What’s the State of Work-at-Home in Customer Care in 2017?
By Kim Campbell
About five years ago, we entered a discussion with a prospective client. They had been outsourcing their customer service to a call center with a predominantly “work-at-home” (WAH) model and one of the first questions they asked us was about work-at-home agents. They’d had a bad experience with that model and were keen to move as far away from any work-at-home solution as possible. We won the business with a solution that was based entirely on using agents located in our center. In those years, we also saw many Requests for Proposals (RFP) for Call Center Services asking questions around WAH with the clear indication that it was not the desired model. The RFPs were basically asking questions to weed out strictly WAH providers. Fast forward a couple of years and the very same client who scrambled to get away from a WAH model was pushing us to move to a hybrid model with work-at-home as an integral part of the mix. We started to see RFPs asking, not if, but how we would incorporate WAH as part of the solution. So what happened? Did WAH move from something to be avoided to something to be embraced over the course of just a few years?
As Technology Advances, So Does Work-at-Home
Until recent years, many companies were hesitant to explore the work-at-home model for their outsourced call center agents. Even just five years ago, technology limitations were a barrier to having a remote agent solution that was as secure, robust, and stable as the call center environment. But the technical landscape has been evolving in leaps and bounds, and work-at-home capabilities are being driven by advancements in virtualization and cloud computing.
Once upon a time, we would place our own computers and routers at our WAH agents’ houses. We set up separate networks for computer and telephony, and our tech team would make routine visits to agents’ homes to audit set-ups and to resolve issues. In less than a decade, residential internet speed and stability has evolved to new heights and personal hardware like computers and monitors for home use has kept pace. So there is no longer a need to install our own equipment. We simply provide a USB headset for computer audio and set up the agent with credentials to a remote virtual desktop environment. In some cases, we also provide a USB key that boots their computer into an independent operating system that connects flawlessly to the remote environment.
With cloud and virtualization tools becoming ubiquitous in the business world, the ability to implement and support this technical environment has become significantly easier and more cost-effective. Stay at home agents are up and running without any tech support visits; in-house overhead, including workspace and technology, is significantly reduced; and the remote access model maintains a highly secure environment for any sensitive data and information. In other words, the cloud makes it possible for agents to be using the exact same environment at home as they do in our offices. The cloud Go to the full article.