Keep Your Home Agents on Task, Virtually

When companies are faced with the option of using virtual, work-at-home agents (WAHAs) for contact center operations, one of the most pressing issues is security. How can you know for sure that agents are staying on task while they’re on-the-clock hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away? West at Home, the nearly eponymous subsidiary of outsourcing solutions provider West, believes that it has found the solution with its new Locked-Down Desktop Security Environment, now generally available.

Mark Frei, West at Home's senior vice president of sales, says this new solution is aimed at remotely performing a lock-down service on an agent’s existing computer in order to control all aspects of the desktop while the agent keeps working -- a capability that had been one of the biggest challenges to date for the WAHA segment. "[A major concern has] been the ability for people to wander into other Web sites, to print, to copy, to cut and paste -- to do all those things you want to do on an existing computer system," he says.  

Peter Ryan, Datamonitor’s lead analyst for contact centers and business process outsourcing, agrees with Frei’s assessment. "Security and the ability to monitor agents and what they’re doing is probably the biggest bump in the road [for home-agent adoption]," he says. "West [at Home] has provided prospects as well as existing clients what that much more of a degree of reliability and comfort.... The end users have [an additional] layer of protection surrounding the interaction [and] personal data, and making sure any potential malicious behavior can be stopped in its tracks before it gains any traction."

Frei goes on to explain that there are two ways to tackle the security issue: either manufacture and ship special desktops or remotely take control of an agent’s existing desktop. He maintains that West at Home has the bandwidth to take clients down either path, but that the remote option solves a key business challenge: "The expense and logistics around building desktops internally and shipping them out to [a particular] number of home agents…is really the driver," he admits. "Although you can have those machines built simplified and inexpensively, it's still an expense and the [company] is sensitive to it. Being able to lock down existing computers is a much simpler process."

Speaking to the simplicity of his company’s new solution, Frei says that the agent does not need to have any direct participation in this remote security process. An agent logs into West at Home, clicks "start work," and the locked-down desktop is enabled via what Frei calls a "West proprietary environment." At the end of a work shift, Frei says all an agent has to do is log off, and their desktop will be released back into its normal state. "This whole transaction of taking control of desktop and [giving] it back is completely transparent to the home agent," he assures. "We recognized this as something we had to do so we wouldn’t have to provide technical support [in those situations]." Ryan says this is something West at Home and other vendors will have to reinforce to prospective clients worried about being viewed as "Big Brother" by their WAHAs. "This concern has certainly been coming to the forefront, and has been a main challenge for home-agent vendors," Ryan adds.

Agent-security issues aside, Ryan insists that more virtual contact center vendors will have to incorporate a remote desktop-control solution into their arsenals in order to stay competitive in this growing space. "It’ll be very difficult for other vendors—pure-play home-agent solution providers or broader-based facility providers with home agents—not to respond in kind by working to try and develop their own solution," he explains. "West [at Home] has raised the bar in terms of home-agent companies and their ability to provide as much security as possible.... You’ll be seeing a lot of companies responding in kind."

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