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Recent trends in customer service delivery show that an increasing number of Americans are now working home based customer service jobs, a position that provides a consistent income, flexible schedules and allows full-time telecommuting. In fact more than 250,000 Americans work “virtually” from home offices throughout North America and an estimated 80,000 of these virtual jobs are home based customer service jobs. Even more surprising is that virtual call centers in the United States are growing faster than traditional call centers, both domestic AND offshore. The number of U.S. home-based contact agents will have grown at an annual clip of 20% between 2009 and 2012, from about 50,000 to more than 80,000, according to Datamonitor projections. That’s quite a bit faster than the growth rate for call centers in India (+4%) and the Philippines (+9%).
What factors are contributing to the new trend?
1. More and more U.S. home based contact centers are using high-speed broadband connectivity and new technology like video conferencing to improve the customer/client experience. For example, Eleution, a Wyoming-based company, employs several hundred online teachers who teach English to students in Asia via videoconferencing software. Companies like Myngle and EduFire are revolutionizing the educational process through U.S. based home contact centers that use teleconferencing.
2. Telecommuting improves employee productivity. Extensive research and case studies show that the majority of workers are substantially more productive when they’re working from home versus in a corporate setting/cubicle where they are likely to be surrounded by frequent interruptions/distractions such as background noise, office chit-chat, gossip, flirting, ringing cell phones, constant haggling from a boss, supervisor, etc.
3. It saves businesses tons of cash in a down economy when they need it most. A new report titled, ‘Workshifting Benefits: The Bottom Line’, states that businesses can save up to $10,000 per year per employee by utilizing virtual jobs, such as home based customer service jobs. These savings come from reduced rent and office space, reduced utilities, reduced absenteeism, reduced employee turnover, and increased productivity. And that statistic is for workers that only telecommute from home 50% of the time (the national average for employees who telecommute).
4. Employees save money. The average teleworker will save between $2,000 and $6,800 per year, mostly the result of reduced fuel spending and less money spent on meals away from home. At $4.00 per gallon driving 20 miles (the average national one-way commute) to work and back costs about $8 a day at 20 miles per gallon. That’s $1,920 spent in a year on gas if you work 5 days a week. If lunch and coffee costs you a combined $10 a day that’s another $2,400 per year. Add on some miscellaneous expenses for vehicle wear and tear, dry cleaning your work clothes, etc. and it all adds up.
5. The government loves businesses that employ virtual workers and therefore offers tax incentives for implementing telework programs. There are also numerous state and local governments running out of money to build and maintain expensive public transportation systems. For starving municipalities telework is the answer.
6. There are compelling environmental reasons. If everyone who could work from home did (40% of U.S. employees hold jobs that that could be done at home) we could reduce petroleum usage by 80%.