Home Is Where The Rep Is

You’ve heard time and again how consumers have more choices now than ever and have access to more information than ever. Technologies such as the Internet have empowered customers, giving them instant access to alternative sales channels and competitors. And as consumers gain more control, they’re leveraging it to customize and dictate terms. They now have higher service expectations and demand interaction with experts who can quickly resolve issues in their favor.

This evolution poses unique challenges to contact centers. Like other operational units, contact centers are being stretched to do more with less. Centers are expected to contain costs while maximizing revenue. They must maintain efficiency and flexibility despite receiving fewer resources. And within these constraints, management must recruit, train, motivate, and retain a higher-caliber agent.

Keeping skilled contact center agents happy means that they can help keep your customers happy.

To attract and retain these agents in order to heighten customer experience and accommodate savvy consumers, many companies are turning to home-based agents.

This home-agent model, which businesses such as American Airlines, Dell, JetBlue, and Sears have already implemented, employs work-from-home staffers to assist customers. These agents can serve as stand-alone units or supplement existing teams. They require just a phone and an Internet connection and can easily be integrated into an existing infrastructure.

A home-agent setup appeals to job candidates seeking a better work-life balance. Agents can determine their own hours, which frees them to meet family and community obligations. They face fewer distractions at home and avoid long and costly commutes.

The benefits to the potential employee are obvious. But the home-agent model also provides to your business in a number of areas:

* hiring
Being able to offer job candidates the ability to work from home is of course a powerful recruiting and retention tool. But using home agents also allows you to recruit nationwide, resulting in fewer labor and skill shortages. You can tap into a deep reservoir of talent, including seasoned professionals who have given up careers to return home. This labor surplus affords you the luxury of hiring only the best candidates.

* skill sets
Because home agents often possess above-average skills as well as specialized industry experience and credentials to handle complicated transactions, you can invest less time training them and reap greater productivity.

* scaling
The model makes it easier to grow your team without incurring additional costs such as office space or equipment. Moreover, home agents enable you to quickly staff for seasonal surges or promotional spikes.

* turnover
On average, home agent turnover is less than 10%. And long-term agents help you retain that undocumented know-how that is critical to holding an operation together.

* disaster recovery
A home-based model is not geographically concentrated. If a natural disaster or mass outage strikes, calls can simply be rerouted to agents in unaffected areas to prevent downtime and lost revenue.

* results
Higher skill sets, broader industry experience, and satisfied employees equate to better performance. With home agents, you can expect higher conversion rates, larger order sizes, more first-call resolutions, and improved customer satisfaction.

Original source: http://multichannelmerchant.com/opsandfulfillment/contactcenters/home_rep/