full- or part-time agent positions. The use of home agents may be the only way for contact centers to realistically accommodate future agent staffing requirements.

The reasons to disperse customer service representatives to home locations are expanding as the attraction and retention of contact center agents becomes a growing concern for many contact center managers. The good news is that the technology required to effectively and efficiently connect remote agents to enterprise-based or virtual contact centers has arrived in the form of IP-based and hosted telephony systems. Therefore, the dynamics of a rapidly changing contact center marketplace, including rising costs and a shrinking qualified labor pool, will compel IT and line-of-business executives to identify and evaluate alternatives to the traditional centralized agent approach. Remote agents are an option well worth considering.

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