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Contact Center in the Cloud
The value of work-at-home agents is both environmental and operational.
Posted Apr 14, 2010
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Why are only 300,000 people classed as home workers out of a workforce of over 150 million when the benefits to the employer, the employee and the environment are so significant?

And why aren't contact centers -- ideally suited to home working -- embracing these benefits on behalf of their clients?

We like to ask five questions that are uttered in boardrooms across the country every single day.

Why don't we make it easier for smart people to work for us?

Home workers are typically better-educated and older employees who may be motivated by different reasons from their office-based colleagues.

Agents who work from home claim to enjoy a better work-life balance -- they have more control over their time management, and are able to schedule their working hours around other commitments, reducing levels of work-related stress.

We also see a lower rate of absenteeism and attrition -- instead of being unable to turn up for work because of a sick child for example, a home worker can work shifts around looking after the child without having to organize extra childcare leading to a more dedicated workforce, in turn reducing search and recruitment fees.

Why don't we reduce our emissions?

If you work in an office, look around and consider the amount of emissions that have been consumed to transport you, house and heat you. And for emissions, read "waste." The company who can reduce costs and carbon emissions while benefiting the local community and providing a more positive customer experience for callers will be the one that thrives.

An average contact center housing 200 agents will consumer 400,000 kilowatts of energy a year. Moving those contact center agents over to home working can reduce carbon emissions by 462 tons a year.

Not only that, but if all 200 contact center agents worked from home, they would save on average 73,600 gallons of fuel by eliminating the commute into work by car. The average car commuter emits 7,000 pounds of carbon emissions every year. With fewer car journeys, there is less traffic, less wear and tear on the roads, and less pollutants going into the atmosphere.

There's an added benefit here too. By working from home, a call center agent will see his expenses reduce dramatically, particularly on gas or transport tickets, clothes appropriate for working in an office, lunches and snacks purchased while at work, and childcare costs. And on top of all that, there are tax savings to be tapped into.

Why don't we position ourselves at the forefront of good environmental practice?

Businesses who demonstrate a CSR commitment are more popular with the environmentally conscious customer -- it is no longer just the materials that go into making a product that are scrutinized, but also how a company manages its carbon emissions. And often, businesses require their suppliers to meet certain environmental standards.

Why can't we get closer to the communities we serve?

As well as offering environmental advantages, home working has a positive social impact. People within a community who can't commute to work, perhaps because of a disability, responsibility as a carer or a lack of access to transport, can work from home, choosing flexible hours and a personal level of commitment.

Using home agents, companies have the ability to locate jobs in specific areas without having to set up a sprawling call center. Companies can offer their customers a call center agent who is local to them, who has a similar accent, and who knows the area, creating a familiarity and empathy which customers may find reassuring.

But perhaps for many the killer question is still....can we do the right thing and save money?

Absolutely.

Typically, call centers are located in large, open office spaces that are expensive to run. Most are open for 24 hours a day, even though they may not be continually operational, meaning a company will spend money on heating and supplying electricity to the building even when there's no-one there. The amount of fuel and electricity used not only costs the company a small fortune, but also has a detrimental effect on the environment.

Encouraging contact center agents to work from home dramatically reduces a company's carbon footprint, at the same time saving it money and benefiting its workers.

Conclusion

To view home agents as simply a way to shift people out of offices is to miss the point. It's more fundamental than that. Of course success here is not without its barriers but get it right and you can tap into talent, reduce costs, differentiate and create a flexible more effective workforce. Why wouldn't you...?

About the Author

Connie Adcock (Connie.Adcock@vertex.co.uk) is the head of OutPerform Service Centre and HomeWorking for Vertex and has over 30 years of experience as an award-winning, transformational call center executive, leading large multibrand, multichannel customer contact centers and customer experience strategy.

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Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" below.

If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

For the rest of the April 2010 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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