Advanced call center software & customer service software blog team
The Sytel Blog Team (from left):
       Ian Turner (Development Manager)
       Michael McKinlay (CEO)
       Garry Pearson (CTO)
Home, sweet home-working

Toward a successful work-at-home strategy


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 Dec 2012

One of the fastest growing areas of call center life is home-working (a.k.a. homeshoring) - employing a pool of customer service agents who work from home. Managers are keen to leverage the advantages of working beyond the confines of the physical call center. Of course, the benefits of doing so – e.g. reduced overheads, increased labour pool, etc - are well known and well documented elsewhere. But the technological challenges are less well known. Getting these right is an important step toward a successful work-at-home strategy.

And getting it wrong can produce a variety of symptoms. Given that many call centres already implement some version of home-working, it might be helpful to look at how some technological inadequacies might surface in day-to-day operations.

  1. Symptom: Agent Joe has a lower than average first call resolution rate
    Cause: Agent Joe cannot log into a crucial knowledge base (and hasn’t reported it!)

    An agent’s access to the right information is critical, and there should be no difference in access whether working in the contact center or from home. In the call center, setting up a workstation with access to the right knowledge-bases can be straightforward. With home-based agents, IT staff must work remotely with vastly differing systems and things can easily go awry but unnoticed.
  2. Symptom: Rumours abound of identity theft
    Cause: Agent May has found a way to breach security and capture personal details e.g. credit card numbers.

    With a lack of supervision comes the temptation to misbehave. If security for home-based agents is not water-tight, agents who succumb, may gain access to, or capture in some way, secure private information. Agent screen monitoring by supervisors can be a crucial deterrent. PCI compliance throughout is critical – credit card numbers should never be displayed in full and screen capture of any kind must be disabled.
  3. Symptom: Agent Sami is depressed and unmotivated
    Cause: Agent Sami has not been able to rate his performance against his peers or join in with any of the motivational antics of his team. Despite being aware of them, he feels excluded.

    If there is no active policy to include home-workers in motivational and team building exercises, agents can quickly become disengaged. Inclusion may mean access to online scoring wallboards, or a team chat facility.

    From the other direction, the supervisor should be in constant touch with the home-based agent, e.g. through a coaching audio facility, or screen monitoring app. For an agent to perform well, he must feel part of the team.
  4. Symptom: Consumers/ respondents are complaining about the quality of audio.
    Cause: There are incompatibilities in the connections between call center, IP network and home.

    Whereas the IP audio route to and from the call center can be tightly controlled and therefore proven to work well for all agents within the center, the audio path to a home system can be far harder to establish and maintain high quality. Incompatibilities may be discovered that degrade call audio quality well below published QoS levels. Care must be taken to establish and prove out high quality connections.

Home-working is on the rise. With care and preparation, technology infrastructure and effective management practices can be put in place that will feed and maintain a thriving work-at-home base.




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Related -
IP contact center software, VoIP call center, customer service, work-at-home, home-working, homeworker, home-based agents, homeshoring, work from home